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Chinquapin Park Recreation Center and Aquatics Facility (image via RPCA/Facebook)

A system upgrade to the city’s Department of Recreation, Parks & Cultural Activities (RPCA) website could be a windfall for local residents who, today and tomorrow, can access most rec center amenities without charge.

The city is updating its WebTrac service today, leaving RPCA unable to access household information, handle reservations or registrations, or process payments or refunds.

The upshot for local residents is that today (Monday) and tomorrow (Tuesday), all recreation centers in Alexandria will be offering complimentary amenities — because they can’t charge.

“We encourage you to visit your neighborhood recreation center and enjoy fitness rooms, soft play rooms, swimming, drop-in programming, and several other amenities, all free of charge,” the RPCA website said. “RPCA encourages WebTrac users to check their household information beginning September 21 to confirm all information is accurate in advance of using the system for upcoming registrations or reservations.”

Image via RPCA/Facebook

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Alexandria City High School Friday Night Lights at Alexandria City High School on September 17, 2021. (Via Elijah Walter Griffin, Sr.)

The City of Alexandria is planning to host a meeting later this month to discuss plans to light athletic fields around the city.

The idea behind adding lighting is to provide additional capacity to accommodate an increasing strain on the city’s fields. The meeting is scheduled for Thursday, July 21 at the Patrick Henry Recreation Center (4653 Taney Avenue).

“The addition of athletic field lighting will provide additional capacity to accommodate current and increasing scholastic and community program needs within the City’s fixed field resources,” a release said. “The project will support the City Council 2022 Community Priority to Support Youth and Families by expanding for capacity for youth programs, and the City’s goal of providing equitable access to facilities and services.”

But the prospect has already been met with some community pushback from neighbors who say the lights create a nuisance, in part because they allow athletic activities to continue late into the evening. Plans to light an athletic field at Alexandria City High School were the subject of a long-running battle between the school system and neighbors that was eventually settled in 2020, with games played under the new lights starting in 2021.

The City Council has already approved funding for the lighting of two athletic fields pending a special use permit approved by the Planning Commission and City Council. The release said the lighting of additional fields would likely be a three-to-five-year process.

City staff said in earlier meetings that there are three fields that could be lighted as early as FY 2023:

  • Francis C Hammond Middle School, 4646 Seminary Road
  • George Washington Middle School, 1005 Mt. Vernon Avenue
  • Jefferson Houston K-8 School, 1501 Cameron Street

Two other fields, one at Patrick Henry K-8 School and Recreation Center (4643 and 4653 Taney Avenue) and Eugene Simpson Stadium Park (426 East Monroe Avenue) can’t be lighted until 2024 and 2025 respectively.

“If you are unable to attend the public hearing, comments will be accepted by mail or email [[email protected]] until 5 p.m. on Wednesday, July 20, 2022,” the release said. “Please mail written comments to RPCA, ATTN: Jack Browand, 1108 Jefferson Street, Alexandria, VA 22314.”

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Alexandria City High School Friday Night Lights at Alexandria City High School on September 17, 2021. (Via Elijah Walter Griffin, Sr.)

Alexandria’s athletic fields could get new lights to keep games running later, but the prospect has already drawn backlash from some field neighbors who say the lights only create more of a nuisance.

In a community meeting last week, Jack Browand, division chief of Parks and Cultural Activities, said the lights are part of a push by city government to extent the usable hours of the city’s overcrowded fields.

“We are faced with an increased capacity of all of our athletic programs in the city, both with ACPS and the community,” Browand said. “We are looking to utilize existing resources, which are not growing tremendously and maximize their return on investment. For every lighted field, specifically, those that are synthetic turf, you can add approximately 1100 hours of additional use. That’s an average of about 3 to 3.5 hours per night by having lights on the field.”

Browand said adding lights to the fields hits a few city goals, including expanding capacity for youth programs and providing equitable access to city facilities.

There are several options Browand presented for locations where fields could have lighting added, but some of those options are limited by other factors like construction timelines. The project also has budgetary constraints: it costs approximately $402,000 to light a field and the city has approved $804,000 to light two fields in FY 2023.

There are three fields Browand said the city can begin adding lights to as early as FY 2023:

  • Francis C Hammond Middle School, 4646 Seminary Road
  • George Washington Middle School, 1005 Mt. Vernon Avenue
  • Jefferson Houston K-8 School, 1501 Cameron Street

Two other fields, one at Patrick Henry K-8 School and Recreation Center (4643 and 4653 Taney Avenue) and Eugene Simpson Stadium Park (426 East Monroe Avenue) can’t be lighted until 2024 and 2025 respectively. Browand said construction is expected to start at Patrick Henry in summer 2023 to be finished in 2024.

Additionally, Browand said any proposal to add lighting to any location is still subject to special use permit approval and further funding considerations. Browand also said the lights would be designed with the goal of limiting the impact of lights beyond the field and surrounding track.

Alexandria is no stranger to controversies involving lights at athletic fields.

Most of the speakers at the meeting expressed reservations about the impact of lights on the neighborhood, both in terms of light pollution but also the potential of creating a post-sunset hangout location.

Susan Nelson, a neighbor near Francis C Hammond Middle School, said she and her daughter both play soccer in Alexandria but said she was opposed to lights on the field:

What we see, with our own eyes — this isn’t fake data or people running tests at random times during the day — is adults playing after hours, adults fighting, playing shirtless at a school, which would in most cases accused of inappropriateness around children, beer bottles, hard lemonade bottles, trash, abandoned cars. And that’s without lights. The shortage is a city created problem and now we’re going to push this through when people in this neighborhood don’t want it. We’re professionals. We already have problems with that field without the lights there. I don’t know who is letting their child out to practice at 10 p.m. at night… I can’t believe this is being brought up as a legitimate thing.

Browand said if lights went forward for fields at Alexandria City Public Schools locations, the city would work with school security to monitor the fields for that sort of activity and check for abandoned cars.

The proposal on lighted fields is scheduled to go to the Planning Commission and City Council in September/October.

According to the city website, additional meetings are scheduled for:

  • June 16: Park and Recreation Commission at 7 p.m. (In person only) Charles Houston Recreation Center, 901 Wythe St.
  • June 21: Community Meeting #2 at 7 p.m.
  • July 21: Park & Recreation Commission Public Hearing at 7 p.m. (In person only) Patrick Henry Recreation Center, 4653 Taney Ave.
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What a challenging week in Alexandria. Here’s the rundown.

Alexandria track star Noah Lyles won the bronze medal in the 200 meters at the Tokyo Olympics, garnering congratulations from around the country, including locally by Virginia Governor Ralph Northam and Mayor Justin Wilson. Also this week, Lyles’ mom and brother held a watch party at his alma mater, Alexandria City High School.

This week, we also spoke with Alexandria boxer Troy “The Transformer” Isley, who said competing in the Olympics was a ‘dream come true.” Tynita Butts-Townsend, the third T.C. Williams High School graduate to participate in the games, did not make it past the first round of the high jump.

“I thought I would feel more crappy about getting last at the Olympics, but then I read that sentence again…IM STILL AN OLYMPIAN!” Butts-Townsend tweeted.

On the coronavirus front, with the City recommending residents wear masks indoors, this week the School Board voted to make it mandatory that face masks be worn when school starts later this month.

Important stories

Top stories

  1. Parks Department braces for strain on system when Minnie Howard field closes down
  2. Alexandria reports 204 COVID-19 cases in July, a big jump over last month
  3. Alexandria City High School to host Olympics watch party to cheer on alumnus Noah Lyles
  4. ALXnow’s top stories this week in Alexandria
  5. GoFundMe launched for Will Nichols, retiring manager of St. Elmo’s Coffee Pub in Del Ray
  6. With ACPS expecting enrollment increase, Alexandria Mayor explains where kids come from
  7. Report details life of Black Alexandrians post-Civil War in home slated for redevelopment
  8. Noah Lyles to race for gold medal in 200 meters at Tokyo Olympics
  9. 18-year-old arrested for firing gunshots at West End apartment building
  10. EXCLUSIVE: Halal slaughterhouse opens, gives away free chickens for first two days in business
  11. Heritage project skirts denial at Board of Architectural Review meeting

Have a safe weekend!

Via Tcwtitantrack/Facebook

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Morning Notes

Alexandria launches pop-up recreation — “Stationed at various outdoor locations throughout the city, including parks and schools, the Pop-Up Rec will encourage people of all ages to get physically active. There will also be some indoor activities. Look for the Pop-Up Rec every Monday, Thursday and Saturday.” [Zebra]

Struggling veterans find new home in Alexandria — “Operation Renewed Hope Foundation opened a new home in Alexandria for Northern Virginia veterans struggling with homelessness on March 9, according to a news release.” [Alex Times]

Alexandria Drive-In proceeds on March 27 go to students — “JOIN the Alexandria Community in *Remembering* The Titans at the Alexandria Drive In March 27. All proceeds support college scholarships for the Class of 2021 Titans” [Twitter]

Today’s weather — “Sunny (during the day). High 64F. Winds ENE at 5 to 1… A few clouds overnight. Low 41F. Winds NE at 5 to 10 mph.” [Weather.com]

New job: Bartender and server — “We are a waterfront restaurant and event venue in North Old Town Alexandria seeking qualified servers/bartenders to join our professional family. You must be experienced, personable, and have a passion for hospitality!” [Indeed]

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As Alexandria approaches its second spring and summer with COVID, the city is starting to put out details on limited selection of recreational programs that will be available to the public.

Registration for spring programs launched today with a variety of camps and sports clubs open to enrollment.

Those interested in registering can do so online or in-person by calling the Registration and Reservation Office at 703-746-5414 to schedule an appointment.

According to a press release, the city is planning to release the full slate of summer programming on Wednesday, March 24. Registration will open on Wednesday, April 7, for City residents and on Friday, April 9, for nonresidents.

“Programs will meet all health guidelines for staff, participants and spectators, including symptom screening; use of face masks; enhanced cleaning between activity periods; and physical distancing protocols specified for each type of program,” the city said. “To ensure participant safety and prevent the spread of COVID-19, indoor locations will have limited capacity.”

Private programs, like electronics and welding clubs at a West Eisenhower maker space, have announced similar summer plans that will also have limited indoor capacity based on state regulations.

There are also disability accommodations for summer and spring programs, with more information available by contacting [email protected]alexandriava.gov or 703-746-5504 for Virginia Relay 711.

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Morning Notes

Beyer Says Republican leader McCarthy Should Resign Over Capitol Siege Comments — “The reason McCarthy is trying to take back what he said about Trump’s obvious guilt — and now, absurdly, blaming ‘everybody’ — is McCarthy himself spread conspiracy theories and lies about the election, then led his caucus into an attack on our democracy. McCarthy should resign.” [Twitter]

Antonio Damiani of Tony’s Auto Service Passes Away — “Tony passed away peacefully surrounded by his family at Winchester Medical Center on Thursday evening, January 14, 2021 from complications of cancer he had battled for two years.” [Zebra]

Adult Mentors Needed — “Mentor one child, change two lives! The Alexandria Mentoring Partnership seeks adult mentors for children in need. Mentoring decreases risk factors associated with emotional well-being and success in school and life.” [Twitter]

City Seeks Public Comment on Wilkes Street Park Redesign — “The City of Alexandria Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities (RPCA) is seeking public comment for the proposed design of Wilkes Street Park. The proposed redesign of the 0.7-acre park was presented at the Park and Recreation Commission on Thursday, January 21, 2021. The community is encouraged to review the proposed park design and provide input via email until Wednesday, February 17, 2021.” [City of Alexandria]

Filipino Fast-Food Chain Jollibee to Open in Landmark-Area Shopping Center — “Wildly popular Filipino fast-food chain Jollibee has inked a deal to take over a shuttered Boston Market space at Plaza at Landmark, its second restaurant slated for the region that we know of.” [Washington Business Journal]

Today’s Weather — “Cloudy with rain developing later in the day. High 42F. Winds ENE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 90%. Rain. Low around 35F. Winds ENE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 90%. Rainfall near a half an inch.” [Weather.com]

New Job: LARGE FORMAT SIGNS – Digital Print Operator — “We are actively seeking experienced Print Operator for our large format digital print department. Ideal candidate to possess solid background in digital print production and signage along with a positive attitude, great organizational skills and strong hands on skill set.” [Indeed]

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COVID-19 has definitely put a damper on the already slimmed-down list of winter activities, but there are still dozens of activities residents can start registering for next week.

Registration is offered through the City of Alexandria’s Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities will begin at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 9, for City residents and on Friday, Dec. 11, for nonresidents. Winter registration applies to programs taking place January through March 2021.

Programs currently offered include a table game tournament (like ping pong and air hockey), dance classes, hula hoop classes and other socially distanced activities.

“Get ready for a flurry of fun this winter with a variety of in-person options for all ages, plus new virtual programs,” the city said in a press release. “View a complete list of winter programs online. Due to potential schedule and capacity adjustments from COVID-19, a printed or online program guide will not be produced for the winter program season.”

The city said in the press release that health guidelines include symptom screening, face masked, enhanced cleaning and physical distancing protocols. Be sure to register early, because the city noted that limited COVID-19 capacity meant indoor activities will have a smaller capacity than usual.

Photo via City of Alexandria/Facebook  

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A suite of new improvements could be coming to the Schuyler Hamilton Skate Park and Luckett Field just off Duke Street at 3540 Wheeler Avenue.

The Planning Commission is docketed to review the new safety improvements at the park at the June 2 meeting.

Among improvements planned is new lighting for the skate park.

“Although the skate park is currently not lighted, many young skateboarders use the park after dark, particularly during late fall and winter months,” the parks department said in its application. “Other areas of the park, including the ball fields, are lighted through 10 p.m. The lighting from those areas does not reach the skate park.”

The application says the new lights would be user-activated by pressing a button and would stay lit for one hour unless activated again. The lights would not be able to turn on past 10 p.m.

There are seven new lights planned, each at a maximum of 25 feet up.

Planned improvements also include a new netting system around the ballfield, which would extend above the six-foot fence surrounding the facility.

“The netting provides additional safety to users, spectators and vehicles in the adjacent parking lots from balls topping the existing fence,” the application said.

Two new batting cages are also proposed for the baseball field.

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ALIVE! gave out 30,716 pounds of food to more than 1,000 Alexandria households on Saturday, and now its shelves are nearly empty.

The 50-year-old nonprofit’s next distribution of food will not be until the end of May, although ALIVE! will continue providing food to local pantries between now and then, said Executive Director Jennifer Ayers.

“People can continue to rely on ALIVE! to supply local pantries and community nonprofits,” Ayers told ALXnow. “We are working on increasing inventory and we have seen our referrals for home delivery triple since the shelter in place, and requests for financial support are rising.”

Food pantries around the city are still open, and Ayers encouraged residents to visit Hunger Free Alexandria to see the locations of food distribution points. Ayers is encouraging those who want to help to donate to the organization through the Spring2ACTion online fundraiser on April 15.

So far, ALIVE! has received $20,000 from the city to buy 17,000 meals worth of bulk food. The city also found storage space for the nonprofit to house all of the food. There were other notable donations in recent days, including $1,000 in gift cards from Elizabeth’s Counter.

Last Saturday, families received four bags of food at the drive-thru distributions at John Adams Elementary School and Cora Kelly School.

“A huge thank you to everyone in the community,” Ayers said. “This is truly a community effort.”

Ayers gave a shout-out to the following organizations and volunteers for their support:

  • Alexandria Transportation and Environmental Services
  • The Alexandria Police Department
  • The Alexandria Sheriff’s Office
  • The Department of Parks and Recreation
  • Volunteer Alexandria
  • Caring Transitions
  • The Salvation Army
  • Your Dog’s Best Friend
  • Affordable Signs
  • Minuteman Press of Alexandria
  • Del Ray Farmer’s Market
  • Elizabeth’s Counter
  • Old Blue BBQ
  • Lancaster Food LLC
  • Fresh Produce Association
  • Great Harvest Bakery
  • Jen Walker Team
  • Pat Miller
  • Alexandria City Public Schools
  • The Alexandria Department of Community and Health Services

Photo via Alive!/Facebook

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