By Patricia Leslie
About 3,000 plants, shrubs, flowers and trees will be planted at West End Park, possibly starting early this month, as part of an expansion and renovation of the park that was approved by the Falls Church City Council last week.
“The timeline is not firm,” said Daniel Schlitt, the director of Falls Church’s Recreation and Parks Department. “[But] we hope construction can begin some time in October while the weather is still decent and before the ground freezes,” so flowers can blossom in the spring.
Fifty different varieties of plants, shrubs and trees, including ten trees with a diameter of 2.5 to three inches, 25 evergreens, 350 shrubs and 2,500 small plants, crocuses, day lilies, perennials, grasses and ground cover will be planted.
The park’s expansion and renovation, which will cost $528,000, except for the final signatures on paperwork, is pretty much a “go,” Schlitt said.
Development and approval of West End Park has been underway for about ten years, sidetracked by the recession. The site plan was completed in 2009 and the master park plan was completed in 2007.
A move to name it after Harry English, a long time Falls Church resident who lives nearby and has been instrumental in the beautification of the original park, is underway, Schlitt said. English helped design the park and has worked since the 1990s to maintain it. Schlitt said he is “very involved.”
At its October 1 meeting, members of the Recreation and Parks Advisory Board considered a proposal to endorse naming the park after English, said board member Charles O’Hara. Results of their deliberations were not available at press time, but, if approved, the resolution will be forwarded to the City Council. Several area neighbors have also voiced their support in naming the park for English.
The new section of the park, which will include a circular walking pathway of stone dust and, for more heavily traveled sections, asphalt, will add 1.3 acres to the existing .7 acre. The city acquired the land from the Falls Church Volunteer Fire Department in May 2005.
The area now covered by dense brush and natural vegetation, which has served as a haven for shady behavior, and which some parents warn their children to avoid, will be removed. Kate Klemic, who lives nearby on Jennifer Lane, praised the new park at the City Council meeting and welcomed the plan to remove this brush area since she considers it dangerous, especially for children.
The park will include a concrete skate park, benches, tables, recycling bins, bike racks and there has been a request for swings.
Rain gardens, a bio-retention feature, will be an important element of the park and will enable rainwater to be collected and recycled for slow release on park plants while avoiding spillover onto adjacent properties and streets, according to Schlitt.
He said that to satisfy the requests of residents who live near the park, it will continue to remain a passive place to enjoy the outdoors, without cars or parking. It is not a “drive to” park, Schlitt said.
The existing park will not be totally forgotten. Some plants will be added to it, but a major makeover is not in the works. “We’ve got to be creative to tie the old park in with the new and make it look good,” Schlitt said.
West End Park is located between the Sonic Soft Car Wash on West Broad Street on the west, the W&OD trail and bridge overpass on the south, and private homes on the north and east.
A possible future connection to Falls Avenue to the west is on the site plan.
Although the W&OD bike trail is just steps from the park, its presence is not known by all who use the trail, but a new gateway sign on West Broad “to really mark the property” will be installed and will improve the park’s accessibility and purpose.
The traditional entrance of the park off Grove Street will be kept and the old sign there may be replaced later. Schlitt was unaware if a formal ground-breaking for construction will be scheduled.
Schlitt expects expansion and renovation of the park to be completed by spring 2015, if the weather permits, and by fall 2015 at the latest.