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Picnic (photo via Evangelina Silina/Unsplash)

Starting next week, Alexandrians can reserve picnic areas around the city for birthday parties, quinceaneras or other celebrations and events.

The rental season runs from April to October. The parks can be reserved in four-hour blocks, from 10- a.m.-2 p.m. or 3-7 p.m.

Some of the parks come with certain restrictions; no alcohol is permitted at Armistead L. Boothe Park for instance, while no sound amplification is permitted at Fort Ward Park.

Costs vary by park and residency, from $75 for the smaller parks to $231 for a non-resident renting one of the larger park areas.

Beer in kegs and wine pay be permitted with approval from the Director of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities and an ABC license.

Parks that can be reserved this year are:

  • Armistead L. Boothe Park, 520 Cameron Station Blvd.
  • Ben Brenman Park, 4800 Brenman Park Drive
  • Chinquapin Park, 3210 King Street
  • Fort Ward Park, 4301 West Braddock Road
  • Lee Center, 1108 Jefferson Street
  • Old Town Pool, 1605 Cameron Street

Photo via Evangelina Silina/Unsplash

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Pedestrian Bridge at Ben Brenman Park (image via Google Maps)

A pedestrian bridge at Ben Brenman Park will be closed over the next month for repairs.

The closure means anyone going to the Ben Brenman Dog Park or Ben Brenman Park Volleyball Courts will have to take a small detour to another bridge further west.

The city said the bridge repairs are needed after a bridge inspection last year showed deteriorated under-bridge beams.

According to the city website:

It was observed during the last bridge inspections completed in November 2023, that some of the under-bridge beams have deteriorated and have to be replaced. The bridge conditions are rated as “poor” due to structural deficiencies in the beams. These conditions affect the bridges crossing over Holmes Run Stream to the Holmes Run Trail, and the southeastern bridge crossing over Backlick Run to the Brenman picnic and volleyball area.

Work on the bridge is scheduled to start on Monday, Feb. 26, and is expected to take a month to complete.

Image via Google Maps

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Attention Del Ray dog owners: The Eugene Simpson Park will reopen to the public in the beginning of next year at the end of more than a year of redevelopment.

The formerly dusty, not-grassy park at 521 E. Monroe Avenue will be closed for the last three months of the year to allow for a “sod establishment period,” according to the city.

“Construction at the dog park continues with grading and site preparation for tree installation and sod installation this month as the start of the fall planting season approaches,” the city told ALXnow in an email.

In other Del Ray dog-related news, more work is being completed this fall on the dog run at Mount Jefferson Park (300 block of Hume Avenue). Work began on Mount Jefferson Park in Jan. 2022.

“The developer has been working with staff on a few options to address the drainage issues within the dog run and will be submitting a revised site plan,” city parks planner Judy Lo told ALXnow. “We anticipate the northern section of the dog run will be re-graded with possibly additional inlets and/or bioretention and plantings. This type of work is best done in the fall when the temperatures start to cool.”

Photos via Facebook and City of Alexandria

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Patrick Henry Recreation Center (image via City of Alexandria)

As the new Patrick Henry Recreation Center (4653 Taney Avenue) wraps up some of the final improvements, the city is putting together a new advisory council to shape what’s next for the rec center.

Recreation Parks and Cultural Activities (RPCA) is hosting a meeting early next month to determine interest in a new Council to shape the future of the Patrick Henry Rec Center.

“Join us for the Advisory Council Interest Meeting on Tuesday, 10/3, 6-7 p.m.,” RPCA wrote in a tweet. “Let’s shape the future of Patrick Henry Rec Center by sharing our insights, organizing events, and championing community needs. Together, we’ll build a better Alexandria!”

The recently rebuilt recreation center opened in 2019. A new turf field, playground and parking lot are scheduled to be completed sometime this fall.

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

Those hoping to spend an afternoon at one of Alexandria’s recreation centers next week might be disappointed: centers around town are shutting down for an end-of-summer clean.

The annual cleaning comes at the end of the summer camp programs to prepare the facilities for fall.

The Leonard “Chick” Armstrong, Mount Vernon, Patrick Henry and William Ramsay recreation centers will all be closed from Monday, Aug. 14 to Saturday, Aug. 19, with the William Ramsay Recreation Center remaining open only for basketball camp.

The Charles Houston Recreation Center will be closed a little longer: from Sunday, Aug. 13 to Sunday, Aug. 20.

The Chinquapin Park Recreation Center & Aquatics Facility cleaning is staggered a little later than the others but will be closed the longest, from Saturday, Aug. 19 to Monday, Sept. 4.

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Annual dog swim at Warwick Pool (image via RPCA/Facebook)

If you’re looking to escape the heat in one of Alexandria’s public pools, time is running out.

Starting in two weeks, Alexandria’s pools will start to close. The first to go is Memorial Pool at 901 Wythe Street, which is open through Sunday, Aug. 20.

The Old Town Pool and Warwick Pool, meanwhile, will be open through Monday, Sept. 4.

The last to close isn’t really a pool, but the Potomac Yard Interactive Fountain, which is open through mid-October.

Finally, the pool at the Chinquapin Park Recreation Center and Aquatics Facility (3210 King Street) is open year-round.

On the bright side, as the pool season comes to a close, the city opens its pools for the annual dog swim.

On Saturday, Sept. 16 and Sunday, Sept. 17, well-behaved and vaccinated dogs are allowed to hop in the pool and swim.

“This event is open to all well-behaved and vaccinated dogs,” Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities said on Facebook. “Entry is free, but owners must pre-register. Separate registrations for each dog are required.”

Image via Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities/Facebook

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Simpson Park overhaul plans (image via City of Alexandria)

Eugene Simpson Stadium Park is going from natural turf to artificial turf, and feelings in the community seem decidedly mixed.

At a meeting this past Saturday, the City Council voted unanimously in favor of a new plan that will replace the field with synthetic turf. Sentiment in the public hearing was mixed, with some concerned about issues like creating a heat island and others saying the synthetic turf will make the fields more usable.

“I specifically want to call out the need for synthetic turf at big Simpson Field,” said Alexandria Little League President Sherry Reilly. “The lack of big fields in the city means the entire Alexandria baseball community uses the two current fields almost non-stop. Having only two big fields shared by all the baseball organizations as well as the collegiate team means that we use the fields constantly during spring, summer and fall baseball seasons. It is a crazy game of Tetris trying to fit all of these organizations onto our two big fields.”

But others said they were concerned that the artificial turf, which often gets hotter than regular grass fields, may make sports unplayable for more of the year than current weather problems do.

“I’m not sure how many of you have been on the fields during the summer but they exceed 120 degrees,” said nearby resident Brian Collins. “I’ve heard the proposal increases playability, but I haven’t heard any mention of loss due to heat.”

Even on the City Council, feelings were mixed about the artificial turf. City Council Kirk McPike said that while artificial turf isn’t ideal, he was of the belief that it was better than leaving the fields inaccessible due to rain.

Alexandria resident Jeremy Flachs noted in the comments that there are concerning signs that artificial turf may have been at least partially responsible for cancers developed by athletes in Philadelphia.

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Simpson Park overhaul plans (image via City of Alexandria)

Eugene Simpson Park is getting a set of synthetic turf fields as part of a broader overhaul with city leaders saying the added usability outweighs the detriments of the artificial grass field.

At a meeting this past Saturday, the City Council unanimously voted in favor of a large-scale renovation (item 20) to eugene Simpson Stadium Park (426 East Monroe Avenue).

The project will involve the renovation of the two baseball diamonds at the site and accessory buildings, an expansion of the parking lot to add 16 new spaces, and more walkways and paths. The new project will also relocate the basketball court to a spot next to the dog park.

The public comment included a wide range of criticisms of the project, from concerns about heat build-up on the synthetic turf to frustrations that added pathways at part of the park will cut down on the natural open space.

“The current proposal appears to suggest having a very large oval sidewalk system… [that] would carve up open spaces used by kids and dogs and families into an unusable area,” said nearby resident Sebastian Norton. “Based on that, we would oppose only that aspect of the renovation.”

“I’m not sure how many of you have been on the fields during the summer but they exceed 120 degrees,” said Brian Collins. “I’ve heard the proposal increases playability, but I haven’t heard any mention of loss due to heat.”

Others said they were excited about the benefits of a synthetic turf field.

“We strongly support the field improvements,” said Alexandria Little League President Sherry Reilly. “I specifically want to call out the need for synthetic turf at big Simpson Field. The lack of big fields in the city means the entire Alexandria baseball community uses the two current fields almost non-stop. Having only two big fields shared by all the baseball organizations as well as the collegiate team means that we use the fields constantly during spring, summer and fall baseball seasons. It is a crazy game of Tetris trying to fit all of these organizations onto our two big fields.”

The City Council voted unanimously to approve the plans to overhaul the park.

“It’s a park that’s well-loved by the community,” Mayor Justin Wilson said. “I get [the tradeoff] about turf. I’ve been to many, many soccer games on artificial turf. It stinks and nobody wants to sit on turf, but it is also a balance with playability.”

Other concerns were raised about locating a basketball court immediately adjacent to a dog park, but staff said a four-foot concrete wall and higher fencing will be installed to separate the two and the city could add “sound attenuating screening” to block out sound and reduce opacity between the two parks.

City Council member Kirk McPike said the 2% loss of space for the dog park in the new project will become more of a noticable issue if the basketball court becomes a nuisance for people and canines in the dog park. McPike said it’s something the city will have to monitor.

“I hope staff will stay in touch with the community that uses that park to see if we need to do any further mitigations,” McPike said, “though as my aide texted me to note: there are no rules against a dog playing basketball.”

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The grand finale of Alexandria’s birthday celebration over the Potomac River, July 7, 2018 (staff photo by James Cullum)

Get your lawn chairs and picnic blankets ready for fireworks, because Alexandria’s 274th birthday celebration is happening in Old Town on Saturday, July 8.

The event at Oronoco Bay Park (100 Madison Street) draws thousands of people every year. It’s always held the first Saturday after July 4, and features performances from the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra, a declaration from Town Crier Ben Fiore-Walker, a poem from Alexandria’s Poet Laureate Zeina Azzam and brief speeches by city leaders.

Mayor Justin Wilson, City Council members and other officials will also hand out birthday cupcakes to attendees.

The celebration kicks off at 6 p.m. and ends with a grand finale fireworks display at 9:30 p.m.

Visit Alexandria recommends these vantage points to see the best fireworks:

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The Alexandria City Council on Tuesday will consider naming a one-acre park in Old Town after a local champion of parks, Judy Guse-Noritake.

The open space, a few blocks from the Braddock Road Metro station at 600 N. Henry Street, is currently named Braddock Interim Park. After the city acquired the land in 2010, it developed the property as part of the Braddock Metro Neighborhood Plan with gathering areas, a ping pong table, a bocce ball court, horseshoe pits and seating.

For a permanent name, the city is turning to Guse-Noritake, who died last year. She was deeply involved in the Braddock area and parks planning, as well as the longtime chair of the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission.

In May, the city solicited feedback on a proposal to rename the interim park, which not far from the Braddock Road Metro station, and received many letters of support.

“Judy was a mentor, a colleague, and a friend, and had an indelible impact on our community over the years as a community leader and resident of Alexandria,” Planning Commission Chair Nathan Macek wrote. “The park is a manifestation of her, and the coalition’s, vision for a vibrant park in the heart of a growing community.”

Guse-Noritake founded the Braddock Metro Citizens’ Coalition and hosted a number of events at the park over the years. She is credited as a driving force behind the city’s Open Space Master Plan, Dog Park Master Plan, Athletic Field Master Plan, Recreational Needs Assessment and the Open Space Fund. Guse-Noritake also served eight years on the Virginia State Board of Forestry, as well as multiple terms on the board of the Potomac National Heritage Scenic Trail.

Luca Gattoni-Celli, CEO and founder of YIMBYs of Northern Virginia, wrote Guse-Noritake was one of the most engaged civic activists he knew in Alexandria.

“This is very obviously the correct decision and naming the park after anyone else would be almost insulting to Alexandria and to the memory of Ms. Guse-Noritake,” Gattoni-Celli wrote.

The unit owners association for The Henry condominium complex, which is located across the street, also endorsed naming the park after Guse-Noritake.

“Today, all around our City, Judy leaves a rich legacy of what is possible when you work to bring people together around good ideas,” the association wrote. “That legacy of parks, good design, diverse neighborhoods and sustainable communities is one that will benefit generations.”

Images via Google Maps

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