main banner

Monday, July 17, 2017

Despite complaints, Backlick Park still in bad shape

The slide has been broken for nearly two years. 
Nearly a year after Annandale resident Binod Gupta started complaining about the neglected state of Backlick Park – a complaint that was picked up on a TV newscast – a few improvements have been made, but the park is still in substandard condition.

The slide is still broken and has been unusable for nearly two years, despite a statement from the Park Authority in April 2016 that it was receiving quotes for having it fixed.
A downed tree blocks the path.
The park, on Backlick Road in Annandle, “has plants growing all over the place and is dirty,” Gupta wrote in an email to county officials in late June. “The children’s play area needs special clean up, maintenance, and painting.” There was a dead bird on the playground, lots of weeds, insufficient mulch, and roots and ditches in the path, making it difficult to navigate a stroller.

Boards on the path. [Binod Gupta]
A response from Mark Plourde, Area 2 manager with the Fairfax County Park Authority, states, “I share your frustration about the response time to these problems, as it can seem to be a very slow process.”

He promised to put weed removal on the work plan but noted, “This time of year we see a lot of weeds sprouting in playground mulch, and with 26 playgrounds to maintain, it sometimes takes us a while to get to all of them.” He also said crews would remove dead birds and loose boards lying on the gravel path.

Regarding the slide, Plourde said, “I do realize that it has taken a long time to replace, but please understand that with older playgrounds such as this, parts become more difficult to come by so replacement becomes a longer process. I expect that it should be installed before the end of the summer.”

Since Gutpa started complaining, he said, the Park Authority has picked up a few twigs, cut some branches, and repaired and painted a few benches. Gupta said his requests to add mulch to the playground in early 2017 were ignored.

“One thing the Park Authority is good at is responding to emails; that’s it,” Gupta said in an email to Plourde. He said he had complained numerous times, and keeps hearing excuses about budget cuts. “We pay more taxes then surrounding localities and all we get is a dilapidated playground and a so-called park with everything crumbling and weeds growing all over, dead trees, and dead birds.”

He suggested that parks in more affluent neighborhoods are better maintained, while “parks like Backlick will be deferred for an infinite period of time.”

Plants all over the playground. [Binod Gupta]
Mason Supervisor Penny Gross also responded to Gupta, reminding him that “Mr. Plourde and park staff have been working on the issues you raised, and both the previous and current Mason District representatives to the Fairfax County Park Authority have been advised of the issues you noted. Yes, it has taken time to address the equipment issues since, as Mr. Plourde advised you, the playground equipment is older, and replacement parts, including slides, are hard to find. Maintenance issues are constant in all of our county parks.”

Gross suggested Backlick Park could benefit from the creation of an informal “friends” group that could help maintain it. In other communities, neighbors have collaborated to schedule work days to remove invasive vines, improve playgrounds, and get rid of loiterers, she noted. “Neighbors, working together with Park Authority staff, can make a difference.”

Benches in the gazebo have been fixed.
Gupta likes the idea of a “Friends of Backlick Park” group, but believes such a group should supplement, not replace, the work of the Park Authority. “We pay taxes and it should be the primary responsibility of the county to take care of the parks.”

Gupta said Gross told him that Backlick Park was slated to be renovated with funds from the park bond passed by voters in November 2016. “Now she says even though the bond has passed, it will take many years to fix this park.”

Meanwhile, Gupta says he has stopped taking his family to Backlick Park. The last time he went there, a couple of weeks ago, he saw a homeless person living by the children’s play area. “This so-called park is like a place where it is scary to be in the evenings. It looks like a scene in a Zombie movie.”

18 comments:

  1. I love how Gross pretty much said that Gupta should get friends together to fix the park. Gross once again passed the buck from the County to the people.

    ReplyDelete
  2. What about Valleycrest park? Beautiful park that hasn't seen county maintenance in 6 years.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Natural resources are virtually ignored by the Park Authority in favor of recreation and "fee" based programs like golf. They point to the IMA program which is indeed a great program but a drop in the bucket next to the flood of invasive plants. The tax payers have always been generous to the Park Authority to preserve land and wanting that set as a priority. But the high priced personnel reap the rewards while there is no recognition that our sleepy suburban parks are now part of a much more urban setting. There has been no innovation at the Park Authority in years. The effort to run the park system as a business is laughable -- where are the business professionals as opposed to the "recreation" personnel, not one among them -- and not what the taxpayers have asked for. The parks are an amenity and should be maintained as such to continue to attract people to live and work here. In Prince William County the "Authority" killed itself and it is now a county agency and now the supervisors have to answer directly to the tax payers who fund them unlike our structure that puts responsibility at arms length. Re: "Friends"... free labor unappreciated and unvalued for all their very hard working efforts.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Totally agree. The Authority is top heavy. We should get rid of the Authority itself and put it under another department. There is not enough worker bees in the Authority to do the maintenance work. The top people spend all their time defending their high paying jobs. Penny should be a advocate for her district and demand the park be cleaned up and fixed, Instead she is giving excuses and telling Mr. Gupta what he needs to do. Nobody is helping or thanking Mr. Gupta for caring. Thank you Mr. Gupta for trying to take care of your community.

      Delete
  4. The problem in Fairfax is they try to offer way more services than the taxes they take in can cover and still provide quality services. If you aren't Schools or Public Safety, or funded through self-generating revenues, Agencies like Parks and Libraries get don't make out so well. Can't blame anyone for not wanting to pay more taxes, but sometimes resources can only be spread so thin. Not sure Gupta is even given that prospect an ounce of consideration.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Neighborhood parks like Backlick, Oak Hill, and Valley Crest are largely dead space. At best, they only benefit the home owners whose properties abut them. I doubt if most Mason residents can even find them. The most fiscally responsible approach would be to shut them down and then sell them off. The profits could then be directed towards maintaining and improving those parks visited by meaningful numbers of residents.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Community self help is going to be key. The person making the complaints could do more to help. If they have time to take the family to the park, take a few moments to pull some weeds, pick up some trash (board) on the path. Put all the trash at the trash barrel at the park. Complaining about a small community park and expecting the park authority to be able to respond with immediate correction of all the woes is unrealistic. And more importantly, long term upkeep of the park needs to be sponsored by the users.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Friends group can't and shouldn't replace boarded up slides and other large apparatuses. Come on. We continuously vote for these outsized bonds, now FIX OUR Sh&*T. It shouldn't take "years" after a bond has been passed, with funds earmarked for say, Backlick Park, to fix said rundown park.

      Delete
  7. I find it amazing the number of people who find it ok that quality services are not provided to tax payers. Penny Gross skirted the actual issue and blamed the person who complained. Just like usual. Nothing changes without leadership change. For the person who said if you have time to visit the park, pull weeds and pick up trash - NO!! That's what allof the county empliyees are for. Should I bus my own table when I go to a restaraunt? How about I park my car for the valet guy? Your thought is ridiculous. The guy who suggests selling some parks - I don't agree but it is at least a constructive idea. Kudos.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Do you know how rapidly weeds grow? I can't keep up with the weed growth in my own small yard sometimes. I don't expect the county to waste money pulling weeds weekly or even more at its many parks. That is a futile complaint. The broken slides and other general rundown conditions should be tended to, and it is downright shameful that they are using piss-poor excuses like "the playground is old and we can't locate parts for it".

      Delete
  8. Do we have to wait for MS-13 to move into the park before it receives any attention?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ew--good point. I hope it doesn't come down to that!

      Delete
  9. Looked at the park yesterday, it is in sad shape and could use some tender loving care, but it is also pretty obvious that the users are not taking basic care, lots of litter, probably adults based on the beverages. The paths were basically clear, but could use some mowing/weed-wacking along the sides. The slide is closed off for use. The playground area was clean, but could use some raking and maybe some more mulch/wood chips. Near the playground there are some picnic benches, that are definitely could use some mulch/wood chips. The exercise stations along the trails are probably near the end of their current life-span, need to be refurnished, replaces, or removed. I would recommend the county send a crew to spruce the place up. Longer term, users need to respect the place and maybe lend a hand.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Unfortunately, even though Fairfax is a wealthy county, our parks department is not well funded. FCPA only receives half a cent for every tax dollar collected. While the school system receives about 51 cents of every dollar. Of that half a cent, most goes towards maintaining sports fields, facilities, etc. The Natural Resources Department is at the bottom of the funding list. The little funding the Natural Resources Department of the FCPA receives goes mostly to large sites (i.e. Huntley Meadows, ECLP). In the case of Backlick Park, a "Friends of"group working through the IMA program is the most realistic way to control the invasive plants. The county coming in and spraying or manually removing invasive plants will not solve the problem. True invasives removal and park restoration takes years as seed from invasive plants last in the soil for years. Community groups also bring more attention to this small local parks and that means more funding.

    All that being said, it should not take years to fix a slide.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Maybe Penny could take a pay reduction to help her district. I don't know why people keep voting for her.

      Delete
    2. You make some good points, 11:04, but don't suggest that the school system should get less; in this county, there's enough for both the schools and the parks. Talk to the people who hold the purse strings.

      Delete
  11. There's a perfect lot at the back of this park for a community garden. If we lobbied for it I think it would help everyone invest more in the park. Thoughts?

    ReplyDelete
  12. If you have ever actually been in the trail in Backlick Park behind the tennis courts, there are all sort of "people" doing "stuff"

    It's sad that the people continue to support Penny Gross and her negligence for Mason District year in and year out...

    ReplyDelete