‘Highest and Best Uses’ in Alexandria

‘Highest and Best Uses’ in Alexandria

Council approves year-round uses at Cameron Run Park.

City Council approved a lease on Saturday, Oct. 13, requiring expanded year-round public uses at Cameron Run Regional Park.

Cameron Run currently offers a variety of recreation activities, mostly geared toward warm-weather use, such as a waterpark, miniature golf and batting cages. NOVA Parks, the regional park authority, leases the property from the city. With that lease expiring in June 2021, the city set out in 2016 to determine the “highest and best uses” of the property going into the future. Saturday’s decision concluded that process, at least for the time being, granting a lease extension to NOVA Parks through 2028. The new lease will include several adjustments, following priorities gleaned from a prior public engagement process.

The new lease will reduce the area under the park authority’s control, reverting about 13 acres, including Lake Cook, to city control. The city will turn that area into public open space and a resource protection area. Cameron Run’s aquatics facility will now include community lap swimming and swimming classes. The city will install a portable turf field in the parking lot for community use and revenue generation during colder months. And NOVA parks will run a “winter village,” including an ice skating rink, rides and lighting, between November and January.

For the most part, the decision received wide support. Although at a meeting earlier in the week, Councilman Paul Smedberg said: “Clearly, in its current state, this is nowhere near its best use, given all the city needs, the school needs, everything.”

The city and NOVA Parks may re-envision Cameron Run’s longer-term use at a future date.

“How do we envision this site in relation to what the development opportunities will be in the Eisenhower Corridor? Those would be open discussions with NOVA Parks. … There is room on the site to add other potential, large capital items,” such as “an indoor recreation facility,” said Jack Browand of the city’s recreation department.

A later process to determine long-term uses needs to be “memorialized” with a line item for “planning money” somewhere in the city’s 10-year Capital Improvement Program, said City Manager Mark Jinks.