The Threat to a Unique Park

This site is dedicated to saving a 70-acre gem of woodlands, trails, archeological sites, and educational gardens that is seriously threatened by an unwise development plan from  the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority (NRVPA).

EPSON DSC pictureThe park is located in north Arlington, VA, between Military Road and the Potomac River, just five miles and two stoplights away from downtown Washington, DC.  It borders the Potomac Heritage Trail, a 700-mile corridor of federal parkland in the Potomac River basin.

Heading to the Nature Center

Potomac Overlook Park was created in 1971 by a planning team from the National Audubon Society in order to provide an urban nature sanctuary within Arlington County—one of the most densely developed counties in the United States.

The park’s stated mission is “to provide a protected woodland sanctuary, in order to preserve environmental quality and species diversity,” to “enjoy low impact recreational activities and physical exercise,” to “provide environmental and cultural education,” and to “preserving undeveloped woodlands for protection of the environment, existing ecosystems and biological diversity.”

Potomac Overlook Nature Center

Potomac Overlook Nature Center

However, on Feb. 25, 2013, the NRVPA unveiled plans to violate that mission and fundamentally change the nature of Potomac Overlook Park. Among other things, the Authority would do this by:

  • Constructing a new parking lot that would more than double the size of the existing paved lot, and create a new transportation shelter for buses and large groups.
  • Building a new treetop shelter for rental use and adding a fee-based zip line to generate park revenue.
  • Tearing down the recently rebuilt  outdoor music stage, reducing the current music concert schedule, and building a bigger fee-based shelter for large groups.
  • Adding a new farmers’ market (Arlington County already sponsors seven farmers’ markets, including two nearby: at the county courthouse parking lot on Saturdays, and at Clarendon Metro station on Wednesdays during the summer).
  • Building a group campground, probably near the old Indian archaeological site.
  • Creating a two-acre urban garden (the park already has a large vegetable garden operated by volunteers and the Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia).
  • Taking over the adjoining county-owned Marcey Road Park (about three acres, including the tennis and basketball courts) to be managed by NRVPA as part of its own multi-use master plan.

Volunteers removing invasive plants at Potomac Overlook

A couple of elements of the plan have merit insofar as they relate to ongoing maintenance of the natural areas and are consistent with enhancing the park’s purpose as a unspoiled nature preserve, such as invasive species management and rebuilding the park’s birds-of-prey shelter.

But the over-riding focus is to generate intense recreational use and fee-based revenue, rather than meet the park’s original and current mission to preserve and protect a rare woodland park already under environmental pressure.

Maypole dance at Potomac Overlook

Maypole dance at Potomac Overlook

It also would create significant new car and bus traffic  on a two-block  winding residential street narrowing to the park and already overwhelmed by visitors to three recreational facilities located on Marcey Road: Potomac Overlook Park, Marcey Road Park, and the Donaldson Run pool.

This site provides information on what the NRVPA’s plans and why users of the park are strongly opposed to it. We hope you will use this site to get informed, get involved, and help save Potomac Overlook from unneeded, unwanted, and damaging development.

— Potomac Overlook Preservation Assn.

potomacprez@gmail.com

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Filed under Arlington County, VA, Environment, Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority, Potomac Overlook

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