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Thursday, July 7, 2011

Public urged to testify on 'walk-on' field use at FXCO Park Board hearing

Ossian Hall Park
People who use Fairfax County athletic fields on a casual basis are encouraged to come to a Park Authority Board hearing July 13 on a proposal to limit the number of “walk-ons” from 40 to 20. That includes spectators, as well as players.

If the rule change passes, people who like to play pick-up soccer games and can’t join regular leagues would find themselves virtually shut out of county fields. And that’s not fair, when our country parks are supposed to be available to the public.

“Everybody should be allowed to play, especially kids. It’s not right to tell our kids they can’t play,” says Mario Escobar, who likes to play soccer on the synthetic turf field at the recently renovated Ossian Hall Park in Annandale. 

A self-employed home remodeler, Escobar says it is difficult to fit regularly scheduled games into his schedule. “We’ve got this park I can walk to, and I can’t play here,” he says.

The athletic leagues are well organized and have been pushing the park board to limit the number of walk-ons to 40 or even zero. They have argued that the more restrictive rules are needed because walk-on soccer players have damaged fields and sometimes refuse to vacate a field when a team with a registered league shows up.

Casual users, like Escobar, are obviously less organized and less able to get the word out about their concerns. Many, in fact, aren’t aware that their ability to use county fields might soon be significantly restricted.

At-large Park Board member Marie Reinsdorf believes “we have to provide access to everyone.” She has suggested potential compromises, such as setting aside some fields for walk-on use or charging a reasonable fee for walk-ons.  Fees would address the accountability issues and help pay for field maintenance, she says. During the last Park Authority Board meeting, Reinsdorf was the only one who voted against the motion to bring up the issue at a public hearing.

Restricting the fields hurts lower-income people the most. Many don’t have the resources to join organized leagues and often don’t know in advance when they might have to work, so it’s hard for them to play in a league with regularly scheduled games. And without opportunities for sports, young people will be more likely to devote their leisure time to less healthy pursuits.

The Park Authority hearing takes place Wednesday, July 13, 7:30 p.m., in Room 941 of  the Herrity Building, 12055 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax. It will address an amendment to revise section 1.16-1 (athletic field use) in the existing park regulations. Background information on the issue can be viewed online.

If you want to speak at the hearing, contact the Fairfax County Park Authority Public Information Office, 703/324-8662. 

The Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority (NVRPA) will also hold a public hearing on this amendment on Thursday, July 21, 7:30 p.m., at 5400 Ox Road in Fairfax Station. If you want to speak at this hearing, contact NVRPA, 703/359-4613. 

Existing NVRPA policy requires written permission for “use of an athletic field that results in a gathering of 40 or more participants, including spectators.” Some fields are restricted to youth soccer, some require permits, and others are open to the public.


  1. I guess the Annandale Blog can have a point of view, but I would like to hear the other side – what is the reason behind the restrictions? You pretty much don’t lose your freedom unless there’s been an abuse of the freedom.

  2. The Park Board has received many, many comments from people supporting the restrictions. You can access them here: But they pretty much boil down to two main concerns: maintenance and behavior. Many of the league representatives say they have put a lot of time and resources into maintaining the fields and that it's sometimes hard to get walk-on players to leave.

  3. ya im sure its the behavior of are hard working illegal immigrants that the issue

  4. These walk on groups take up the entire field for most of the day, so they dont have much of an argument. Anybody can reserve park facilities so I dont know what they are upset about, unless they want 24/7 facility access and screw everyone else!

  5. Yeah, a lot of the pick up groups seem more like unofficial organized groups. Having some local kids/adults playing pickup games for an hour or two is one thing, but having unofficial organized groups who play almost every week is another. I say if these unofficial organized groups set up "pickup games" at least 3-4x a month... sign up for the field officially the proper way!!

  6. They CAN still enjoy the parks, but fields are NOT for use by residents of the County who dont join a league NOR pay any taxes. It has always been that way. So I have to pay to maintain these folks chewing them up so my kids can play in mud? YET ANOTHER reason to boot out illegal immigrants. What a sane decision. Also, these so called "hard working" folks seem to have boatloads of time and energy on their hands every night until 11PM and even early in the AM. How do they hold down steady jobs? Answer: They don't have them and are loose migrant molecules in our society that would be best back fighting against corruption and injustice in their home countries than running here and taking the easy way out. Our founding fathers provide an example this COULD be done and did that when they stood up to England - but I guess they don't teach US history anymore and these folks think America "just happened."