|The proposed design for a pavilion at Eakin Community Park.|
At a community meeting earlier this month, staff from the Fairfax County Park Authority presented plans for a picnic pavilion at the Tobin Road entrance to the park and improved landscaping at the Prosperity Road entrance.
The 300-acre park spans the Mason and Providence districts and is surrounded by the Accotink Stream Valley Park. The Cross County Trail runs through it, and it has ball fields, tennis courts, playgrounds, and garden plots.
Eakin Community Park was the first park established by the Fairfax County Park Authority.
In 1949, Leroy Eakin Sr., a developer who built Pine Ridge, Mantua, and other communities, wanted to donate 14 and a-half acres for a public park, but Fairfax County had no authority to accept a land donation, says his great grandson, Tim Eakin Walsh. By 1951, the Fairfax County Park Authority was established, and Eakin Community Park was born.
Over the years, Leroy Eakin added more land to the park and in 1966 donated $50,000 to start the Eakin Family Trust to support the continued maintenance of the park – with additional funds added in subsequent years. There’s a plaque at the Tobin Road entrance commemorating the donation.
At the community meeting, at Mantua Elementary School, county staff described designs for improvements developed by Park Authority landscape architect Gayle Hooper. The improvements include converting some of the lawn area to meadows, an arbor, public art, landscaping, and interpretive signs describing natural features and wildlife.
“There was a lot of support for the improvements,” said Sandy Stallman, manager of the Park Planning Branch. About 40 to 50 people attended the meeting, including residents of Pine Ridge, Mantua, Prosperity Heights, Chesterfield Mews, and Woodburn Homes.
Nearby residents and civic associations have been requesting improvements to Eakin Park for years. The Park Authority developed a concept plan in 1995, but it was never implemented.
The Park Authority hasn't yet figured out how much the proposed improvements will cost – that’s the next step. But it’s clear that the Park Authority lacks sufficient funds for this project, and there are no bond funds available.
Funds from the Eakin Family Trust will cover the required matching funds for a Mastenbrook Grant to pay for the new picnic shelter, Walsh said. The Park Authority’s Mastenbrook grant program allows groups and individuals to apply for capital park projects and contribute up to half the cost through funds or in-kind services. He also hopes to secure a Mastenbrook grant for some of the other improvements.
“The project will require some community commitment, as well,” said Stallman. Some of the improvements are outside the Park Authority’s normal maintenance, so local volunteers would need to help get the trees established and take care of watering and mulching to ensure the landscaping is maintained.
“Creating partnerships is a great way to build community,” Stallman said. “We’re finding that is more and more necessary because of the county’s fiscal restraints.”
County parks used get one cent out of every dollar from the county budget; it’s now down to six-tenths of one cent, Walsh said.
There will be another community meeting early in 2015 to figure out how to proceed, said Howard Albers, the parks representative on the Pine Ridge Civic Association and a volunteer with the Fairfax County Park Foundation. By then, there should be an estimate of the cost of the improvements, and the nearby community associations will be asked if they would be willing to contribute funds or volunteers.
Walsh would like to see community members consider the county’s Adopt-a-Park program. “The community really wants to contribute. It’s very promising,” he said.