Board OKs North Tract Plan

Board OKs North Tract Plan

South Arlington Park would include swimming, diving facilities. Projected cost is $89 million.

Supporters showed up Saturday wearing lapel stickers that read “Fast Track for North Tract,” and they got their wish. After more than a decade of discussions, County Board members on Saturday approved a plan for parks and recreation facilities on the North Tract.

In a unanimous vote, Board members adopted development plans for the 28-acre site in South Arlington proposed by the North Tract Task Force, made up of representatives from civic associations in South Arlington, sports groups, planning commissioners and county staffers that started meeting in late 2001.

The plan was the payoff of a long process. “I remember we had the first discussions on this in someone’s back yard,” said Board member Chris Zimmerman. “When we finally adopted plans for a task force, I thought, ‘Finally, we’re going to get something done.’ That was four years ago.”

Under the plans adopted by the County Board, the North Tract would include a recreation center focused largely on adding indoor aquatic facilities to South Arlington. The center would include a 50-meter competition-caliber swimming pool, a recreational pool and therapy pools, as well as a deep-water diving well. A community activity and exercise center would be built later, sharing space with the aquatic center.

Outside, the North Tract site would include four synthetic-turf athletic fields for soccer, including two lighted for night time use; one mile of walking trails; open lawn for picnickers; playgrounds and possibly a spray fountain for children; and a connection to the Roaches Run Waterfowl Sanctuary, across railroad tracks from the North Tract.

Railroad enthusiasts hailed the possibility of a railroad track overpass, which they said would provide opportunities for train- or bird-watching.

<b>THERE WAS ALMOST</b> universal support for the North Tract plan on Saturday.

“I’ve heard only praise for this,” said Board member Jay Fisette. “That’s a rare thing.” Different speakers did highlight their own pet projects. Board member Walter Tejada looked forward to playing a game of soccer on the lighted fields, then soaking in the therapy pool afterwards.

Meghan Thiel, a Yorktown graduate and champion swimmer, came to support the aquatics center, sorely needed, she said, in South Arlington. “I began swimming at Wakefield when I was 6,” said Thiel. “As I progressed, I found that it didn’t suit my needs.”

She is now preparing for qualifying trials for the summer Olympics in Athens, “and I would love to be able to train in Arlington,” said Thiel.

But North Tract would be more than just swimming and soccer, said Neil Sigmund. Taking a page from U.S. Sen. John Edwards’ presidential campaign speeches, Sigmund told the board “when I look at the North Tract, I see two Americas: one for the swimmers and soccer players, one for everyone else.”

There were other aspects to the plan, he said. “Don’t overlook the passive elements in the [task force] plan.”

Board members accepted the plan, making a general decision about developing the land. In addition, they approved changes to the county’s master transportation plan, moving and deleting some street sections in order to make the North Tract achievable.