Echoing remarks sent in a letter to Fairfax County officials in June, the McLean Citizens Association’s board of directors on July 7 passed a resolution with pointed criticisms of the Fairfax County Park Authority’s revised development concept for McLean Central Park.
The resolution lamented what MCA members said was a lack of adequate notice about proposed revisions to the park’s approved 2013 master plan, which Park Authority officials unveiled at a May 24 “virtual” community meeting.
The proposed plan calls for an amphitheater near the corner of Dolley Madison Boulevard and Ingleside Avenue, which would have an adjacent circular drop-off area to the north.
MCA’s resolution opposed construction of the amphitheater unless the Park Authority could demonstrate a need for one.
“Don’t just destroy green space to build things that aren’t needed,” said Barbara Ryan, chairman of MCA’s Environment, Parks and Recreation Committee.
The park already has a gazebo and the adjacent McLean Community Center has the Alden Theatre, MCA members said. In addition, Capital One Hall soon will open just 2 miles to the west and feature two performing-arts facilities of a size similar to the proposed amphitheater, they said.
MCA board member Merrily Pierce, who researched amphitheaters when the proposal first cropped up in 2013, said those facilities typically do not pay for themselves, are expensive and difficult to maintain, and are not heavily used.
But board member Kent Holland disagreed, saying an amphitheater could be good for business and help revitalize downtown McLean. He cited the popularity of the performing-arts space at the Vienna Town Green.
“Maybe the place to put it is where the gazebo is,” Holland said. “I’m not sure at this stage we should say we oppose it.”
Raj Mehra, who formerly served on the McLean Community Center’s Governing Board, said that body is not opposed to the proposed amphitheater.
MCA’s resolution recommended that the Park Authority consider alternatives to the amphitheater; and improve existing amenities, such as the gazebo; and provide estimates for long-term maintenance costs for planned new facilities and features at the park. The agency also should consider the need for expanded restroom facilities to accommodate more park users, MCA members said.
Other possible new park additions being considered by the Park Authority include a bocce/game-table area, a new wooden bridge over Dead Run, a public-art installation near Dolley Madison Boulevard and Old Dominion Drive, picnic and fitness areas, additional shade trees and a quarter-acre dog park, which might take the place of some existing tennis courts.
“Many in the local community have expressed strong opposition to the proposed reduction in tennis courts at the McLean Central Park due to strong and growing demand for these facilities among tennis and pickleball players and the lack of adequate court facilities elsewhere in McLean,” the resolution read.
MCA’s resolution called for construction of an Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant bridge over Dolley Madison Boulevard, which would help pedestrians and bicyclists cross safely between the park and McLean’s Community Business Center (CBC).
Fairfax County supervisors in June approved a comprehensive-plan amendment that would allow for significantly more development in downtown McLean – especially near Elm Street and Beverly Road, located just blocks from the park.
While the Park Authority already has extended the public-comment period from June 25 to July 30, MCA’s resolution asked the agency to extend that period further and conduct a community-wide survey about the revised concept.
Before finalizing the revised plan, the Park Authority should conduct a needs analysis and study the traffic, noise, parking and light impacts of the proposed new amenities, MCA members said.
Park Authority officials also should prioritize natural landscaping, plant native trees, systematically remove invasive plant species and consider other enhanced ecological services at the park, the group’s resolution read.
County voters last November approved a park-bond referendum that included $2.2 million in construction funds for McLean Central Park improvements. The project’s conceptual-design work is about 20-percent complete, Park Authority officials said at their May 24 presentation.