Park Service ready for show and tell at Jones


After nearly a year since the last public comment period, the National Park Service is ready to unveil yet another plan for Jones Point Park.

NPS made the announcement late last week. There will be a public meeting to show members of the Alexandria community the Park Services preferred alternative. It will be held on June 27, from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Nannie J. Lee Center. There will be no presentation but NPS staff will be available to show drawings and answer questions as people walk around the display.

As described in one paragraph on the NPS web site, the plan incorporates various items from previous alternatives. This is at least the fourth draft Environmental Assessment with a new set of plans since the planning process began. Jones Point Park is being redesigned as part of the construction of the new Woodrow Wilson Bridge.

Just before Sept. 11, 2001, the Environmental Assessment had been finished and was simply awaiting a signature. After 9/11, security concerns caused the EA process to be reopened and the park was redesigned. In 2005, the Alexandria City Council adopted a preferred alternative after much debate and community input. That plan differed from the NPS preferred alternative so the Park Service went back to the drawing board. In Sept. 2006, NPS released yet another plan, which also differed from the citys adopted alternative. Members of City Council and Virginia Congressman Jim Moran (D-8th) objected.

This newest plan is not the same as any of those adopted by anyone previously. According to the NPS web site, there is a road into the park from Royal Street, ending just north of the new bridge in a 110-space parking lot. There is also a vehicular turn-around adjacent to the parking lot and just west of the Potomac River. Just north of the parking lot, NPS is proposing to locate an 80-40 foot rectangular all-purpose athletic field. There will also be a tot lot near the parking lot, north of the bridge.

South of the bridge, where most of the archaeological and historic resources are located, NPS is proposing to put a 110-60 foot rectangular all-purpose athletic field. The last plans have not included any active recreation south of the bridge to keep childrens athletics from interfering with the quiet enjoyment of interpretive history.

Members of City Council have been briefed on the new proposal and do not intend to object to it. We have talked with the Park Service and, as I understand it, they are willing to assume the cost of maintaining the park, which now costs the city about $300,000 a year, said Councilman Paul Smedberg. Also, we are talking to them about providing some additional funding so that we can put artificial turf on at least one of our existing fields.

The national park service briefed Rep. Moran on the plan. The Park Services plan falls far short of what was originally proposed, but the latest changes are an improvement.  The city needs more playing fields and this proposal makes that a reality, he said.

Judy Noritake, chair of the Citys Parks and Recreation Commission said, I have never seen a drawing so I only know what is on the Park Service web site. I am concerned that there will be so much impervious surface in the park and that we are going to have such a large parking lot and so many cars on the river. The National Park Service, with this plan, shows why so many people refer to them as the National Parking Service.

They are setting up an unnecessary conflict between youth and adult sports and the historic community. We had all agreed that everything south of the bridge would be passive. If a landscape architect submitted this design as a student project, they would flunk, Noritake said.

After the meeting on June 27, members of the community will have 30 days in which to submit written comments to the NPS. Then, the Park Service will consider those comments, revise the plan accordingly and release a final document. Construction on the park is supposed to begin in 2009 after bridge construction is completed.