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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Bailey's Crossroads residents respond to plan for Hogge Park

About 60 people came to public meeting at Glen Forest Elementary School Nov. 15 to tell Fairfax County park officials how they would like to see the Boyd A. and Charlotte M. Hogge Park developed. Several local residents opposed a proposal for community gardens and some were concerned about losing the stately trees on the property, but most seemed pleased with the concept in the Park Authority’s draft master plan for the 6.10-acre property in Bailey’s Crossroads.

The Park Authority purchased the property in 2006 from Charlotte Hogge with the stipulation that she could continue to live in the large estate there. After she died in 2007, the county determined the house was not worth preserving and demolished it.
The draft master plan “incorporates many things we heard from the public,” said Frank Vajda, the Mason District representative on the Fairfax County Park Authority Board. For example, an earlier proposal to include a soccer field has been scrapped due to community opposition.

Gayle Hooper, project manager for the Hogge Park, acknowledged that development of the site might not actually happen for years, as funding for the project hasn’t been allocated. But having a master plan in place will help get the project into the county budget. Members of the public have an opportunity to submit comments to the Park Authority until Dec. 15, Hooper said. After that, park staff will revise the plan and submit it to the Park Authority Board for final approval.

The oddly shaped property consists of two separate areas connected to each other. The northern section is bordered by Glen Carlin Road, Magnolia Avenue, St. Katherine’s Greek Orthodox Church, and single-family houses. The draft plan calls for several amenities in this section, including a picnic pavilion; a basketball or volleyball court; an open play area; a playground or area with fitness apparatuses for adults; and trails. There would also be a small parking lot and shared parking with St. Katherine’s. The southern, less accessible section would be left in its natural, wooded state. The Long Branch Stream, which runs through this section, has been designated a “resource protection area.”

At the meeting last night, Carolyn Davis, a resident of Magnolia Avenue, said she is concerned that the plan doesn’t include restrooms and opposes having community gardens in the park. She said the Bo White community gardens in Pine Ridge Park in Annandale are “a filthy mess” with “topsy-turvy tomato plants, chairs, wheelbarrows, vines all over the fences, and piles of mulch all over the place.” If the gardens aren’t maintained properly, “it will add to the rat problem,” she said.

Lynda Brinson, who spoke on behalf of Magnolia Avenue resident Virginia Smith, said she is totally against community gardens, and Trisha Byrne warned the gardens will become “a rats’ nest.” Leib Kaminski, who lives in the townhouses bordering the southern section of the park, spoke out in favor of community gardens, noting that “some are really nice.” Hooper said if community gardens are included in the park, they would be sponsored by a neighborhood group that would be responsible for making sure they are well-maintained.

Several residents expressed concerns about traffic, parking, and trash and asked the park authority to add restrooms to the pavilion. And a couple of people suggested the pavilion is too close to the intersection of Glen Carlyn and Magnolia.

Ruth Ruskin, who lives on Sixth Street, said all of the proposed uses are good but, taken together, “it is too much in a small space.” She doesn’t want to see the trees cut down, particularly a beautiful evergreen, and is concerned that a pretty, grassy area would be destroyed to make way for the ball court. Byrne, who wants the “wonderful, old trees” to be saved, said “a park is about green spaces, trees, and nature.”

Despite the complaints, several people expressed appreciation to the Park Authority for trying to address the community’s needs—and for preserving the property. Kaminski noted that if the county hadn’t purchased the land, it could have become another housing development.

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