To the editor:
I wish to respond to the article concerning Jones Point Park by Chuck Hagee (A walk in whose park?) that appeared in your June 17 issue.
Hagee states that at the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Task Force meeting of June 17, 2008, it was announced that the park should be open once again for public use by the spring of 2011.
Hagee should know that the park is open, and has remained open from the beginning of the bridge construction to the present day. It may be difficult to access, but that is due to the continued presence of fencing around the perimeters of the bridge itself.
As a member of the Task Force since its inception, I agree with Hagee that there was never any discussion of phasing park construction, for the very simple fact that details of the park construction were not discussed in such specific terms. To the contrary, since the park remained open during the entire construction of the multi-billion dollar bridge itself, and since there are numerous references to the park remaining open at all time, in public documents, the public had every expectation that this would occur.
To give but one example, an agreement signed by both the National Park Service and the Federal Highway Administration, states that the FHWA shall provide improvements within Jones Point Park that shall include (among other items) routes for public access to the extent that such routes are feasible, practical, and safe. Public access may be temporarily restricted during the construction period.
Closing the park for 1 to 2 years could hardly be called temporary.
Furthermore, in June of 2007, the National Park Service released its Jones Point Park Environmental assessment (EA). Chapter 1, Page 2, of the EA states as follows:
Furthermore, it is most distressing that a government employee such as Dottie Marshall should impugn the motives of those Alexandrians who love the park and who are distressed that it could be closed by a bureaucratic fiat without even the knowledge of City Council, much less the residents.
Marshall is quoted in Mr. Hagees article as saying Im not so sure that some people would like to see the construction take longer so that others cant access the park sooner.
As noted before, the park is open. No one is trying to keep it closed or off limits, except perhaps the Virginia Department of Transportation or the National Park Service. Anyone can access the park today. If there has been a delay in getting started with the park renovation, that delay rests solely with NPS and VDOT. The residents had nothing to do with that. If NPS wants to get the park open sooner, why didnt it begin the renovation sooner? Why must the park users be denied access for such a long time due to the delays of the government?
There are a lot of reasons that a lot of people are objecting to the proposed closure of the park. Such a closure is convenient to only one individual the contractor. To take the largest park in the city and close it for park users is unnecessary and will adversely affect the hundreds of people who use it every day, every week and throughout all seasons of the year.
For Marshall to state, in an interview, that those citizens who oppose closing the park are trying to keep other people out is an insult to the hundreds of people who have signed petitions opposing closure, who have written to the elected officials to protest, and who have attempted a dialogue with the NPS (with little avail) to see what can be done to accommodate the citizens of Alexandria and the neighboring jurisdictions. I think Ms. Marshall owes Alexandria and its citizens an apology for her ill-chosen words.
I also wish to commend your editorial, which succinctly summarizes the issues, effectively challenges many of the assumptions promulgated by the NPS with regards to the park, and very accurately notes that the indifference of NPS (actually of VDOT as well) makes this a difficult problem to solve.
Yvonne Weight Callahan