Local Commentary

Guest Commentary: Working Together is Key to Sustaining Community

I am proud to call the City of Falls Church my home. My parents and I moved into the City of Falls Church in September 1951, into a relatively new but modest subdivision of wood framed houses on Timber Lane.

They were built in 1947 to accommodate incoming military personnel working at the Pentagon. Built on swampy ground, the houses did not have basements, but the lots were a good size. What is now Parker Street and Timber Lane was a wonderful wooded area with a creek and plenty of habitats for a kid to catch all varieties of wildlife, including my prize catch of a giant 26 inch bullfrog.


I attended first grade at the Oak Street School on the other end of the path through the woods. Mr. W.T. Woodson signed my report card as the Superintendant of Schools. The following year I returned for second grade and the name had been changed to Thomas Jefferson Elementary School. Mr. Irvin Schmitt was the superintendant. I couldn’t figure out how I had “moved” to another school without leaving my house on Timber Lane; only later did I learn that the City had purchased the school from Fairfax County. But I was a kid and such things really didn’t matter as long as I had places to play and run around. Yes, I am a “Mustang.”

It was 1987 when I moved into my house in the city with my wife and son, around the corner from my childhood home and my mother. It was a run – down 1950 ranch house that needed a lot of work. But I was back in the city where I grew up with all the fond memories of my childhood. Falls Church looked basically the same, but it was different. There were very few children in the neighborhood and many of the wooded areas had disappeared in favor of new homes. Several of my neighbors had been my customers on my newspaper route. The student population was so low at that time the city was actively recruiting families to move here. In the mid ’90s things began to change. Housing stock began turning over as original owners moved out and young families moved in. That trend continues today as people move here for jobs, great schools, and a transportation system that accommodates commuters. After spending a couple of years putting my house together, my wife and I realized just how wonderful it was to be in the city. My commute to work had dropped from three hours to one hour. My mother could walk her grandson to the same school I had gone to and where she had worked as a cafeteria lady during my years there. Many of you have also discovered the benefits of our little city.

I believe we need to embrace the future, be ready for it and take advantage of it

In 1989 I was appointed to the Recreation and Parks Advisory Board serving with Ken Burnett the city’s first Recreation and Parks Director, and later I became the city’s representative on the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority Board, serving with one of the founders of the NVRPA, Walter Mess. Today I am the Treasurer of NVRPA. I also found time to serve on a host of other service organizations, Lions Club and VPIS in particular to help make a difference and keep the city a wonderful place to grow up in, and live.

This has fueled my desire to do more. Even in this difficult economic climate, I believe we need to embrace the future, be ready for it and take advantage of it; to emerge as a destination for families and businesses with development that shows off our livable urban community with small town character.

Working Together is key to sustaining our community, keeping it fiscally strong, and maintaining our excellent school system. The single family home owner has shouldered the major financial burden of our community for many years. Now economic realities threaten our quality of life. We need to actively plan for future development and build consensus on what kind of housing, retail and commercial we desire, and the look and design of that development. Economic development and business retention are keys to our sustainability. Arlington’s sector planning concept is a great start to the process. This Council vision must be reviewed constantly to be successful. We need to bring developers to the City of Falls Church and show them our plans for the future.

My life has been enriched by growing up in Falls Church, having a wonderful family, and the opportunity to work with many of the past and present icons of the city. My neighbor who is the original owner of her home and still lives on Timber Lane — Mrs. Anna Donovan Goodson – just turned 100 years old. Falls Church is truly a great place to grow up, be educated, have fun, and get involved.

Barry Buschow is a longtime City of Falls Church activist. He is the former president of the Village Preservation & Improvement Society. He is currently the treasurer of the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority.