One of the jewels in the Fairfax County “crown” is its park system. With nearly 23,000 acres of parkland, including 417 parks, nine recreation centers, eight public golf courses, five nature centers, and countless playgrounds and athletic fields, the Fairfax County Park Authority provides recreation opportunities as well as stewardship of natural and cultural resources. A long-range park planning process to determine future needs for parks began in early 2007, and the resulting Great Parks, Great Communities draft plan is available for public review and comment. In the fall, the Park Authority will hold four public comment meetings (to be announced) and will continue to collect suggestions for the remainder of the year. Park Authority Board adoption of the final plan is anticipated in early 2011.
The draft plan is posted at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/plandev/greatparks.htm, and includes eight themes relating to parkland, resources and facilities: connectivity, community building, service delivery, facility reinvestment, land acquisition, resource interpretation, cultural resource stewardship, and natural resource stewardship. You can provide your own suggestions on-line by clicking on the button at the top right of the Web page. Periodic assessments like this help the Park Authority Board and staff plan for and design future facilities for a growing population. Demands for more playing fields, especially with all-weather synthetic turf, came forward as part of previous assessments. Likewise, off-leash dog parks and sports opportunities, like cricket fields and badminton courts, are the result of changing demands by our diverse population.
A quick look at the comments already posted reveals that respondents would like more trail connections, public performance space (check out the amphitheatre at Mason District Park – absolutely the finest performance venue in our park system, but I am biased!), public art in the parks (yea!), removal of non-native invasive plants, and improve tree canopy. One request is for “flexible open spaces for social interaction.” How the Park Authority will address that one probably is open to a lot of interpretation.
This is your opportunity to make suggestions to the Park Authority about parks in your neighborhood, and the kinds of activities you would like to see. If you are a young parent, you might want more playgrounds and tot lots in specific places. If you are a grandparent, those items are important, but you might also want more passive recreation options, or garden plots, or meditation areas. Ideas are limited only if you don’t weigh in with yours.
There still are two weeks of free concerts left in this summer’s Spotlight by Starlight series at Mason District Park. Tomorrow night’s concert features Swing Shift, a very popular swing band. Sometimes couples dance in the aisles! Sunday night’s show will be the Falls Church Concert Band, and Wednesday will be the jazz sounds of Jacques Johnson and Friends. All evening shows begin at 7:30. This Saturday’s children show features Bill Wellington and his songs; July’s rained-out DinoRock show is rescheduled for Saturday, August 28. Saturday shows begin at 10 a.m. Mason District Park is located at 6621 Columbia Pike in Annandale. Bench seating is available, but some patrons prefer to bring their lawn chairs. There is plenty of room for everyone.
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org