Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Eggstravaganza Letter; BV Delay; No Police Notes

A BV delay on the Fast Track!
Last week I reported that the county board would most likely delay the final proposal on Buckingham to their June 9 meeting (at the request of the county manager in his report). At Saturday’s board meeting (items 35 A through G), they delayed the vote only to the May 5 meeting, again at the county manager’s behest. The reasons for the delay remain the same as in last week’s post (see it below). The delay will extend to June if the concerns cannot be addressed by May.

Carol Hoover’s Response
You’ll recall a couple posts back, I wrote about the Lubber Run Community Center’s Eggstravaganza and how I was a little curious about how people in Falls Church knew of the event, but my family didn’t. I was sure Carol Hoover, who directs Lubber Run and other centers for the county, would respond, and she did:

Sorry Steve we did not intend the event to be a secret, honest. I am delighted to hear that you had a good time (in spite of the freak snow fall). Next year let us hope for better weather to bring back the pony rides and baby animal petting zoo.
We advertised this annual event through flyers distributed to our preschool program, after school program, children’s classes, indoor playground, and [we] posted the flyer in the center lobby.

We also included a write up in the Arlington Forest newsletter. This program has been a neighborhood event started some 20 years ago and has grown with popularity. We have not posted this event in a larger medium such as the county web page because that would suggest it’s a county wide event vs. a neighborhood event and we do not have the capacity to handle a larger crowd or budget to support a larger event as it currently attracts 200-300 people.

However, we do want to get the word out to you and others in the neighborhood. What might you suggest? In the future may it be included in the Buckingham Herald? Are there other Buckingham mailing lists or neighborhood communication tools that we may use for this or other upcoming events? We will appreciate your suggestions. Thank you.


I’d be happy to post or email the latest Lubber Run happenings here. I’m looking into a listserv for the neighborhood. –Steve

Police Notes for Buckingham
Nothing this week! That’s three weeks of the last four. Excellent!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

BV Decisions Deferred; Police Note

Short Post Today
I’m happy to report that I’ve won my sabbatical for the upcoming school year. May can’t get here quick enough, I’ll tell you that. The blog and column that I write will get more attention (I have a story or two lurking that just need to have time with me before they can be released).

But until then, I have to get through finals, and for English professors (I teach journalism and composition at Montgomery College in Rockville) that means major projects and final exams. On top of that, I have senioritis something fierce, so it takes me about 30 percent longer to grade a batch of papers than it should! Soon, it will be over, and I’ll be able to focus on this writing more.

Buckingham Decisions to be Deferred
A vote set for this Saturday’s county board meeting making the Buckingham Villages “Scenario 8” redevelopment a reality will be postponed until the June 9 board meeting, according to a three-page recommendation by Ron Carlee, the county manager. Carlee writes that the county and the developer, Paradigm Development Companies, have agreed to the delay.

The vote should have ratified the final draft of the agreement between Paradigm and Arlington County.
The main points of the plan would have Paradigm sell Buckingham Village 3, on the northeast corner of N. George Mason and N. Pershing drives, through the county to an affordable housing developer which would renovate and resell the units in a condominium-type arrangement to moderate-income buyers.

Village 1, west of N. George Mason, would be razed and replaced with townhouses and two four-story apartment complexes.

A total of 766 apartments and townhouses, including 300 at affordable rates, would be created or renovated under the plan.

Both N. 3rd and 4th streets would be extended. A park on N. George Mason at 4th Street would be built. Other details involving sewage and the environment would have to be worked out.

Mr. Carlee writes that much of the work has been done, but “the sale of Village 3 and the streets and park space, conducting normal due diligence necessary for land acquisition and undertaking normal environmental investigations” still must be undertaken.

“These contracts are complicated and will take additional time. While the details of the site plan, affordable housing commitments and funding, the Master Transportation amendments and other items have been reviewed by the community and are ready to be approved, these other items are extremely important to the overall package,” he writes.

This is the second time the vote was delayed.

The original goal was to vote on the plan before March 1, the deadline set in last July’s
Memorandum of Understanding between the county and Paradigm; the MOU laid out the broad vision of the negotiations. Both sides agreed in February to delay.

At last month’s board meeting, the county agreed to much of the plan, but left details of the Village 3 sale out of that vote, with a plan to vote this month.


Police Note for Buckingham:
April 15: Robbery by Force, 400 block of N. Thomas Street.
At approximately 9:50 p.m., a woman walking down the street was pushed from behind by a man and fell to the ground. The man took the woman’s purse and fled on foot. The suspect is described as an unknown race male, 5 feet 7 inches tall, thin, wearing a large black hooded sweatshirt, black jeans, and black stocking material covering his face.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Art, Eggstravaganza, Extension Cords

Take the art, go ahead.
In a piece called “Give and Take” sculptor Cory Wagner pushed into the front lawn of the Arlington Arts Center, over 150 thin, steel poles with plastic bowls atop. In the bowls are phosphorescent balls—they’ll glow at night—which Mr. Wagner expects people to take.

I caught him as he was installing his piece for the latest Sculpture on the Grounds, which lasts through most of September (the opening is Friday, 6 to 9 p.m.).
He said the theme of the show is “Disintegration,” which put him in a quandary—he uses plastic, which doesn’t disintegrate, at least not fast enough. So he came up with the idea that he should make a piece that could be taken. And, if you feel generous, leave a little something in the bowl. He would prefer no bottle caps or trash, he said.
It also fits with his need to reuse materials.
“I always try to do this recycling thing,” he said.
The balls will glow at night like the stars, and the balls (they’re small and “kind of pathetic in a way”) represent sports and games, all which should fit into thoughts of childhood dreams, which if you’re following along, disintegrate too often when we grow, he said.
The other two pieces in the show look equally interesting. Margaret Boozer has an installation of different colored clays that will slowly disintegrate and run as the rain comes. Michele Kong has taken the grass behind the center as a space to draw abstract lines with the same paint used to demark soccer fields.

Lubber Run’s Eggstravaganza
I know Carol Hoover, the director of the Lubber Run Center and all of Section 2 of the county’s parks, will get back to me when I write this (since I know she reads this and is a big fan of all things Buckingham), but I must admit that I was a little disappointed at the Lubber Run Eggstravaganza Saturday, a holiday celebration sponsored by the county’s Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department and the Arlington Jaycees. A $3 entrance fee per child was collected.

The event was fun, and my kids had a blast with all the carnival toys. The egg hunt, in the cold of Saturday morning, was a big hit, and my kids are wearing the rings and everything else that came in the little, colored plastic eggs. The Easter Bunny had scattered about 1,000 of those eggs all over the lawn and playground at the center, and all were collected within four or five minutes, including the handful of golden eggs which won the children who found them a nice little basket.
I’m disappointed because I only found out about it on Friday, late afternoon, in an email from Pat Hope, the Buckingham Community Civic Association president. I met people from far-flung Arlington neighborhoods and from Falls Church (see the photo) as well as Buckingham, Ballston and Arlington Forest. I’ll admit I’m upset because I was feeling a little left out, and I was just wondering how it was advertised. I’m sure there’s a web site posting that I missed, or an email that went everywhere but to me. Still, I’d love to know how this was told to the community, and how I missed it.

[Kids and families wait--just barely holding back--for the start of Saturday's "Eggstravaganza" at Lubber Run Center last, chilly, Saturday.]

Can this be legal?
For the last couple of weeks, someone—I’m guessing it’s construction workers at the Gates of Ballston—has been running extension cords across Pershing Drive.

Police Notes for Buckingham
Two weeks in a row and nothing to report, according to the police (excellent!).

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Sparrow Pond Deluxe

Sparrow Pond Dredging and the Unfortunate Beavers
For the first time in years, Sparrow Pond has been dredged as its maintenance requires and a couple beavers who had taken up residence there have been killed by the county as the law requires, said Greg Zell, the director of the Long Branch Nature Center which maintains the pond for the county.

A beaver dam at Sparrow Pond, on the W&OD Trail near the Long Branch Nature Center, is a threat to the trail as the dammed water erodes the dirt under the trail and could cause a collapse. In 1996, the trail ended up being used as part of the dam, and the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority, which controls the trail, insisted that Arlington County remove those beavers and any future ones, Mr. Zell said.

“The law in Virginia is the beavers cannot be relocated,” Mr. Zell said. “It’s against the law to do so.”

So the county euthanized the beavers.

“Every other form of wildlife that might arrive is OK,” Mr. Zell said. [See the story about the 10 wood ducks, below.]

The lodges that the beavers form are part of the beaver’s dam. They are not the typical dome in the middle of the water. Mr. Zell said that the lodges are “a little bit of a disturbance” on the banks, a little pile of mud sticking out of the bank, and the beavers enter from holes under the water.

He said he knows of about five sets of beavers in the county, on Pimmit Run, and others in Four Mile Run.

“It usually doesn’t become a wildlife problem,” he said. These beavers might have meandered up from the Potomac River after being kicked out of their familial homes when they turned 2 years old. Usually Arlington County beavers stay only a short time since their food—trees, grasses and berries—quickly runs out or they cannot find a good place to make a home. They’ll stay two weeks or up to a couple months.

“They’re sort of hobos here,” Mr. Zell said. “They move in and out randomly.”

When the county removed the beaver dam in 1996, it also dug down the sparrow ponds, so that “we could still have a wetland,” Mr. Zell said.

The U-shaped pond is actually three-chambered. The first chamber, closest to the woods where the small tributary feeds it, is a “silt trap” which slows the water and large sediment drops out. The bottom of the “U” traps other sediments still in the water and the wet land, full of water plants, turtles and frogs, runs parallel to the trail and can be seen from an observation deck, Mr. Zell said.

The peninsula of land that forms the middle of the “U” is barren from the dredging of the sediment in the first chamber. The county waited for the very cold weather we had last month to dredge the first chamber, which needs to be emptied every five to eight years. Last year they couldn't do it because it didn't get cold enough. The heavy construction equipment does less damage to the ground when it is frozen, Mr. Zell said.

Within the next two weeks he plans to reseed the peninsula with a special wildflower mix, he said.

[The newly-dredged "first pond" of Sparrow Pond--this pond slows incoming water and traps the heaviest silt.]

[The staw-covered, graded peninsula of Sparrow Pond runs parallel to the "third pond" where ducks, turtles and frogs roam. The busted beaver dam is in the foreground.]

More about the Wood Ducks at Sparrow Pond
I thought I had a good day seeing three sets of wood ducks. Greg Zell, director of the Long Branch Nature Center said he’s seen 10 (that’s five ducks and five drakes for you counting at home). Mr. Zell said he has cleaned out the duck box and threw down some new chips inside, hoping to keep one set to nest.

“But I can’t force them to stay,” he said.

I’m wondering if a little mood music would work.

If you haven’t seen them, Sparrow Pond is on the Four-Mile-Run Trail about a half-mile north of Columbia Pike. It’s an easy walk from the Long Branch Nature Center.

[A female wood duck follows her mate into the water at Sparrow Pond.]

[A male wood duck paddles through Sparrow Pond. The blurriness can be blamed on photographer error!]

Meet the Robinsons
Brought the kiddies to see “Meet the Robinsons,” the new animated movie from Disney. It’s well worth the time and money. It’s the story of the orphan Lewis (hey, it wouldn’t be Disney if the parents weren’t dead or gone) a young inventor of nearly brilliant talent (if only his inventions would work all the time) and the boy from the future, Wilbur Robinson, who comes back in time to warn Lewis of “The Bowler Hat Guy.”

The two set off to find and stop Bowler Hat while learning the not-so-common kiddie movie theme of: "You’re stuck with what you got, and failure makes you stronger or can eat you up inside. Which it does is up to you." Gone is the orphan movie theme “your friends will be your family” and its corrolary: “your family is what you make it.” This one seems much more in line with a boot-straps attitude of “make what you have work for you.”

One caveat: explaining the concept of time travel and the space-time-continuum to 4- and 6-year-olds is mind-bending work. “He is both characters in that scene” is a tough sell for these guys!

One last item, the movie is based on the book “One Day with Wilbur Robinson” by William Joyce of “Rollie Pollie Ollie” fame.

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