Reston is changing. How, if at all, should Baron Cameron Park change along with it?
That was the question posed to the community Tuesday night at a Fairfax County Park Authority meeting on the master planning of the park.
Baron Cameron Park has been a subject of discussion recently as Reston Community Center is looking into the feasibility and the need for an indoor recreation center (featuring a new year-round pool) to possibly be built at the park.
Emotions ran high on Monday as RCCfrom consultants - and residents who are mostly opposed to the facility for a variety of reasons. Consulting firm Brailsford & Dunlavey said it will have its complete report, including operating costs and revenue outlook, on June 3.
FCPA Chair Bill Bouie said Tuesday that the Baron Cameron planning process is a separate one from the RCC process.
Baron Cameron has been a park since the early 1970s, when the population of Reston was about half of what it is now. Until 2011 the land was held by the school system. Now that the park owns the land, it needs to determine what improvements to make, especially since Reston is expecting, over the next two decades, a big population increase to come after the arrival of Metro later this year.
Bouie emphasized that Baron Cameron is a District park, not a Reston park.
"A district park serves those in communities of Reston, Herndon, Vienna, Great Falls and surrounding areas," he said. "All of those folks use the park and we will be soliciting their input. Now that we own the land, we must consider future investments to transform it so it better serves Reston and surrounding communities."
The master plan process will likely take more than a year, FCPA said.
Here is what is at the park now:
68 acres of land (46 percent developed). The land includes 35 percent forested area.
Nine rectangular fields (average use: 1,000 hours annually); one lighted diamond field (average use: 1,600 hours annually); picnic area; playground; dog run; 32 community garden plots; and 430 parking spaces (some used for park and ride).
Some of what the park authority will look at in the process:
Issues raised by public; increasing field capacities; enhancements and or improvements to non field park facilities; increasing or improving service delivery to meet community needs in Reston.
Park officials said it will be examining environmental, traffic and noise impacts as well. Some 35,000 cars travel down Baron Cameron Avenue (and 16,000 on cross street Wiehle) daily, the FCPA said.
Here are some of the main points made by the crowd at Buzz Aldrin Elementary on Tuesday:
* Is it a conflict of interest that Bouie is involved in the master planning of Baron Cameron and the RCC proposal for a new indoor pool? Bouie is the chair of the FCPA and on the RCC Board of Governors.
"My job is to make sure on the RCC side we have two strategic initiatives – the need for recreation center and a performing arts center," said Bouie. "We have a number of Park Authority needs - all of our current funded projects through 2021. I have nothing to hide. I am trying to do what is best for this community. Nothing has been decided. These are two parallel processes."
* Many residents said it is unfair for residents of Small Tax District 5, which supports RCC, to have to pay for a regional facility.
"This plan calls for Small Tax District 5 to pay for capital costs of new complex," said Belcastle Cluster resident Steven Kanner, who has spoken at several meetings. "Fairfax County and the park authority have no money, but county is financing additions at [county rec centers] Oak Marr and Spring Hill but we have to pay."
* Don't let history repeat itself. In 2009, RC and Reston Association looked into a plan to build a $100-million indoor pool and tennis facility at Brown's Chapel Park, an RA park that adjoins Baron Cameron.
That proposal was met with huge dissension and never moved forward.
"If you look and listen we just did this four years ago," said a Newport Shores resident. "Pay attention – it came out very solidly against. A facility is wrong. Improve what we have there. I think you will make 85 percent of the people happy."
* Don't mess with the dog park. Many residents spoke of happy times at the off-leash area, and a regional dog park advocate spoke of the benefits of such play areas for canines.
"Baron Cameron is the only place my dog can run free, sniff butts, meet other dogs and watch a soccer game," said one resident.
* Keep open space open. Many residents suggested finding an alternative site to build such a facility.
"This shouldn't disrupt current value and civic uses," said Reston 2020's Terry Maynard. "A recreational facility ought to be where the people are."
Maynard suggested looking into building on park authority land near Reston Town Center or in the southwest corner of Lake Fairfax Park.
He pointed out that 22 ½ percent of Reston is open space.
"The point of open space is deeply inside our beliefs," he said. "It is part of our vision as defined by [founder] Robert E. Simon. It is something we need to continue to share."
* Simon was at the meeting, and he encouraged people to "open their minds" to the possibility of better parks.
"Reston now has something like 60,000 people," he said. "We are scheduled to have about 100,000 people. We will need more facilities."
Simon, as he has in the past, says Reston needs a 50-meter indoor pool and also needs indoor tennis. He encouraged RA to borrow money and pay for a tennis facility.
He said even building these things will still keep plenty of open space.
"I have read and heard alarmists suggests this would drive the dog park out would destroy all the ball fields," Simon said. "This facility would take about 5-6 acres. There is no reason why people should feel their park is being destroyed."
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Indoor Tennis Not Likely at New RCC Facility
Save the Date: Park Master Planning Meeting
Citizens Speak Out on RCC Proposal
What improvements do you think should happen at Baron Cameron Park? Tell us in the comments.