To the Editor:
Susan Palmer ["Valued Local Park," The Gazette, Feb. 9-15, 2012] responded to my suggestion that the Lamond Park, now named after former Mount Vernon Park Commissioner Gil McCutcheon be sold and the proceeds be used to fund creation of the proposed Park at North Hill. Ms. Palmer stated that she walks through McCutcheon Park "almost everyday" and encounters others doing so as well. Based upon those assertions, she disagrees with my suggestion and states that the McCutcheon Park is, in fact, being used "by the community it was meant to serve." I beg to differ. Ms. Palmer is entitled to her opinion, and I am fully aware it is unlikely the Park Authority will sell the McCutcheon Park. However, at the same time, the facts are enlightening.
The former Lamond property, 17.9 acres in size, was acquired by the Park Authority on Feb. 4, 2000. The land wasn't donated to the Park Authority. Rather, the Park Authority paid $4.6 million for it. After this acquisition, the master plan was approved on July 31, 2002, almost 10 years ago. Since that approval, virtually nothing has been done to enact the master plan for this park. According to the master plan which is accessible at http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/gmp/lamondGMP.pdf, the former Lamond residence was supposed to be restored and renovated with facilities provided to create an upscale private and corporate event venue. The gravel entrance road off Fort Hunt Road was supposed to be paved and widened and a second entrance road was supposed to be established at Burtonwood Drive. A paved parking area in front of and to the north of the residence is supposed to be created to accommodate 25 to 30 parking spaces. The design of the parking is supposed to allow a split to serve both entrances to the park. Additionally, 50 more spaces are supposed to be provided for periods of peak public use.
On the western edge of the property, a pedestrian/bicycle trail (8' wide asphalt) is supposed to be provided along Fort Hunt Road. A picnic area with a small shelter structure is supposed to be provided. Additional features include a playground area, a stand-alone restroom structure, and a tennis court. I visited this beautiful property this week — the only improvements I observed are a nice playground and a couple of picnic tables. The only entrance on Fort Hunt Road has a sign forbidding motorized vehicles, requiring visitors to walk or bike up an extremely long driveway. There is little if any nearby parking, making access difficult since the on site parking specified in the master plan hasn't been developed.
The park is intended to serve community members within a one and one-half mile aerial radius from the center of the park. That area includes almost 23,000 residents, about 1/5 the population of the entire Mount Vernon District.
Given the above excerpts from the master plan, it is clear that McCutcheon Park is falling well short of satisfying the objectives for which taxpayers invested $4.6 million. Wouldn't it be great if every subdivision like Villamay had an 18-acre park nearby, paid for by the taxpayers for them to use as a de facto private enclave? The County should either fulfill its obligation to the taxpayers who purchased McCutcheon Park at great expense or find a way to use that money elsewhere.
H. Jay Spiegel