Vote for Concept 1 for Jennie Dean Park

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Arlington is a vibrant community that has generally done a commendable job trying to balance the many interests of its residents in a small geographic space. This dynamic is at play in the redesign of Jennie Dean Park, where multiple constituents seek various outcomes from a confined space. The policy framework that has recently been advertised contains two possible designs for the park, and the County Board has to choose one. The Board’s charge for the park redesign was to replace and realign existing park amenities, including a lighted softball field, a lighted baseball field (one of the busiest in the entire County), two tennis courts, and a basketball court, along with a picnic shelter, playgrounds, and restrooms.

Concept 1 replaces all existing amenities in the near term, except for one tennis court. Concept 2 replaces most amenities in the near term, but does not provide for the improvement of the youth baseball field or the picnic shelter and retains, for an unknown period of time, the oldest fields lights in the County. Further, Concept 1 has a more appealing, attractive design than Concept 2. Both plans provide for increased open/unprogrammed green space, as requested by adjacent civic associations.

As Arlington considers how to make effective use of limited open space and to accommodate a burgeoning school-age youth population, it must continue to invest in space for structured play, such as youth baseball, soccer, softball, or lacrosse.  One of the things that attracts people to Arlington, and then keeps them here, as they transition from single to married to married-with-children, is the community that builds up around structured youth activities. Without those ties, Arlington becomes a less attractive place to live. Structured youth play generally and baseball more specifically should not be an afterthought in the design of Jennie Dean Park. It should be a continuing critical element of the park as it is today. 

Owing to competing demands, the opportunity to increase space for structured play at Jennie Dean Park has been lost. The issue before the Board is not about increasing field space, but simply preserving and improving what currently exists, now, with available funds. While we support adding green space wherever possible, those increases must not come at the expense of fields that serve many thousand Arlington residents, youth, and families.

For these reasons, we support Concept 1 for the design of Jennie Dean Park. Concept 1 has been recommended by the Four Mile Run Valley Working Group, which has worked tirelessly for two years to provide a viable design to the County Board. Moreover, Concept 1 is supported by a wide range of constituents, including the Shirlington and the Douglas Park civic associations, two of the three neighborhoods that call Jennie Dean their local park. Concept 1 also does the best job of balancing community needs and civic association wants and makes the best near-term use of available funds.

What Arlington decides on Jennie Dean Park will say a lot about whether it is a progressive community interested in planning for the future of families in Arlington. We urge the Planning Commission to recommend and the County Board to adopt Concept 1 for the redesign of Jennie Dean Park.

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