by Erika Milena Yalowitz Candidate, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Providence District
We all benefit to have excellent schools as well as parks and areas for recreation and enjoyment of nature. I believe we can have both in Providence District by pursuing innovative options for educational facilities while at the same time we preserve Blake Lane Park. I joined the effort to save Blake Lane Park (BLP) several months ago and together, with this community, we have received a lot of attention, and support, including by sitting U.S. Congressman Gerry Connolly, with just reason. The prospect of Blake losing the only green community space to another building, in this case a school, that would be the FIFTH one within a 3-mile radius- is counterproductive.
Here is why I join the Save Blake Lane Park community in supporting the preservation of the park:
Traffic and congestion. The nearby roads are small, and neighbors find traffic congestion extremely difficult, given the existing four schools nearby and the impact of potentially 800 more students and commuters going to and from Vienna Metro.
This park built a community. Hundreds of Blake Lane Park neighbors come each week to meet around the first off-leash dog park in Fairfax County. Young people and kids meet for soccer games on the grassy areas and families enjoy picnics. Volunteers do regular cleanups and have planted trees and created a sanctuary for monarch butterflies.
Access to green space. This area belongs to the county and should be exempt from private or public development in consideration of home values, quality of life and healthier air quality. If BLP is taken, children and families without access to a backyard will not have wide room to play outdoors and the park would also lose its status as a home to permanent and transient wildlife.
It is gratifying to see new-found passion and energy to save the park by candidates for Providence District Supervisor that were proposing building on the park before. I’m running for Providence Supervisor as well. However, I have demonstrated consistency and principled leadership in saving BLP, even when it was not the most popular or visible thing to do.
Saving BLP is a matter of principles and values; of responsible public representation and accountability. I can’t think of many instances when our government or a developer, has demolished a concrete structure to build a park for public use; if so, the waste of time and resources is not easily justified. Land and real estate prices are high, but we need to realize that green space is priceless for the host of benefits and use that all demographics can enjoy.
Providence District residents can count on my commitment to protect green spaces like this. As Providence Supervisor, I will move the Board to transfer ownership of the park to the Fairfax County Park Authority to develop and preserve as a proper park.
As the mother of a future Fairfax County Public Schools student, I am keenly aware of the overcrowding urgency we have at FCPS. It’s a troubling trend that needs expert evaluation and conscious planning. You may be thinking “what are the alternatives?” -Fortunately, we have many at our disposal:
Negotiating proffers– As new and re-development becomes imminent, land or buildings may be part of future proffer contributions by developers to the County. There are still many old-style office parks in Providence that could potentially offer land or moneys to accommodate space for schools.
Demolish and re-build existing obsolete school buildings– As we plan on invest in new buildings, we may also consider using that money towards re-building old structures to meet current and future capacity needs. This an opportunity to update our infrastructure, can also bring innovation in construction by utilizing renewable energy, making buildings energy and space-efficient.
Building vertically– This saves green space while addressing capacity and overcrowding. We simply don’t easily find land to do more building- and our community’s only park would be misused if we deprive this community of green space in exchange of new concrete structures.
On June 11, we have a choice to make. Providence District and Fairfax County can count on my firm representation and advocacy to preserve and enhance green spaces in the best interest of our community, for its long-term health and quality of life; for better accessibility and connectivity to parks as places of leisure, that offer clean air, beauty, and the preservation of habitats for transient and suburban species and a balanced and sustainable future.