At this point, it’s overwhelming: as far as I can tell, not a single candidate for Providence District (Fairfax County) County Board member or for Fairfax County Board Chair (or Rep. Gerry Connolly) supports destroying Blake Lane Park in order to build a school there. To put it another way, they all support the effort to Save Blake Lane Park. See below for video from a rally held a bit earlier today, at which a slew of candidates spoke in support of the park. Also check out activist Chris Ambrose’s speech, which urges Fairfax County to preserve other parks and green space as well, such as Lorton Park. With that, here are the videos, with a few notes by me.
P.S. Sorry for the wind noise on some of the audio, but yeah…it was VERY windy today!
Current Lee District Supervisor and Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chair candidate Jeff McKay (D) said he supported efforts to save the park: “where we have opportunities like this to protect an environmental treasure in a community, we need to be able to do that, and frankly we need to hit reset on evaluation of schools and capacity in this area, make sure the community is involved in the process and that we do it right…thank all of you for your advocacy…your elected officials listen to you and you can make a difference.”
Providence District Supervisor candidate Edythe Kelleher (D) said “ditto” to everything Jeff McKay said, added “I support your efforts to maintain this lovely green space…the advocacy you have shown is wonderful.”
Providence District Supervisor candidate Erika Yalowitz (D) talked about her background and her community involvement, as well as her strong support for saving Blake Lane Park – “when green spaces are gone, they’re gone forever, and we can’t allow that to happen here…I hope we will get that commitment from every person running for office here…to save this park.”
Current Providence District School Board member and candidate for County Board from Providence District, Dalia Palchik (D), said she knows this has been a “difficult process” leading up to this point, but that “I can tell you right here, right now, as a Supervisor on Day 1, I would task staff to find alternative sites; we have in other districts repurposed buildings…I’ve heard from you…We need to work together as a county to help protect this park…all of our parks.”
Democratic endorsee for Providence District School Board, Karl Frisch, said, “I hope everybody’s taking notes, because we now have all the board chair candidates, all of our supervisorial candidates here on the record saying that they’re with us to save Blake Lane Park”…One of the first things that I started talking about when I ran for when I decided to run for school board was the importance of greening our schools…so we’re not worsening our carbon footprint and that we’re addressing the crisis of climate change in this country…It won’t happen overnight, but together we can get it done.”
Candidate for County Board from the Providence District, Linh Hoang (D), said “I’m here as well to support all of your efforts to save our community treasures here…this is my park…we need to save our parks…we need to fight for it…we need to stand and fight for our natural resources…I’m going to be fighting for that.”
Candidate for County Board from the Providence District, Phil Niedzelski-Eichner (D), said “this park is an important part of those families’ life experience, it is this their backyard; I am dedicated and committed to protecting this park…We have to sustain quality schools, but we also have to protect our environment…You have my commitment to continue to focus on open space throughout Providence District…I’ve been very disappointed in the lack of communication that was inherent in the way that this project was rolled out as a school site…”
Current School Board at-large member and County Board Chair candidate Ryan McElveen (D) said he wanted to talk about “the importance of parks in our county, and particularly where we are standing today, Blake Lane Park…As we look to the future in our county, we need to be in a position where we have not only a plan for climate and energy, but also for resilience…but they begin right here today with local movements to support our parts; I think there are something like 18 parks in our county that are slated for development, and that is not where we should be…we need to value this space…It’s about the quality of life in our county…We need folks in office that stand up for our parks…Blake Lane Park…Lorton Park…The irony of putting a school here and depriving future generations of green space is ridiculous.”
Fairfax County Board Chair candidate Tim Chapman (D) said (note: I had technical difficulties with one camera at this point, so had to switch cameras and missed the first minute or so of Chapman’s speech), “There are certain things in life that don’t necessarily need to be studied and talked about, studied and talked about; it’s a very simple calculation – this park should not go anywhere…They slated this thing for a park quite a while ago, and nobody’s stepped forward with…a declining school population in this area and said, wait a minute, does this make sense anymore? We shouldn’t be standing here today if our elected leaders were listening to us…I will not flip-flop on stopping this park from becoming a school.”
A representative for School Board at-large candidate Rachna Sizemore-Heizer (D) said, “We cannot let this happen…I know she appreciates all the work that you’re doing as advocates…Rachna really cares about green space and she really cares about equity. One of her biggest concerns about the way this process has been done is that folks have not really been brought into the process to be heard for what they need and for the community…She believes that the School Board really needs to think more creatively about how we can solve these potential challenges…We can’t just look at a park and assume it’s a place we can build a school on…She believes that this park should stay and she’s going to get it done.”
Del. Mark Keam (D), who represents a good chunk of the Providence District, said he just visited the Grand Canyon, and that it’s only been 100 years since the federal government “had the foresight to designate it as a national treasure.” Keam asked everyone to imagine where we’d be today if we hadn’t preserved national treasures like the Grand Canyon. “So folks, here’s a simple equation – if you want to save Blake Lane [Park], you have the power to do so…you the people have to express what your values are…If open space is important, conserving nature is important, protecting our environment is important, keeping a sustainable climate is important and making sure that the future generations have more than what we have, then you and I have to step up…We have schools that are dilapidated, let’s fix that first before we start talking about building new schools.”
Finally, Fairfax County Democrat and super-activist Chris Ambrose, who is leading the effort to save Lorton Park, said: “It’s great to hear all the candidates pledging their support to make this park remain a reality, and that’s a great thing. I wish I can say this was a very isolated incident, [but] it’s really not; there’s actually a number of parks in the county that are sites that they plan for future development…[including Lorton Park]…We really need to stand to protect our parks all over the county…And we’re stronger if we’re all working together.”