By RCA President Colin Mills

From the beginning, one of RCA’s key missions has been keeping
the citizens informed about what’s going on in the community and serving as the
voice of the citizens on key issues.  In
keeping with that mission, last week we had our first “ResTown Hall Meeting.”  Our goal was to inform and to listen to
Restonians on a subject that is essential to Reston’s recreational future: the draft master
plan for Baron Cameron Park
developed by the Fairfax County Park Authority.
Based on the attendance, it was clear that the community cares
about the future of Baron Cameron.  We
had strong turnout in spite of cold and rainy weather and the NCAA men’s
basketball championship taking place that night.  Not only that, the attendees came from all
parts of Reston, not just the neighborhoods closest to the park. 
We opened with a presentation
by RCA’s Terry Maynard.  Terry summarized
the changes and upgrades proposed in the draft master plan.  He placed the plan in the context of Reston’s
planned growth, explaining Baron Cameron’s location relative to the coming Metro
stations (not very close) and the Lake Anne redevelopment (quite close).  He also described the other park facilities
in and near Reston.

RCA’s Terry Maynard explains Baron Cameron Park master plan
as crowd listens.
From there, Terry focused on the plan elements that have
generated the most discussion to date: the fields, the proposed recreation
center option, the dog park, and the potential impact on traffic.  In each of these areas, he explained the key
aspects of the draft plan and the concerns that have been raised.
On the field issue, Terry showed that the plan would
actually provide fewer fields than are at the park currently, particularly if
part of the land is devoted to a rec center, which is an option in the
plan.  The Park Authority plans to
increase the capacity of the fields by adding artificial turf and lights.  Terry showed that with fewer fields, total rectangular
field capacity at Baron Cameron would only increase by 20% to 40%… and if the
rec center is built, it might not increase at all. 

Terry Maynard explains how proposed draft plan would
affect field capacity at Baron Cameron Park.

Terry briefly discussed the rec center option.  As currently envisioned, the Park Authority
would supply the land, but would not build the facility (RCC is exploring
building a rec center there).  Terry
expressed Reston 2020’s position that Town Center North would make more sense
for a rec center, as that’s where the residents will be. 

Terry noted that the draft plan roughly doubles the number
of parking spaces and adds a new north entrance along Wiehle. He noted the
pluses (reduces the problem of park users parking in surrounding neighborhoods,
improved access to the park) and minuses (added congestion on Wiehle, access
challenges for the neighborhood next door). 
He also noted that the new spaces might be tempting for commuters, who
might park there and ride the bus to the Wiehle Metro station.
The dog
has become one of the most controversial aspects at Baron Cameron.  Terry did a good job explaining both sides,
both the dog owners who treasure it as a recreational and social venue and the
neighbors who have complained about the noise it generates.  He laid out possible options: keeping the dog
park as is, moving it to the interior of the park (a plan option), or moving it
to another location, such as Lake Fairfax Park.

Small group discussion regarding Baron Cameron plan.

After that, we broke into small groups for discussion.  My table contained a nice cross-section of
the community.  Some of our folks lived
across the street from the park; others lived on the other side of town.  Some had been Restonians for decades; others were
relative newcomers.  Some had followed
the process closely; others came primarily to learn.
Given the diversity of perspectives around the table, it’s
no surprise that we had a lively discussion. 
We had some good questions and some creative ideas.  When the other tables reported back to the
larger group, it was clear that they’d also had great discussions.  There was no invective, no shouting; just
thoughtful citizens sharing their views and raising honest questions.  It was exactly the kind of forum we hoped to
After the tables had shared their feedback, we gave every
audience member a few sticky dots to identify the points that mattered most to

Audience members using dots to show their priorities.

When we totaled up the dots, it
was clear what the community likes and doesn’t like about the plan.  The respondents liked the increased field
capacity, the addition of trails and fitness stations, the retention of the
existing gardens, and the planned multi-use courts.  They didn’t like the amount of added parking,
the potential added traffic on Wiehle, and the insufficient space dedicated to
group social activities.  They expressed
strong opposition to a rec center at Baron Cameron.  And they mentioned some things to add, like
bike storage, a circumferential trail, and a Memorial Garden.

If one concern predominated, it was that the plan tries to
do too much in too little space. 
Unfortunately, we’re likely to hear this concern more often as Reston grows.  We’re an active community; kids and adults
alike are involved in running, biking, sports leagues, and other recreational
activities.  The demand for recreational
amenities is going to rise – sharply – as Reston’s population increases. 
But the available space for those amenities is likely to
shrink.  Meeting increased demand for
recreation in a limited space, and with limited financial resources, will be a major
challenge for our leaders to meet in the coming years.  We’ll need to be smart in identifying our
priorities, and creative in finding and implementing solutions.
What’s next?  We’re compiling
the feedback from the meeting into a community response, which we will submit
to the Park Authority.  We will highlight
the most important issues that the community identified, along with recommendations
based on them.  But we will also include all
the feedback we received, to ensure that everyone’s voice is represented in our

I believe our inaugural ResTown Hall Meeting was a
success.  I look forward to this being
the first of many such meetings.  I hope
to see you at the next one.  And whether
you attended this one or not, I hope you’ll share your comments with the Park Authority
at (deadline for public comments is April 27th).  In order to make the best decisions for our
community, the Park Authority needs to hear from our citizens.