“There just isn’t a good solution that’s going to make everyone happy.” — County Board member Libby Garvey
For County Board member Libby Garvey, a dissatisfied audience is the sign of a well-done policy. By that measure, the County Board’s approval of the Four Mile Run Policy Framework on May 19 was a resounding success. After years of planning and public meetings, the future plans for Four Mile Run Valley came down to two options. The County Board ultimately approved Concept One, a plan that highlights accessibility to park amenities and plans for longer term improvements to the park — contingent on the county being able to obtain a parcel of land from WETA.
“When we vote on something and nobody is totally happy, I figure we’ve probably got it right,” said Garvey. “There just isn’t a good solution that’s going to make everyone happy.”
Both Concept One and Concept Two had supporters at the meeting, though both sides admitted the plans were flawed.
“The policy framework for the study area, for the most part, embraces the status quo,” said Robin Stombler. “That’s not necessarily a negative, the status quo means pride. Nauck is proud of its community. But if we cannot move the foundation of our plan beyond the status quo, how do we grow?”
Stombler pointed to several sub-areas of the plan where she said the project’s ambitions were too limited. Stombler also noted that the majority of the working group members had voted against the draft version of the document and were not asked to vote on the final version.
“I would encourage you to think more creatively and innovatively,” said Stombler.
The large piece of the Four Mile Run plans centered around the park’s history with the Nauck neighborhood.
“Many in the Nauck community didn’t get to choose where they lived,” said Benedette Casille. “That’s what makes Jennie Dean Park so important. There’s a huge sense of community.”
But the plan’s reliance on being able to acquire the WETA property for future improvements left many Arlingtonians concerned. Residents of Shirlington were also concerned about the park.
“Our community has been put on the defensive, and that troubles me,” said Edie Wilson from the Shirlington Civic Association. “We have been told we can come in the back door of Jennie Dean Park. [We’ve been told] that we should not voice opinions about best layout or amenities, that it is not our park. [We’ve been told] that all the field lights should point in our direction. [We’ve been told] that it’s OK to leave rusty old fences along the stream. Over and over again the phrase “the neighborhood” has been used to describe one, albeit special, neighborhood. I don’t experience life in the valley that way. We mingle. Everyone talks to everyone. Neighborhood to me in Arlington is a bigger concept. We live here too.”
Residents of the local Nauck community, who would feel the brunt of the park’s design, said there were details about the project from spotlights shining on homes to location of amenities that still raised concerns.
“The Four Mile Run Policy Framework impacts Nauck greatly,” said Portia Clark, president of the Nauck Civic Association. “80 percent of study area is in Nauck… There are two design options, but neither option is particularly inspiring. [We] strongly support Option Two. It’s the only option that provides tangible, open space in front and ball fields in back.”
Clark said residents of the Nauck neighborhood were concerned that plans for the park would not include spaces open and accessible to the street.
“Nauck compromised significantly throughout process,” said Clark. “The plan does not include amenities we requested. It does not go far enough in support of arts and industry district. It is silent on certain properties facing Shirlington. The designs for Jennie Dean Park are uninspiring. But we’ve been going along because it’s what the county wanted. But if you compromise everything away, where do you stand? We’ve been waiting for decades for revitalization, we’re comfortable waiting longer if it means we get everything right.”
Ultimately, staff reported to the County Board that following the approval of the framework, plans will come forward later in 2018 for project implementation.
“This entire process has been terrific, even though I know it’s been painful for some people,” said County Board Vice Chair Christian Dorsey. “In totality it has been terrific. Jennie Dean Park is going to be at a better place than it’s been in history.”