The fair and equitable sharing of Arlington’s parks should be a key component of our planning for Arlington’s future. When my wife and I walk with our daughters through nature we love to play a game of who can find the most unique living thing. This helps open our eyes to see the beauty of nature and look for that unusual camouflaged bug or spot a Downy Woodpecker on a tree. Sometimes we notice a bizarre plant or fungi. This is a game where everyone wins as we discover together the wonders in our natural world. Everyone should have this opportunity.
In a recent survey, 64% of Arlington households expressed support for “preserv[ing] existing trees and natural areas.” Our parks exist in these natural areas. And as Arlington grows, we cannot neglect what Jane Jacobs calls general “public yard” space to meet our neighbors, attend community events, and generally enjoy the out-of-doors alone or with friends and family. This is particularly important as we build the “missing middle” and ensure that all Arlingtonians--in the neighborhoods, the development corridors and transportation hubs--have effective access to such spaces.
But serious challenges exist if we are to realize this vision. We have yet to determine how these natural areas should be used . . . or left alone. Natural areas cover everything from significant expanses in some of our more natural parks such as Carlyn Springs and Lubber Run to the Riparian Protection Areas along Four Mile Run to patches of open space, large and small, which provide urban relief, as well as “backyards” for our citizens in the corridors and transit hubs. And a portion of our open space exists on Schools properties. We need to consider how parks in natural areas are used and how such uses should be distributed throughout the County so that every Arlingtonian can have effective access to them. And we need to determine how our parks and open spaces should be shared.
As a County Board member, I will:
- Work to ensure that all uses--programmed and unprogrammed; environmental and social-- are appropriately and adequately distributed throughout the County.
- Ensure that all neighborhoods, corridors and transportation hubs have adequate access to community yard spaces in parks through all appropriate transportation modes.
- Support community conversations about shared use of park-space.
- Make sure the values and vision in our soon-to-be adopted Public Spaces Master Plan are realized in all aspects of Arlington County planning.
- Approach the annual operating budget and the 2-year capital budget with park land as well as general acquisition as a priority.
- Build on the work of the Community Facility Study, approaching our land use planning processes with an understanding of how the county should balance community facilities needs with existing and new parks in mind. Instead of bouncing from one isolated and divisive decision to the next, all interests can see how a particular site fits into a total and equitable county-wide solution.
- Make sure that the County Board is collaborating with the School Board to squeeze the most out of our limited land. We need a 20-year comprehensive plan that lays out for the entire community a complete picture of how school and community facilities including parkland will fit together.