Park Authority Approves Plan for Wiita Tract (Rollins Ford Park) – As a Dump

The usual “I dare you to figure out what we are doing” Park Authority decision process was on full display last night, when the Board voted 6-2 to adopt Concept Plan D2 for the Wiita tract.  The Park Authority now plans to build 6 fully-lighted soccer fields, including a stadium, playground, and trailhead for the Broad Run Trail.

The Board adopted a surprise alternative that was not shared with the public until the hearing, but evidently had been discussed by at least some Board members in advance.  If you were in the audience, you had to squint to see on the screen how much development was being proposed in Concept Plan D2, and where it would go CORRECTION: saw Concept Plan D on the screen, while the board/staff discussed a different option.

Even Board members were confused up to the final vote regarding the number of ballfields that were proposed.  The discussion never revealed if the delineation of wetlands was complete, so it is not clear how many soccer fields can be crammed onto the property without violating state/Federal requirements.

The multi-use stadium was described as just bleachers on the sidelines – but the Wentworth Green proffer for such a stadium could provide as much as $1.8 million, and the other potential uses besides soccer were not discussed. (Will neighbors get blessed by music concerts, as Park Authority seeks revenue in future?)

Two Board members voted against Concept Plan D2.  The majority overruled them, and objections by neighbors that the development of active recreation ballfields and lights was excessive for that location in the Rural Area.  The final vote completed the Park Authority’s “stick it to the neighbors” process.

The Park Authority was in a hurry to approve a Master Plan for Wiita because it has an opportunity to get fill dirt dumped on the property by the county’s Department of Environmental Services.  The first role of Rollins Ford Park: free dump site for county dirt.

Grading level ballfields will require piling dirt up to 30 feet high at the Wiita tract.  Lights on some new ballfields could end up 50 feet high, compared to current topography.  (Source of county dirt was never identified at meeting.  Let’s hope the Park Authority will apply a lesson learned from the “clean” fill dirt provided by a developer at Catharpin Park, and test for gasoline residue and other contaminants this time.)

You never know with the Park Authority, because their planning is so vague and adherence to procedures so loose, but their next steps in developing the Wiita tract apparently are:
1) Board of County Supervisors adds Rollins Ford Park to the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) and directs proffer funding to the project
2) Park Authority delineates wetlands that need to be protected, and Corps of Engineers concurs with boundary
3) Park Authority develops a detailed site plan, with engineering for stormwater ponds, ballfields, and parking
4) Park Authority identifies funding for construction plus annual operations and maintenance (O&M)

Opening Rollins Ford Park to passive recreation use, such as the trail network, could be accomplished quickly at minimal expense.  Funding the active recreation ballfields will be a challenge, and will take years.

Up to $1.8 million may be available from the Wentworth Green proffer for constructing a soccer stadium, but additional grading, other fields, and the neighborhood park facilities – plus staffing and maintenance – will require additional resources.  If the projects already identified in the CIP and 2006 General Obligation Bond are the Park Authority’s priorities, then there is no funding on the horizon to develop the brand-new Wiita tract.

In its hurry to approve a Master Plan at Wiita to satisfy the soccer leagues and to prepare for dumping dirt, the Park Authority Board failed to define the scope of the Rollins Ford Park’s proposed development, the costs, the funding sources, or the schedule for opening the new park.  The Park Authority has just adopted a Master Plan, the most-detailed plan that it develops for individual parks –  and there is still no clarity on
– how many ballfields will fit on the property
– how much the initial construction is projected to cost
– what uses will be permitted in the “multi-use” stadium
– how much staffing will be required to manage the new park
– when the park will open to public use
– how the construction/O&M will be funded

If this qualifies as site-specific detailed master planning, then the neighbors – and county taxpayers – should expect future surprises at Wiita.  The members of the Park Authority Board, and the staff of the Park Authority, can do better than this.


4 comments so far

  1. Victoria on

    Thanks for telling it like it happened… For those of us in the audience it appeared as if the entire event was staged. Members of the soccer community spoke and complained of the heavy traffic they have to travel in to get to Long Park. Just wait until these fields are built with the only access a 2 lane road (Glenkirk rd). Major traffic jams!! This many fields would be a better fit in an area that is not so residential.

  2. […] process now.  The Wiita tract (Rollins Ford Park) Master Plan, where the board adopted a last-minute proposal that was not presented for public comment until after the public hearing was closed, demonstrated […]

  3. Luke Andries on

    5 soccer fields! Are we hosting the World Cup? How about other sports, such as tennis, volleyball, basketball? Who determined that there is need for 5 soccer fields? Why not 6 or 4. It really looks like a dicey decision, no matter what the arguments. I can suspect at least 2 of them will never be used.

  4. Myrna Pebenito on

    I’m a resident of nearby community I agree with Luke I hope not just soccer fields. It’s a “community park” the community needs also a tennis court, basketball court, swimming pool and a volleyball area.We hope they will consider this.I’m happy with the plan that they will put some picnic area and walking trail.

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