This is in response to H. Jay Spiegel’s letter in the October 23, 2014, issue of the Mount Vernon Gazette. While Mr. Spiegel is correct in lauding Mr. Byer’s significant public service to Fairfax County, his incorrect reference to the original name of Colonel John B. Byers Park (“Williamsburg North Park” — See picture of the actual park sign
from several months ago, attached) is at the heart of the reason for the length of time involved in renaming the park.
The land for the park was set aside to the Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA) about 50 years ago as a stream valley park between two subdivisions — Williamsburg Manor and Williamsburg Manor North — both of which still carry these names on their entrance signs. John Byers may have had more connection with the park than “walking by the park on a daily basis” as Mr. Spiegel cites. However, many residents of both
subdivisions participated in the development of Williamsburg Manor Park from the FCPA master planning of the facilities 35 years ago to issues with improvements and maintenance over the years, and no resident could be considered a dominant factor in the development and continuing neighborhood enjoyment of the park.
While this park lies in the stream valley that separates the two subdivisions, we always felt that it served as a link, not a separation, between the neighborhoods and occasionally served as a meeting place for joint activities. Although there is no requirement for public hearings on matters such as this, Williamsburg Manor residents only vaguely heard of the name change plans and only after the action was virtually complete. A poll of the residents showed that the majority objected to the name change, but entreaties to the FCPA Board and the Mt. Vernon Council of Civic Associations did not change the outcome.
In the end Williamsburg Manor residents would have preferred no change in the name of this small park in an obscure neighborhood, and the naming of something more significant for a person of John Byers stature in service to Fairfax County. Perhaps a park in the developing South County area, where he had important planning influence for future Fairfax County citizens, would be a more fitting tribute.