Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Still Waiting On Improvements

A project presentation was held May 5, on the long-awaited improvement project for the Mount Vernon Park Authority Recreation Center. This is the oldest unimproved facility in the Fairfax County Park Authority system. The Mount Vernon community has been waiting for the modernization of this Recreation Center since it was approved by voters in 2008, over a decade ago. After 2008 bond funds were used to improve Fairfax County Recreation Centers in more affluent parts of the county, voters again approved the bond for this project in November of 2016.

A similar presentation was held a year ago on the early design, so we were eager to see how the Project Team responded to serious concerns about the lack of pedestrian circulation and relationship with the adjoining Belle Haven community and the Mary Washington Library. The designs showed all access to the building was proposed from a new second story, from the current parking lot, halfway up the hill. A year later, slides presented to the community show no change in access into the building. The overall monolithic building has no direct access from the street for pedestrians or bikes, which is anticipated to increase in the future. The design solution to address the access difficulty for library patrons was the addition of a substantial and intimidating set of stairs from the existing library parking lot, all the way up the hill through the existing woods, to the level of the current Recreation Center parking lot. That would be a fitness workout in itself!

The schedule presented at this meeting showed significant delays and displayed a total lack of urgency by Parks Authority project managers, and oversight by our elected officials and appointed Fairfax County Parks Authority Board members to meet the needs to modernize this 1979/1983 facility for the Mount Vernon community.

In the last public presentation, in May 2018, the Parks Authority project managers presented a schedule showing “Projected completion by FY2022” on slide 10. The County Fiscal Year begins on July 1, so that would be July 2022. This was already a significant delay to the original project completion date provided in 2017 which was caused in part by the Parks Authority decision, without input from the patrons, to spend funds and time designing a new ice rink that is not funded in the 2016 bond referendum approved by voters.

At the project meeting held May 5, 2019, the new project schedule now shows a December 2020 construction start date, coinciding with the depth of winter. We can anticipate “weather delays”. The project now has a “Completion Date of May 2023”. See https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/planning-development/mount-vernon-recenter.

A month or two delay will cause this to be FY 2024. Anyway you look at it, that is four years from now!

We pay the same fees for this inferior facility as for modern Recreation Centers elsewhere in Fairfax County. We want to know who is accountable for these unacceptable delays, for forcing us to continue tolerating the inadequacies of this facility, and for four more years of disabled patrons and families dripping from the pool as they wait for the only “family/accessible” bathroom in the public lobby?

The current design and project schedule are not acceptable and Fairfax County Park Authority project planners, our county supervisor and his appointed Fairfax County Park Authority Board representative need to engage and honor the responsibility they bear to provide diligent oversight so that the project schedule is expedited and the design responds to current community needs in a meaningful way.

Each meeting, the Park Authority project managers have placed the golden ring further and further away and by doing so they have undermined our trust.

It’s time for the Parks Authority to admit the inadequacy of the facility and their management of the modernization project. Recent increases in user fees at this facility are insulting and fees for this facility should be modified in recognition of the inferior facilities.

County Supervisor Daniel Storck and Parks Authority Board representative Linwood Gotham should jointly provide written monthly updates to us to be posted at the MV Rec Center. This would demonstrate their active involvement and concern, not previously evident. Most importantly, we need to be informed of any further time extensions for design, bidding and/or construction. Four years is too long to wait for a project approved by voters in 2008!

Patricia Tyson

Alexandria

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