All Park, No Plan in Arlington?

All Park, No Plan in Arlington?

Opportunity for new Pentagon City park space draws concerns about park planning.

New Pentagon City open space.

New Pentagon City open space. Photo contributed


Map of the new Pentagon City open space

In one of his last votes in office, County Board Chair Jay Fisette voted against a new park space and urged other members of the County Board to vote in favor.

At the Arlington County Board meeting on Dec. 19, the county voted to approve a $1.2 million purchase of a vacant lot and adjacent parcel to create a new park in Pentagon City. The new one-quarter acre lot, currently occupied by one house, will be cleared for a green open space for public usage. There are no current plans for any amenities or additional work to be done at the park, and it left several County Board members confused and concerned about its consideration as a park.

“Someone, maybe the [Department of] Parks and Recreation, suggested that [our goal] is so many acres of park each year,” said Fisette. “To me, that’s not a very good way to go about doing business. Do it either with a strategic sense in mind or an opportunistic one. Do not just get a certain number of parcels no matter where they are. Here … it wasn’t in any kind of plan, we weren’t on the look-out for it, so what are the criteria besides it being available?”

Staff responded that the urban corridors in Arlington are those most in the most need for additional walking spaces, and that adjacent properties were being considered to help extend the park. But while Fisette was the only vote against the proposal, he wasn’t the only one concerned by it.

“What I’m trying to get to to support this is a sense that it aligns with some data-based understanding of where the need is,” said County Board member Katie Cristol. “If we leave it to what we’re hearing from community members for what their need is in their neighborhood, I’m worried about the relative use of parks. Everyone would identify a need for parks. I would derive confidence from knowing this is based on extensive analysis.”

“I think you all should support this,” said Fisette. “I won’t. This reached the board because neighbors brought it up and staff said OK, we’ll bring it to the board.’ I don’t think there’s a wrong answer or bad answer. But for me, the reason I will vote against it, the one universal reality is that given choice or opportunity of park, 95 percent of people will say they want it. Makes it harder for me, because I can’t justify how to distinguish … one opportunistic lot from the other. Be cautious down the road, [because people will say] “You just did that one, why can’t you to this one?’”

The purchase was approved in a 4-1 vote. The county will close on the property in February with a six to nine month time period to restore the site to an open space.