The U.S. National Park Service is currently reviewing comments for the future plans for submitted during the public review period, which ended Nov. 5.
Ben Helwig, a park ranger with the George Washington Memorial Parkway, said a contractor to the park is analyzing the comments, a process he said should be completed within one or two months. The park service will then determine what action comes next.
“Our next steps are dictated by the comments we get back,” Helwig said.
The original deadline for comments, Oct. 6, was extended after a meeting between community representatives and the park service on Sept. 21. Community concerns included changes to walking and biking paths, the loss of picnic pavilions and the construction of a $250,000 visitor’s center.
The Mount Vernon Council of Citizens' Associations passed a resolution and included it in a letter submitted prior to the comment deadline. The resolution called for the National Park service to develop one or more additional designs for the park that would enhance facilities and programs to highlight the park’s historical nature, such as interpretive trails, signage and/or a visitor’s center.
The MVCCA also asked the park service to consider restoring the view down the Potomac River and across to Fort Washington from one of the batteries in the park, to preserve the picnic pavilions and restrooms and to preserve mature woodlands by not placing new trails or facilities in these locations, or replace any destroyed trees with native trees.
Additionally, the MVCCA asked the park service to employ low-impact development practices such as using pervious concrete, conduct a complete biological survey of the park, avoid impacting any endangered or threatened species, eliminate exotic invasive plants, give priority to preserving and restoring historic buildings, conduct archeological fieldwork and incorporate it into a new “living historical park,” work with the county to place a bus stop at the park and retain the current one-way traffic around the park.
Betsy Martin, chair of the MVCCA environment and recreation committee, said the association was supportive of park’s effort to showcase local history without removing recreational facilities or disturbing the local habitat but concerned about loss of recreational value.
"People were quite disturbed that they were going to remove the pavilions," Martin said. "…They’re a big part of the local benefits of the park. There aren’t many parks where you can reserve picnic tables like you can there.”
Mike Habib, a director of the Mount Vernon Civic Association and representative to the MVCCA environmental and recreation committee, said removing the pavilions would amount to a drastic change in the nature of the park.
“It’s one of the few green spaces we have around here, and a lot of people enjoy it,” he said. “A lot of groups make reservations for the picnic facilities.”
Habib said he and others have no objection to adding interpretative facilities at the park.
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