News and notes from Reston (tm).

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Brown's Chapel Rec Center: Reston No Longer Filled With 'Trepidation,' Just Merely 'Divided'

TajMahal.jpg.jpegIt's always great when the Washington Post dips its toes into the earth-toned pressure cooker, journalistically speaking, that is Reston, Virginia. The last time they did it, they concluded that Reston was fraught with "trepidation" about becoming "another Manhattan." Now that the giant, 99-story condos and colussus-sized statue of Bob Simon have failed to materialize, the Post is back, saying that Reston is "divided" about the awesome $65 million rec center/ competitive knitting arena proposed for Brown's Chapel Park. You know, kind of like the North and South during the Civil War, only this time between the swimmers and the little leaguers:

The proposal has pitted one brand of recreation against another. Swimmers, tennis players and others who believe the region is in sore need of high-quality outlets for their passions are on one side. On the other are those who prefer the green space just the way it is. They've been referring to the proposed facility as recreation's equivalent of Wal-Mart.
Of course, the Post being a Serious Newspaper, it sought the Deeper Meaning of this ongoing issue:
The debate underscores the larger difficulty of providing the range of recreational offerings that residents demand in Washington's densely packed suburbs, where development has nibbled away at the region's green space and neighbors fight to protect it.

"We live in a region that is urbanizing, and we can all see open space that we enjoy and appreciate getting transformed into housing and strip malls," said Paul Gilbert, executive director of the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority. "You value what is a limited commodity."
This is what we in the journalism biz call the "nut graf," which in this case means "an attempt to keep this from sounding like a petty provincial conflict between NIMBY folks, swimmers and baseball players, but something worthy of the time of a Serious Journalist." Moving on!
Among the most vocal supporters of a new center funded by Reston residents are swimmers. The community of about 62,000 residents has one large public indoor pool where classes fill up so quickly that there is a waiting list to participate. On rainy days in the summer, the pool gets so crowded that people are routinely turned away. And competitive young swimmers often drive long distances to find a place to train.

For example, Lisa Groves leaves her Reston home at 4:20 a.m. three days a week to drive her 12-year-old daughter to Oakton so she can swim laps before school. The needs of swimmers, she said, ought to be considered along with those of the families who now enjoy the trails and fields of Brown's Chapel Park.

"All these families have their own affinities," she said. "Maybe the ones that are the loudest voices right now are the runners and the bikers and the soccer players."
Don't mess with the soccer players. At least RA President Robin Smyers gets credit for honesty:
Leaders in Reston say their priority is staying true to one of the community's founding principles: that residents ought to be able to work and play where they live, no matter what sport they prefer. Officials there have not decided whether to move forward with the project, and may scrap or scale it back, depending on public input.

If they move forward as planned, it would probably mean the removal of the baseball diamonds, some of the open space and some trees. As much as officials would like to build a recreation facility with no negative impact, "we're not in a utopia. We're in a built-out community called Reston," said Robin Smyers, president of the Reston Association. "We will try to balance the needs of as many people as we can."
We think "A Built-Out Community Called Reston" would be an ideal marketing slogan. They should put it on T-shirts!


  1. Unfortunately the Post reporter missed the real story: the county which has land they own in Reston on which to build a sports complex, wants our common lands AND the county wants Restonians alone through the Small Tax District #5 to pay $100 million to build the sports complex which will be used primarily by non-Restonians.

  2. I support the idea for a rec center, but there is no reason there should be an indoor tennis facility with all the tennis courts Reston already has. I oppose the idea the Reston alone has to pay for the rec center like anonymous just stated. I support the swimmers, but not the tennis players none sense. If the rec center idea goes through it should have indoor turf fields where multiple sports can be play. If not transform some of the Baron Cameron fields in to artificial fields. More people will use them for football, soccer, lacrosse, field hockey, flag football, and ultimate freezepe.

  3. The Convict in Gulag 4May 12, 2009 at 12:46 PM

    Hush, you two. Punxsutawney Phil's asleep and you wouldn't want to wake him with your dissenting opinions. If you rattle his cage, he may come at you as well with his condescending snobbery.

  4. A slight amendment to your proposed slogan:

    "A built-out--and soon to be built-up--community called Reston."

    Of course, the T-shirt would also include one of those nifty graphics of acres of high-rise buildings--and no trees or anything else green.

  5. I like the [art best about "some trees". Uh-huh.

  6. Anonymous #1 -- you ought to make that exact point in a letter to the editor of the Post

  7. Waaaa! Ugh. I'm so sick of all of it. The trees, the taxes, the sports. It would be awesome if Reston could go just a few months without people throwing a huge fit over something. What an evil world. Think of how lucky you all are to have a place to live in a nice community. Not everyone on this world has that.

  8. The swimmers leave the house at 4:20 because practice is that early so it can be done before high schools start. The implication in the article is that they have to drive vast distances to swim. Not true. The facilities are either at Oak Marr in Oakton or Herndon Rec Center in Herndon. My husband, on the other hand, leaves the house at 4:20 to go to the city -- he would love to have a commute to Herndon or Oakton!

  9. These are troubled economic times. Our real estate tax rates are going up. Nobody has said in concrete language what the cost will be per capita or per household for the our special tax district. On the other hand, we still have to fund Metro and pay for all of the wetland renovation that Reston has undertaken because we have already committed to these expenses.

    I think our current facilities are adequate. We don't need more ballparks or indoor swimming pools or indoor tennis courts. RA has adequate room to handle its administrative load.

    We should just leave things as they are until we get our current economic situation straightened out. We can live without a new rec center in Reston. To spend money on this luxury is foolishness, whether the Reston residents or the county pays for it. It's time that we all learned how to live within our means.

  10. Don't forget the pool and exercise facilities at the Reston YMCA.

  11. "It would be awesome if Reston could go just a few months without people throwing a huge fit over something.'

    soo.... we should all just suck it up and hand over our checkbooks to the folks at RA? Are you serious?

    Guess you have enough disposable income that stuff like this doesn't trouble you. Not everyone in Reston is rich, by a longshot.

  12. Anonymous at 11:17 --

    I'm not saying that people shouldn't take a stand for what they want or don't want. I'm saying that everyone seems to act like it's the end of the world. If you don't like it or want it, send letters, call on the phone and tell them that. And then, if it is brought up in a referendum VOTE NO. But there seems to be so many people who make it out like it's going to make the Earth blow up!

    -Anonymous 7:50

  13. P.S. Anon 11:17 --

    No one moves to this area for the affordability. We all know what the cost of living is like here. If you don't like it, move to a state with lower taxes and lower cost of living. Where I used to live my rent was $550 for a 2-bedroom apartment. Now I pay triple for a 1-bedroom and I pay taxes I didn't pay in the state I lived in before, but I knew that coming here.

    -Anon 7:50

  14. Anon 7:50

    I have lived in Reston for 25 years so I know all about the cost of living. This is my home. Where did I complain about the cost of living? I said that I'm not willing to pay a large amount of additional money in taxes for a facility that I a)don't think the people of Reston should have to pay for, and b) don't believe should be located on some of the last remaining green space in Reston.

    People have this idea that Reston is some strange haven for the rich elite, but it isn't true. Part of the original vision of Reston is that it would be a community accessable to people of all income levels. I know people in Reston who are high level execs, and others who clean houses for a living. It's a very economically diverse community, and those at the lower end of the spectrum shouldn't be forced out.

  15. Anon 7:50

    Anyone opposed to this fiasco should NOT VOTE.

    RA has to get 5193 households to participate for the referendum to be effective.

    In the last two referendums, they couldn't get that many to participate.[They had to extend the time to vote on the governing docs amendments twice to get to 5193]

    Anyone who votes "no" is helping RA get to the 5193 threshold.

    It's contrary to everything we were taught in civics class but it's the best way to beat this boondoggle.


  16. Is it true that last Monday evening the Reston Community Center board voted to name the proposed sports complex after Robert E. Simon?

    Is it also true this scheme is calling for a $65 million bond with a debt service of $4 million/per year? If so, should Reston residents expect their property taxes to at least double?

    Is it true that users of this sports center (this includes Reston residents) will have to pay a per-use fee?

    Is it true that with even with 60% patronage by non-Reston residents, it is expected to run in the red?

    Is it true this facility is primarily designed for young families and would not provide features such as a therapeutic pool that would be of benefit to seniors?

    Is it true that RCC set up a health club facility off of Sunset Hills Road in the mid-80s and later closed it because it was based on never to be realized projections?

    If anyone can confirm or refute with facts, please do so.

  17. The area they are planning to build that complex is one of the absolute most scenic and peaceful parts of Reston! Why would you build an indoor facility and parking garage on one of the best outside parts of Reston? This area is SO difficult and stressful to live in, and those little idylic places are all that keep this commnunity from being just one long traffic jam.


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