Final plans for the development of an additional 1.3 acres of the City of Falls Church’s West End Park were presented by Rec and Parks Director Daniel Schlitt to the F.C. City Council at its work session last week, and concerns for issues like storm water runoff, costs, parking and a small skateboard feature in its center were raised by members of the Council.
An additional $430,000, already bonded, is needed to bring the project to fruition, something Schlitt and members of the Parks and Rec Advisory Committee hope can occur by next spring.
Depending on how much controversy develops over the skateboard park feature, in particular, it is hoped that construction can begin by September. The fact that the park, linked to an already existing park space located under the W&OD bridge across W. Broad Street, will be proximate to a new mixed-use development project being proposed for the corner of N. West and Park, has caused Councilman Phil Duncan to suggest that the developer could help the plan with a proffer, since it is so near the project.
The skateboard feature in the center of the park space will cost $80,350, according to the plans, but the idea of the feature was called into question last week by Council member Dan Sze, who cited statistics showing a sharp drop-off in the popularity of such facilities among young people, nationwide.
“While the passion is well-founded,” Sze said, the interest may simply not be there as it was when first proposed a half-dozen years ago. He said that surveys show a sharp drop off in the popularity of the sport in the last three years.
He said the current plan also ignores the opportunity to treat storm water that will wind up going down onto Grove Street, even though Public Works Director Mike Collins said such an option is not self-evident there.
The City acquired the land from the Falls Church Volunteer Fire Department in May 2005, and for some time, it was being sought for use by the Falls Church Housing Corporation as a location for a senior assisted living project. However, major opposition to that use by neighbors to the site caused the Council to require a sufficient down-sizing of the project to make it unviable.
“West End Park has been designated as both a neighborhood and community park due to its proximity to the W&ODF trail,” Schlitt told the Council. “The original West End Park has many amenities and at the request of many neighbors and City residents, remains a passive park providing a tranquil place to enjoy the outdoors and an arboretum of rare and beautiful trees and preserves flowers and other native species in a year-round garden.”
Schlitt’s report continued, “The site plan has incorporated the new land to encompass some of the same arbor-like qualities and has added a walking path that surrounds the entire park with a traditional entrance off Grove Street and a new formal entrance off Broad Street. Another amenity to West End Park that has been discussed for many years and is included in the plan is the addition of several skate features toward the new entrance to the park. The skate features were vetted in many public hearings over the years and have been a long sought feature by the Recreation and Parks Advisory Board in response to many public comments particularly from the preteen and teenage population of the City.”
The Planning Commission provided final approval of the site plan in July 2013, and the funds for the project were raised through a bond last December.
A final public hearing is slated for this September prior to the onset of construction.