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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Changes coming to Potomac Overlook?

Reposted from

Improvements Proposed for Potomac Overlook Regional Park

by Katie Pyzyk | February 26, 2013 at 1:15 pm | 
Treetop shelter similar to one proposed for Potomac Overlook Regional Park (photo via NVRPA)
Improvements have been proposed for Potomac Overlook Regional Park, and one of the suggestions is to add a treetop “overlook.”
The park land is managed by the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority (NVRPA), who held a meeting last night (Monday) to present the proposed improvement plans.
One of the ideas is to construct a shelter in the tree canopy where visitors could rent equipment and participate in educational programs. The site could also potentially be rented out for events.
Some of the other proposed improvements are:
    • Create bus drop off plaza/welcome area with information kiosk and covered area for up to 75 persons.
    • Relocate and/or improve park signage.
    • Move gate further down entrance road and add parking — can add approximately 20 head-in spaces in clearings on each side of road with minimal tree loss.
    • Add new asphalt cap to park roadway.
    • Expand area of amphitheater to hold larger events by trimming back the vegetation on the upper side of the bowl.
    • Add rock climbing, zip lines or large swings or similar features to attract groups, and help rent shelters.
    • Replace existing stage with a shelter that could be rented, or used as a stage when needed. This new shelter would use the existing solar panels on its roof. Improve the interpretation of the solar shelter.
    • Develop interpretation of Donaldson farm and the historic foundations located near center of park, just off the paved path.
    • Renovate and expand the aging birds of prey facility — an extremely popular destination for school groups visiting the park.
    • Remove outdated and dilapidated elements such as “simple pleasures trellis,” solar fan bench and toddler terrace.
    • Add scout camping area in cleared area behind the Indian Garden.
    • Consider reestablishing a healthy orchard area to do a “pick your own” program.
    • Request long-term lease or gift of Marcey Park from Arlington County.
Site plan for Potomac Regional Overlook ParkIn addition to upgrading the existing facilities, the plan suggests revamping programs offered at the park. The ideas include the following:
    • Expand the number of weeks summer camps are offered.
    • Drop camps for older kids that do not fill.
    • Expand camps for younger kids that are in demand.
    • Offer half day camps.
    • Institute on-line registration process.
    • Use more summer seasonal staff, and reduce distance of field trips.
    • Offer merit badge programs with scout camping for a value-added experience.
    • Do fewer concerts with bigger names to improve returns.
    • “Yappy Hour” events using tennis courts on scheduled evenings.
    • Explore after school nature programs for area elementary schools.
    • Partner with external organization to operate the Urban Agriculture area.
Funding for the project would come from the NVRPA, with the possibility of some assistance from the Northern Virginia Regional Park Foundation.
So far no start date has been set for the beginning the work because the plans are preliminary. NVRPA is currently focusing on soliciting comments and suggestions from the community, which can be emailed to Potomac@NVRPA.Org. NVRPA will hold at least one more meeting with community members regarding finalized plans before renovations begin.


Jim said...

More details from Steve Blakely:
Tuesday, February 26, 2013 5:18 PM

For those who could not attend last night, this is a brief report on the NVRPA’s plans for Potomac Overlook.

ARLNow posted a story on the proposal today, online here

I have created a draft webpage for reference to their plan, online here:

THE PLAN: In brief, NVRPA views Potomac Overlook as the loss leader in their entire system as far as park income goes, and wants to make major changes that would generate more revenue – and also change very purpose and nature of the park, by construction high-volume, high-impact recreational facilities. This is a fundamental change from the park’s stated mission and purpose of providing a wildlife and nature refuge with low-impact recreational use. Among their most negative proposals:
Building a new fee-based treetop canopy. Presumably this would also be where they would add a fee-based zip line.

A new parking lot to create 40 new parking spaces, more than double the parks’ existing parking space (30 spaces), and create space for a large transportation shelter capable of handling buses and large groups. In order to construct this, the existing park entrance gate would be pushed farther down Marcey Road about to where the foundations of the old barn are currently located.

A new and larger fee-based pavilion, which would replace the existing music stage and accommodate large groups. The park’s current schedule of summer concerts would be cut back and bigger-name bands brought in to boost attendance.

A new fee-based campground, near the old Indian encampment, initially (but not exclusively) for Boy Scout use.

An “urban agriculture” plot of about two acres would be built, probably below the existing parking lot where the old farm dump used to be. The plot would be commercially worked and would not serve as a community garden.

NVRPA also is proposing to take over control of the adjoining Marcey Park (the tennis courts and about three acres of land), currently owned by Arlington County, and manage it according to their own plans. The county’s budget problems are sure to make that an attractive proposal.

The Authority is proposing some improvements to invasive species control and repair and maintenance (such as the bird of prey house), but those are minor compared to the proposals above.

... (I snipped off the advocacy part - Jim)

Melody said...

I tried to post this at


Thanks for creating this site. I’m worried about how polarized the neighbors are already, and it reminds me of something one of my natural Resource professors use to say, “A preservationist is someone who already has a house in the woods.”

I’ll admit that I enjoyed and benefited from Potomac Overlook being a best-kept secret; but let’s face it – this is a VERY underutilized park, and a great introduction to nature for urban kids. In it’s current state, many people feel like their trespassing on someone’s private space. It does not feel like a PUBLIC space.

I’ve been to most of the other NVRPA parks, and I think every single one is wonderful. I’m worried that those arguing against the park are inflating concerns and will be dismissed as enlightened self-interest.