‘It’s The Traffic, Stupid’

‘It’s The Traffic, Stupid’

Residents question impact of new park on Lawyers Road.

Kevin McNiff likes the idea of a park on Lawyers Road near his neighborhood, but he wonders if the road can handle the increased traffic.

“It’s going to have to be safe,” he told members of the Park Authority Board on Jan. 26, “or you are going to be held accountable for the first person that gets rear-ended.”

About 30 people came to Flint Hill Elementary school that night to a public hearing about the proposed park. And most of those who spoke were, like McNiff, concerned about traffic impacts.

The park, which will be called Lawyers Road Park, will go on about 13.7 acres on Lawyers Road, about one mile from Hunter Mill Road. The property is owned by Fairfax County Public Schools under lease to the Park Authority.

The plan calls for putting a rectangular (typically soccer or lacrosse) field on the property, along with a playground, a 2,000-foot walking path, a plaza and a pavilion and play area. The edge of the park will have a roughly 50-foot buffer, which will be almost entirely treed. The entrance to the park will be off Lawyers Road, opposite Carrhill Road.

“We can be very proud of what we’re going to do here,” said Park Authority Board Member Bill Bouie (Hunter Mill).

Meetings about the park began last May when Park Authority planners came to hear from residents about what kinds of things they would like to see. Over that meeting and another public meeting, planners got some feedback that they were able to incorporate into the plan.

For example, the park can be accessed from walking paths in two adjacent neighborhoods. However, in response to neighbors concerns, those access points will not be marked. Additionally, the park has a 70-space parking lot. The larger lot is designed to reduce the amount of spillover. “We specifically sized the parking lot a little bit bigger than we [normally] would,” said Irish Grandfield of the Park Authority staff.

THE ENTRANCE TO THE parking lot, however, was a point of concern for some residents. The plan calls for constructing a short turning lane to allow access to both the park and Carrhill Road.

Residents, however, noted that in 1987, the owners of an adjacent parcel had proposed opening a day care facility. This application had been denied, in part at least, because there was insufficient sight distance from the land along the road, and the proposed entrance would not be safe.

“Is the road used less now, 19 years later?” McNiff said.

The proposed park is better situated in terms of sight distances, and Grandfield said that he has confirmed with VDOT that the location of the proposed entrance is a safe one.

After the public spoke, Bouie said he understood the major concern. “I think if we heard anything tonight, ‘It’s the traffic, stupid,’” he said.

Bouie said the authority board would work to address traffic issues with the construction of the park.

Construction is not likely to start for several years, at least. There is currently no funding for building the park, Grandfield said. The next opportunity could come in 2008, the next time the Park Authority is scheduled to put a bond issue before the voters for approval. At this point, there is no guarantee that this park would be included on that bond.

The park would likely cost $3 to 5 million to construct, not including road improvements, estimated Lynn Tadlock, director of the Planning and Development Division of the Park Authority.

The plan is scheduled to go before the Park Authority Board for adoption in April. It would then need to be approved by the Planning Commission.