Friday, September 30, 2011

Comment on Proposed Changes to Fort Hunt Park

As I wrote in my column in the Mount Vernon Gazette, the National Park Service is considering major changes to Fort Hunt Park including:
  • The demolition of 4 of 5 picnic pavillions
  • The construction of a visitor's center focusing on the park's historic assets
  • Re-routing the road and separating bicycle and pedestrian traffic
Here is some information regarding the proposals:
You can read my column with my more complete views here:

I oppose the demolition of the picnic pavillions.  Fort Hunt Park is a valued community asset used by thousands of my constituents.  The current proposals significantly change the purpose of the park. 

I have already spoken with the offices of Congressman Moran and Congressman Connolly.  They are going to be in touch with the National Park Service. 

The National Park Service is accepting comments on this proposal through October 6, 2011.  If you have any feedback on their plans, you can enter it below.  I will forward all comments I receive to the National Park Service, Congressman Moran, Congressman Connolly, Senator Webb, and Senator Warner.

***NOTE that the "Preferred Alternative" is the NPS' preferred alternative - not what I am recommending.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

UPDATED: Fort Hunt Road Repaving to Start Soon!

The condition of Fort Hunt Road has been pretty abysmal for the last couple years - especially in front of Paul Spring Retirement Home.  I have written several articles where I call it "rumble strips."

According to VDOT, twenty-five percent of all lane miles in Fairfax County have deficient pavement quality and that number is growing due to cuts in maintenance funding due to the lack of transportation revenue.

Last year, Richmond Highway was finally paved in Fall, 2010 after the pavement became incredibly pockmarked.
The good news is that repaving will start no sooner than this week and no later than October 7. 

Repaving will start from Quander Road to Sherwood Hall Lane as shown at the right.  Then, they will pave from Richmond Highway to Hunting Cove Place.

We are finally getting some attention. 

***UPDATED 9/29/11***

Here is an email I received from VDOT this afternoon.
Garrett asked that I respond to your request in regards to the projected paving schedule for Fort Hunt Road. The following sections are tentatively scheduled for paving on this year’s schedule between 10/16/11 – 10/31/11.   
Quander to Sherwood Hall Lane (both North and South bound lanes) 
Hunting Cove Place to: Woodnut Road (North bound lane only)  
Woodmont Road to Rte. 1 (North bound lane only)  
Rte 1 Richmond Hwy to: Woodmont Road (South bound lane only)  
These dates may be subject to change due to weather, so we appreciate your patience. The streets listed above are in the proposed “order” of paving that the contractor has provided us with.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Maps of Three NPS Proposals for Fort Hunt Park


Weekly Column: Recognize Fort Hunt's History and Keep Picnic Areas

The following column appeared in the Mount Vernon Gazette, Mount Vernon Voice, and on September 28, 2011:
Recognize Fort Hunt's History and Keep Picnic Areas

I have been using Fort Hunt Park since I was a kid. I spent time in the woods, I scrambled over the World War II gunneries, I played soccer on its fields and attended dozens of picnics and parties at its facilities. My father actually attended elementary school in trailers in Fort Hunt Park in the late 1940s while work was being done on Hollin Hall Elementary School. More recently, I taught my children to ride  bikes on its oval, have held  events there and organized picnics for the staff of my business.

In recent months, the U.S. National Park Service (NPS) has prepared a plan to strengthen the preservation and interpretation of Fort Hunt's many layers of history, from native Americans to George Washington's slaves to the World War II spy interrogation camp.  On the latter, NPS officials  have  compiled an extensive history of Fort Hunt's contributions to World War II through interviews with Americans who interrogated German officers there and through newly-declassified documents.  NPS has held two meetings in Mount Vernon, including one last week and they are now receiving public comments on four options until October 6. 
The proposed plan, called their preferred alternative, out of four alternatives, would emphasize the historic assets of the park and de-emphasize the recreational uses.  In the preferred alternative, NPS would build a new visitor center to help visitors better understand the history of the park. This proposal would also  demolish four of five picnic facilities, leaving only the main pavilion area near the entrance along with bathroom facilities. It also would realign the road through some existing woodlands and separate car, bicycle and pedestrian traffic.

Fort Hunt Park is one of our community’s prized assets for many reasons. It is one of the few places to hold large,  affordable, outdoor events,  facilities not available anywhere else in Mount Vernon.   Clearly, there is a need for picnic pavillions like those in Fort Hunt Park and the people of the Mount Vernon area have come to depend  on these facilities.

There must be a way to structure the park so that its historic elements can be highlighted and some of the recreational uses can continue.  The Mount Vernon area has played a key role in U.S. history.   After all, our community was our first president's home. Some of his slaves lived on the land that is now the park.  Enhancing the historic resources of Fort Hunt, like the Spanish American War tower and the World War II gunneries and explaining what happened there could highlight yet another significant historic resource in our community.  I am confident that the National Park Service puts their mind to it, they can find a way to preserve and better interpret Fort Hunt's history and also provide picnic areas for large groups.  Their proposal also should prompt the Fairfax County Park Authority, the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority and the state parks to provide areas for the types of activities held at Fort Hunt if NPS forces the reduction of the picnic and sports areas.

Several people have reached out to me to express their concerns s. Supervisor Gerry Hyland is also assembling comments to forward to our congressional delegation.  I have contacted both Congressman Moran and Connolly to express my concern and they are meeting with the National Park Service as well.

I encourage you to read the NPS rationale and proposed options and to weigh in.I have posted links to them on my blog, The Dixie Pig, at
If you would like to send me comments that I can forward to the NPS and our Congressional delegation, you can also make them on my blog on the same page. The public comment period closes on October 6 so please send me your feedback as soon as possible.

It is an honor to serve as your state delegate. If you have any concerns, please email me at or call my office at 571.249.44TH (4484).

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Pat Monk: Hollin Hills' 90 Year-Old Picasso

I've been knocking doors for the last month in the new parts of the 44th District. Although I've lived here pretty much my entire life, you never know what you'll find when you start walking around.

This past weekend, I was walking down Brentwood Place in Hollin Hills when I came across the home of Gaines "Pat" Monk. Mr. Monk is a 90 year-old retired nuclear physicist who was born in the coalfields of West Virginia in 1921.
Around the time I was born (40 years ago), he decided to get into modern art. In 1974 (when I was 3), he moved into the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria.
I walked into his yard which is pretty much a sculpture garden. It has a little sign out front next to the stump of a magnolia tree that he turned into a sculpture that says "Sculpture Garden is Open to All.  Welcome."  Pat said that he put it up because he was tired of people leering at his yard from the street and he didn't really care if they walked around. 

We talked for a few minutes about why I was running, redistricting, and about how he had eeked out a living selling modern sculpture. He invited me to walk around, but I was in a hurry to finish out a few more doors because the sun was setting, but I came back the next morning and walked around. It was really astonishing. I've put the pictures I took below. 
After talking to his neighbors, I poked around and found his website and read about his prior career working on the A-bomb at Oak Ridge, TN and infrared spectrometers.

You never know what you will learn by walking around and getting to know your neighbors. I hope I am lucky enough to have a 40+ year second-career after I turn fifty!

Monday, September 19, 2011

A Conversation With U.S. 1 Business

I ran by Sheehy Honda to get my car fixed today and decided to use my time waiting around to talk to some business folks. It was an interesting discussion that says a lot about redevelopment efforts on U.S. 1.

I walked up the street to each of the three dealerships along the road. One manager told me about how their marketing reports show that they are hitting their sales metrics on all zip codes around their location except for one area - Springfield.

When I asked him "why is that," he said, "because they can't get here - it's more convenient to drive west to Fairfax, north to Alexandria, or south to Woodbridge, rather than to make the slog across the county to get to the Route 1 corridor.

If this one business is having this experience, you know that every business is having this experience. This is also why it took so long to attract any kind of high quality development to the Multiplex site. Most sites between Beacon Mall and Woodlawn are being held hostage to traffic.

Living between the Potomac River and the largest park in Fairfax County has its advantages. However, it also means that our area is not accessible to the same populations as other areas. Attracting the highest quality development to our community means we also must have high quality transportation infrastructure to facilitate movement.

All the more reason why we need to continue to fight to move U.S. 1 up on the County's list of priority transportation projects so that the state will fund it.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Knocking Doors in Hayfield

I've been knocking doors in Hayfield Precinct over the last two weeks. It has been an eye-opening experience.
The Hayfield area is very different from the rest of my district. It is in a different school pyramid and is primarily served by Telegraph Road instead of U.S. 1. People in this area mostly shop and eat in Kingstown versus U.S. 1.

I've known Hayfield my entire life. Growing up, I volunteered at Huntley Meadows Park in blue bird counting studies with my brother. We spent a lot of time going into Huntley Meadows back entrance at the intersection of South Kings Highway and Telegraph Road and ran into a lot of people hiking in from the trails that run into Huntley Meadows from Lake Devereaux and Hayfield. The park is well-used asset for those communities.

Lake Devereaux is the newer part of the precinct that was built in the early 1980's. The neighborhood is plagued by the side-effects of congestion. Nearly every owner I spoke to complained about commuters using their neighborhood for u-turns due to the backup on South Van Dorn Street from Telegraph Road. It's a chronic problem.

Next, I moved into the Wickford-Welfleet neighborhood which was a bit older. I again heard about congestion and not being able to make a left turn out of the neighborhood onto Telegraph Road due to traffic volume.

For the last ten days or so, I have been knocking doors in the massive community of Hayfield Farms. This community was one of the early developments of legendary developer Albert VanMetre. I've met several original owners who have told me stories about the early days of the community as it was transformed from a hayfield into a 500+ home community centered around a community school.

I also knocked doors in Hayfield during and after Hurricane Irene. I've frequently reminded people that I can help with potholes, street plowing, electrical outtages, and phone problems but everyone says "living here is great - we have no problems like that!" That is very different from other parts of my district.

Congestion on Telegraph Road and the lack of investment to that road has been a constant theme. Many people have talked to me about the completion of the BRAC process in the next two weeks and their fear of traffic that will develop. Everyone is excited about the completion of Mulligan Road, but suspicious that it will really happen given that it has been under construction for over four years.

It has been an interesting two weeks as I get to know my new district.