Plans for Jones Point Park begin to take shape

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The National Park Service released its final plans for Jones Point Park last week. On Tuesday night, Alexandria City Council reviewed the plans and asked the city manager and the City attorney to begin discussions with the Federal Highway Administration and consider all options, including suing the federal government for not complying with a court settlement over the Woodrow Wilson Bridge construction.

We were promised two full-size athletic playing fields and a number of other amenities in Jones Point Park as part of our settlement with the federal government over the bridge construction. We have to decide whether this plan complies with that agreement and what, if any, action we need to take, said Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille.

The NPS plan calls for one large and one small playing field instead of two large fields and one field north of the bridge and one south instead of both fields north of the bridge. This is a problem because the intent of the plan we preferred was to have all of the active recreation uses north of the bridge and the passive activities south of the bridge. We believe that this plan interferes with historic interpretation and other equally important activities that are planned for south of the bridge, Euille said.

The other issue is an access road through the park and a parking lot near the river. We are concerned that the Park Service has reduced the parking lot from 110 spaces to 95 spaces and that they have put it near the river instead of at the perimeter of the park. Also, I dont think anyone ever really wanted a road through the park, Euille said.

The park was redesigned as part of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge construction project and then redesigned again after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center. Council has voted three times to support the plan that contained the elements Euille referenced. Nearby neighbors of the park opposed the citys preferred alternative but also oppose the NPS plan.

The Park Service plan removes over an acre of trees just to build the access road that nobody in the city wants, said Judy Noritake, chair of the Citys Parks and Recreation Commission. Another acre of trees needs to be removed to uncover the old shipway. They only need to clear .4 acres of trees for the fields.

As to complying with the citys settlement with the Federal Highway Administration, the National Park Service said in the final plan documents for Jones Point Park that, since NPS was not a signatory to that agreement, they were not bound by its terms.

We lease the park from the Park Service and spend about $300,000 to maintain it each year. We have had discussions with them about taking over the maintenance of the park and about other considerations that the city might get because of the change in amenities, Euillle said. We will see what we need to do to ensure that the citizens of Alexandria get what they need here.

Construction of the new park will begin when work on the bridge is complete, some time in 2009.
 

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