Alexandria, VA

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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Morning Notes

Port City Brewing Co. Closes Tasting Room — “Effective Sunday, March 15, 2020, we will be closing our Tasting Room until further notice. We are doing this to help the community try to get a handle on the spread of Coronavirus.”[Facebook]

ACPS Provides Food Access Update — “Starting Monday, Alexandria City Public Schools will be providing emergency meals at no cost for any child under 18 and any family who needs it.” [ACPS]

DASH Modifies Bus Routes — “Beginning Thursday, March 19, DASH will operate on an “Enhanced Saturday” schedule weekdays in order to minimize the risk of spreading COVID-19 among our employees, riders and community.” [DASH]

Alexandria Library Open, Taking Social Distancing Measures — “As of Saturday, March 14, 2020 the Alexandria Library will be canceling all Library programs, events, outreach activities, passport services, proctoring, and meeting room reservations through Tuesday, March 31, 2020. Meeting rooms will not be available for use. Computers and seating will be reconfigured, with fewer available for use.” [Alexandria Library]

Recreation Dept. Suspends Events Until March 21 — “All indoor programs, classes and activities produced by RPCA are suspended Saturday, March 14 through Saturday, March 21. This includes afterschool programming and the Out of School Time program. Credits will be issued for any missed activities during this time. Throughout the one week programming break, RPCA will continue to evaluate which services can be offered going forward and will provide an update prior to March 21.” [RPCA]

‘Maximum Telework’ for Federal Employees — “OPM Finally Announces: ‘Federal offices in the Washington, DC area status: Open with maximum telework flexibilities.'” [PoPville]

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Morning Notes

Questions About Homicide Arrest at T.C. — “Because Aly’s arrest was part of an ongoing criminal investigation, Virginia State Police, the lead law enforcement agency on the case, haven’t released details about his connection to the crime. But some parents and students have sought answers to different questions: Why did the arrest take place at school, and what happened at the school that day?” [Alexandria Times]

Rec Registration Starts Next Week — “Registration for spring and summer classes and activities offered by the City of Alexandria’s Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities will begin at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, March 18 for City residents and Friday, March 20 for nonresidents. Spring and summer registration applies to classes, leagues and activities occurring April through August 2020.” [City of Alexandria]

Controlled Burn Leads to Hazy Sunday — Across much of the D.C. area Sunday afternoon, smoke from a controlled burn at Marine Corps Base Quantico led to temporary hazy conditions outside and a “campfire” smell. [ARLnow]

“Moonlight and Magnolias” at Little Theatre Until March 21 — “It’s Hollywood, 1939. Legendary film producer David O. Selznick is five weeks into shooting ‘Gone with the Wind’ when he realizes the script is awful and the director doesn’t have a clue. He has a few short days to replace them and restart shooting or the production will shut down.” [Gazette]

Nominations Open For Chamber of Commerce’s 40 Under 40 — “The 40 under 40 class celebrate 40 outstanding leaders and innovators who either live or work within the city of Alexandria. The nomination period closes March 13, 2020. Go to www.thechamberalx.com/young-leaders-network.html to nominate a leader for this honor.” [Alexandria Living]

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Morning Notes

Presidential Primary Day in Alexandria — Today is Super Tuesday, the presidential primary day in Virginia and 13 other states across the U.S. Here in Alexandria, polls are open from 6 a.m.-7 p.m. [City of Alexandria]

New Development Near Braddock Road Metro — “CRC Cos. LLC is pitching a plan to redevelop several single-family homes across from the Braddock Road Metro station into a new mixed-use building. The Arlington-based real estate firm submitted plans to Alexandria officials last week for a seven-story, 177-unit building along North West Street, bounded by Madison Street and Wythe Street. The proposal also calls for a small space set aside for ground-floor retail.” [Washington Business Journal]

Meeting Planned for Tot Lot Renovations — Alexandria’s parks department “will renovate Woodbine Tot Lot  in partnership with the Make-A-Wish Foundation mid-March through mid-April. A community pre-construction meeting with City staff and the contractor is scheduled for Saturday, March 7 at 10 a.m. at Woodbine Tot Lot (1509 Woodbine St.). Make-A-Wish Foundation America approached the City of Alexandria with a wish from Whitaker, a local four-year-old undergoing cancer treatment.” [City of Alexandria]

A Tale of Two Kindnesses — A man who stopped to help a family in need in Alexandria was, soon thereafter, helped by the same family when it turned out that he was in need of assistance, too. [Alexandria Living]

Trampoline Park Opens in West End — “Get Air, an indoor trampoline park with a variety of activities, has opened at 340 South Pickett Street in Alexandria. The venue has thousands of square feet of trampolines, including vertical trampolines, a trampoline dodgeball area, trampoline lanes for slamball, tightrope walking challenge, and a foam pit.” [Patch, Alexandria Living]

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Holmes Run Trail through Eisenhower’s West End was fragmented by last year’s flooding, and city staff said it could remain that way for years to come.

Under normal circumstances, the Holmes Run Trail runs continuously northwest from Eisenhower Avenue to Columbia Pike with few, if any, interruptions. Flash floods from last year’s July 8 storms changed that.

Jack Browand, division chief of Parks and Cultural Activities, said when the Barcroft Dam overflowed the stormwater caused significant damage to four areas along Holmes Run. Two bridges were damaged, one streambank got washed out and took the trail with it, and one crossing at Ripley Street was closed.

“We had to shut them down,” Browand said. “They’re not $50 fixes, they’re substantial engineering. We had them inspected and we have to keep them closed. So we’ll have to seek funding for design, engineering, and construction [of replacements].”

Browand said the city is still working through the documentation to receive reimbursement as a result of the state declaring an emergency.

“The timetable for seeking funding through budget process means it is likely going to be closed for one to three years in areas,” Browand said. “We established a website and we’re going to put out signs so people know why they’re closed. Some we might be able to open partially on extreme west end — where the bridge was washed out — west of I-395 but east of Beauregard. We can probably open a portion of the trail but the bridge cannot be used.”

As a result, Browand said the trail will not function as a continuous path from Eisenhower Avenue to Fairfax County. Visitors to the trail will have to take several detours, which Browand said will be obvious and clearly defined paths.

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After more than eight years of planning, Alexandria will soon begin revamping its pocket parks.

In April, renovations at two of the city’s 25 pocket parks — parks less than a half-acre in size — are slated to begin with the Woodbine Tot Lot at 1509 Woodbine Street and the 48 South Early Street Park.

“We’re excited to start making an impact to some of the smaller parks that mean a lot to their communities,” Dana Wedeles, a principal planner with the city’s Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities, told ALXnow.

The Park and Recreation Commission received a draft plan on the renovation of the parks last month, and the final Pocket Parks Improvement Plan will be the subject of a Feb.  20 public hearing before the commission at Mount Vernon Community School (2701 Commonwealth Avenue).

The plan will then go to the city council for their endorsement, and the parks will be be slotted in the city’s Capital Improvement Program for renovation over the next decade.

Renovations at the Woodbine Tot Lot are estimated to cost $80,000. Much of that amount has been cut down due to a contribution from the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which has contributed $25,000 toward the project through the city’s Community Matching Fund. Through the fund, the city provides a one-to-one matching contribution and the funds will be available at the start of the fiscal year on July 1. The renovation was made possible by the wish of a child living in the neighborhood, according to the city.

Rebuilding Together DC – Alexandria, which renovates homes and properties throughout the region, is partnering with the city on the pocket park at 48 South Early Street. The park is located in the city’s Society Hill neighborhood between Duke Street and Wheeler Avenue, and it has been adopted by the neighborhood homeowners’ association. Planned improvements include adding signage and natural play features like boulders, logs and stepping stones.

Most of the projects are stand-alone, and city staff are currently working on getting cost estimates.

Here is the city’s full list from the Pocket Parks Improvement Plan:

  1. 48 South Early Street Park
  2. 1301 Powhatan Park
  3. 2304 East Randolph Avenue Park
  4. Armory Tot Lot Park 
  5. Braddock & Commonwealth Dog Area
  6. Charles Hill Park
  7. Chetworth Place Park
  8. Elbert Triangle Park
  9. Gentry Park
  10. Hillside Park
  11. Hunter Miller Park
  12. Interior Park
  13. Lake Cook Pocket Park
  14. Le Bosquet at Sunnyside Park
  15. Lynhaven Gateway Park
  16. Lynhaven Park
  17. Mason Avenue Mini Park
  18. Pendleton Park
  19. Portner Park
  20. Potomac Triangle Park
  21. Ruby Tucker Park
  22. St. Asaph Park
  23. Sunset Mini Park
  24. Washington Way
  25. Woodbine Tot Lot
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Nobody knows where the styrofoam that washed up on Alexandria’s shore came from, but it was one part of the haul of debris that got swept up in a recent deep clean of Alexandria’s waterfront.

“We have a debris problem on the river,” said Jack Browand, division chief of Parks and Cultural Activities.

Alexandria is no stranger to flooding, but the city frequently struggles with debris not just from floods, but the common currents and tides that make Alexandria’s waterfront the region’s dumping ground.

Browand said the Potomac River’s flow pushes materials up into the city’s waterfront areas. High tides push those up into pools or riprap and they get stuck.

Browand said the city recently allocated $50,000 in funding to clean the waterfront, which paid for an initial cleaning from late December to Jan. 10. There’s enough funding for another major cleaning in the spring, likely around May, he said.

There are some areas that Browand said didn’t get the same level of treatment. If Alexandrians notice more debris in the northern portion of Windmill Hill Park, for instance, Browand said there is a contract to do planting there in the spring as part of a park renovation; it wouldn’t have been efficient to take the debris out just to re-clean that area after the planting.

“It just takes one strong storm with a northwest wind and we get a large accumulation overnight,” Browand said. “It’s consistently inconsistent with where debris lands.”

The city does implement some measures to try to cut down on debris. In the marina, Browand said there are “bubblers” that are partially submerged and create turbulence that keeps debris from becoming stuck. Even those solutions have their own problems, though, and Browand said the bubblers have to be adjusted regularly and are useless if there’s a low tide. There are also booms that keep debris out, but they’re not foolproof — they get breached and have to be manually cleared.

On a larger scale, there are several flood mitigation measures included in the city’s multi-year capital program for the waterfront. A study released last year included a review of plans for new bulkheads, a rehabilitated local storm sewer, and pumping stations.

“There’s no shortage of potential solutions, but they all cost money, time, and have environmental impacts,” Browand said. “The city’s waterfront is three miles long. That’s a lot of waterfront.”

One of the worst offenders for flooding is the riprap — man-placed stone obstacles meant to reinforce the shore and break up waves. Browand said the riprap has a tendency to collect and hold onto the debris pushed up by the tides. On the bright side, however, Browand said sometimes flooding during high tides pushes the trapped debris up onto the parks, which is unsightly but easier to clean up.

As for the styrofoam, Browand said the city doesn’t know where it came from and may never know.

“It was kind of odd,” Browand said. “It was a large concentration of it. Since then, we haven’t had that problem. Usually, there are things based on the weather, like tiny pieces of things will show up.”

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Registration for Alexandria’s winter recreation program, with activities ranging from dog obedience training to cooking, opens soon.

On Wednesday, December 18, registration will open online and in person for city residents at the Registration and Reservation Office at Lee Center (1108 Jefferson Street). Registration for nonresidents starts Dec. 20.

There are over a hundred classes and activities available, such as athletic programs, social clubs, and creative arts. Winter recreation programs from from January to mid-April.

New programs for 2020 include a Dining Etiquette for Youth program, in which teens between the ages of 13 and 17 can learn “appropriate dinner conduct and conversation,” and an Intro to Scottish Dancing class for ages 18 and older.

Additional classes include camps for students over spring break, including a nature camp and a lifeguard certification program.

Pricing for the programs range between approximately $50 to $325. A full catalog for all of the programs can be found here.

Photo via City of Alexandria/Facebook  

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(Updated at 12:25 p.m.) Alexandria has closed a pedestrian bridge along Holmes Run after a safety inspection found the structure needed “immediate repair.”

The bridge that spans from Ben Brenman Park to Holmes Run Parkway was shut down late last week, according to city officials.

“During routine park amenity inspection by staff from the Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities, it was found that the bridge footings were unstable due to soft soil and loose rock below the footing,” the city said in a statement.

“An inspection by a civil engineer from the Department of Transportation & Environmental Services deemed the bridge to require immediate repair to ensure pedestrian safety,” city officials added.

For now, pedestrians will be able to follow signs for a detour route that crosses Holmes Run at the footbridge just south of the stream from the Holmes Run playground. This temporarily route links to back to Holmes Run Trail as it heads north towards Duke Street.

Image 1 via Google Maps

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Morning Notes

Bald Eagle Rescue Near Cameron Run — “A bald eagle that appeared to be injured was spotted Wednesday morning on the ground at the Cameron Run Regional Park, near the Metro tracks in Alexandria, Virginia. It seemed like something was wrong with one of its wings.” [WTOP]

Old Town Eatery to Offer Original Menu — “Longtime Old Town Alexandria Italian restaurant Landini Brothers, at 115 King St., is marking its 40th anniversary Oct. 28 by taking diners back to the past. The family-owned restaurant, founded in 1979, is bringing back for one night only the original menu that waiters brought to diners’ tables. And that means 1979 prices.” [WTOP]

Trash Collection Reminder — “DYK which November Holidays the City’s trash & recycling collection is delayed by one day? It’s a trick question: NONE. On both Veteran’s Day AND Thanksgiving, trash and recycling is collection as scheduled.” [Twitter, City of Alexandria]

More Local Halloween Events — “Celebrate a safe Halloween with friends and neighbors during Halloween Spirit Week, October 25 through October 31. The Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities offers a variety of fun options for families, and even their four-legged friends, throughout Alexandria.” [City of Alexandria, ALXnow]

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