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Monday, February 1, 2016

Proposed park bond omits renovation for Audrey Moore RECenter

The fitness room at the Audrey Moore RECenter.
If you swim, work out, play racquetball, take a class, or otherwise enjoy the Audrey Moore RECenter, this is a critical time to let public officials know that the aging, heavily used recreation facility needs major improvements.

Audrey Moore RECenter at Wakefield Park in Annandale, the county’s oldest recreation center, is long overdue for a major upgrade. But it’s not given a high priority on a list of projects being considered by the Fairfax County Park Board for a park bond to be presented to voters on Election Day, Nov. 8, 2016.


People exercising in a hallway at Audrey Moore.
The park bond, expected to total about $87 million, does include $1 million for Audrey Moore, but that wouldn’t even cover needed HVAC and other infrastructure repairs.

Audrey Moore has never had a major renovation in its 38-year history, although there have been some minor improvements over the years. Last year, the wall of windows by the swimming pool was renovated at a cost of $1.6 million.

Several basketball games under way at once at Audrey Moore.
When it comes to setting public priorities, it’s the squeaky wheel that gets oiled, but unfortunately, the Friends of Audrey Moore RECenter, a citizen advocacy group formed last year to urge the county to renovate the center, is no longer active.

Some of the key players in that group dropped out, mainly due to work commitments and busy schedules, and nobody else stepped forward, says one of the founders, Tom Kennedy, a former volunteer manager at Audrey Moore who regularly uses the fitness center and pool.

Kennedy had agreed to help set up the friends group, but wasn’t able to play a leadership role. He plans to contact the other members of the group to urge them to meet with Park Authority officials to push for renovation funds. If you would like to join that effort, contact him at tfkinva@aol.com.

The fitness room at the Oak Marr RECenter.

It’s not too late. Park users throughout the Fairfax County are reaching out to the Park Board and other county officials about their concerns. A final decision on the bond package won’t be made until June.

Audrey Moore is in the Braddock District, so people who want to advocate for the center should start by contacting Braddock Supervisor John Cook and the Braddock representative on the Park Authority Board, Tony Vellucci. Mason residents should also reach out to the Mason representative on the park board, Frank Vajda, and Supervisor Penny Gross.

Before it fell apart, the friends group surveyed Audrey Moore patrons on what improvements they would like to see. The survey results are unavailable, but Kennedy recalls people saying they wanted a larger fitness center, a climbing wall, more activity rooms, and an extended shallow “beach area” in the pool for young children. A beach area would attract more families, which would increase the center’s revenue, he says.

Oak Marr's childcare room.
The fitness room was originally in a much smaller space, where the senior center is now, and was later moved to what had been a lounge area. That space is still inadequate and is often overcrowded, Kennedy says. Private school groups use it for physical education, and the Inova Physical Therapy Center uses it for rehabilitation.

Kennedy also says that when he and his wife swim in the Audrey Moore pool, they have to compete for space with master swim classes, synchronized swimming groups, and high school teams. While those groups come in early in the morning, they often overstay their allotted time periods. The locker rooms are overcrowded, too, and sometimes people have to wait 15 minutes for a shower, he says.

Keith Peyton, a front desk volunteer who also manages the racquetball program and helped with the friends group, says Audrey Moore could use a childcare center so parents can work out while their children play, more racquetball courts, heavy glass doors on the courts so people waiting can watch the play, a second smaller gym with more space for volleyball and an indoor running track, a beach pool, a hot tub, new locker rooms, a teen center, and a room for family movie nights.

The Oak Marr pool has a beach area and hot tub.
Newer Fairfax County recreation centers have many of those features. The Oak Marr RECenter in Oakton and Spring Hill RECenter in McLean have undergone major renovations recently, and those centers present a good illustration of how Audrey Moore could be transformed.

Oak Marr, originally built in 1988 as an aquatic center, has a heated pool with a beach area and diving complex. When it was renovated and expanded, says director Kirt Chase, improvements included a large two-story, 5,000-square foot fitness area with a separate weight room; a large supervised babysitting area; three new activity rooms (a dance studio also used for aerobics and gymnastics, a spin room, and a mind and body room), a new lobby area, a supervised childcare room, and lots of natural light. The center won a design award in 2015.

If the Audrey Moore renovation is not included in the 2016 bond, it will be put off until the next park bond cycle in 2020-21.

When approaching the park board, Kennedy says, rather than presenting a list of specifics, he plans to let the board know that “the friends group has determined there are deficiencies in the rec center as it has aged through the years and improvements are needed to maintain its viability.”

The 2016 park bond calls for $20 million for renovations at the Mount Vernon RECenter, which is newer than Audrey Moore, but does need an upgrade.

Among other proposals considered for the park bond are these projects in the Annandale/Mason area:
  • $2 million for Hogge Park in Bailey’s Crossroads for a pavilion, sport court, playground, outdoor fitness, community gardens, parking, an entrance, and trails.
  • $1.4 million for Annandale Community Park, to include renovations at the Hidden Oaks Nature Center, picnic shelter replacements, new playground equipment, and lighting.
  • $200,000 for renovations at Backlick Park for picnic shelters, playground equipment, and lighting.
  • $1.5 million for improvements at Roundtree Park, including a new picnic shelter, road resurfacing, and replacing two bridges.
  • $1.5 million for improvements at Lake Accotink Park.
Countywide projects for trail, athletic field, and environmental improvements also include some parks in the Annandale/Mason area.

1 comment:

  1. Ellie - this is a great article. You are spot on that the public needs to let their reps know how important AMRC is or it will not see any renovations till the next bond cycle in 2020/21.

    ReplyDelete