TJ Park Threatened by Proposed Elementary School
The Arlington School Board is proposing to build a new elementary school somewhere adjacent to the Thomas Jefferson Middle School, including Thomas Jefferson Park. We agree Arlington needs more seats for more students. But the School Board and the County Board should find a solution that saves the park. Arlingtonians should not be put in a position of having to choose between parks and schools.
Arlington Public Schools has released four “concepts” for the new elementary school. None of the concepts is acceptable. Each reduces green space, children’s playgrounds, and fitness options for our community.
TJ Park Benefits Our Entire Community
Parks are more important than ever in our increasingly urban county. Thomas Jefferson Park serves multiple purposes. Children and families use TJ Park for play and recreation. Senior citizens and others walk its path and gentle rolling hills for exercise. Fields and courts are available for soccer, baseball, tennis and basketball. The mature trees and open green space provide a place of respite and relaxation for county residents, and serves as the site of the much-beloved Arlington County Fair. The park plays a crucial role in the quality of life for Arlingtonians and it can never be replaced.
Long-Term Planning With Community Input is Needed
The School Board decided on June 16 to list Thomas Jefferson as the “preferred site” for the new elementary school in its 2014-2024 Capital Improvement Plan (CIP). The School Board made this decision with essentially no input from the community. On July 24, the County Board agreed to establish a community working group to evaluate whether the TJ site is an appropriate site for a new elementary school.
Arlington needs to recognize that it is now an urban area. We must shift to creative, long-term thinking rather than quick, short-term fixes. Underground parking, multi-story construction, and expansion of existing buildings should be embraced. No parklands should be converted to avoid such construction, as many green spaces are irreplaceable and will be much more difficult and expensive to acquire later.
Public Trust Should be Honored
The public trust requires that public officials honor the stewardship role the public vested in them to protect our parks. The public enacted park bonds specifically to support green space, parklands, and fitness spaces. To trade off this public good to save money would violate the trust embedded in that stewardship.
A new Thomas Jefferson Working Group was established and is charged with evaluating the Thomas Jefferson site and making a recommendation on whether or not a new elementary school should be built at this location. The Working Group is expected to convene in September 2014 and conclude its work by February 2015.
Photo of TJ Park, Middle School, Community Center and surrounding area.
Friends of Thomas Jefferson Park is a group of Arlington citizens committed to saving Thomas Jefferson (TJ) Park in the Arlington Heights neighborhood. The Arlington County School Board identified TJ Park as its “preferred site” for building a new elementary school on or adjacent to TJ Park. For more information, visit www.friendsoftjpark.org. Follow us on Twitter @savetjpark and Facebook at www.Facebook.com/SaveTJPark . Inquiries to Diane Canova (firstname.lastname@example.org; (202) 957-8089) or Charles Self (email@example.com; (405) 834-4701).