Open Letter and Comment to the National Park Service Re: Draft Jones Point Park Recreation and Visitor Services Plan

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Open letter and comment to the National Park Service in response to the draft for public review: Jones Point Park: Recreation and Visitor Services Plan.

I appreciate the National Park Service’s attention towards Jones Point Park. Over the past few months, I have been supporting Balance Paddleboarding, a Stand-Up Paddleboarding (SUP) social enterprise that has been operating with a Commercial Use Authorization (CUA) as a Guide and Outfitter (http://balancepaddleboarding.com). During that time, as part of the Balance Paddleboarding team, I have helped lead Spring and Summer large clean-up events in partnership with the Potomac Conservancy. Additionally, I have worked with Balance Paddleboarding in supporting several ongoing litter clean-up initiatives that engage visitors to take responsibility and remove trash from the river by providing monetary incentives.

Over this period, I have spent, on average, 8 hours every Saturday and Sunday at Jones Point Park. This time spent has provided me with the opportunity to gain many insights into the Park’s operations, and in turn, I have many comments.

Clean-Up Strategies and Partnerships

As a supporter of Balance Paddleboarding and the mission to clean and beautify the river, I ask that Balance Paddleboarding be recognized as a partner in the Jones Point Park Recreation and Services Plan. It is the intent of Balance Paddleboarding to establish a long-term relationship and operation in and as part of Jones Point Park. Given the organization’s ongoing commitment to clean-up the river, the fact that they are not included in the draft plan is troubling to me.

To this point, within the Operations and Maintenance Strategies section, the draft plan mentions NPS’s intent to establish Jones Point specific Partnerships with the Alice Ferguson Foundation for clean-up events. This past spring, Balance Paddleboarding, in partnership with Potomac Conservancy, hosted a very large clean-up event in which over 70 volunteers picked up over 10,000 pounds of trash and recyclables as part of the Alice Ferguson River Watershed Cleanup day.  (http://www.balancepaddleboarding.com/2016/04/18/over-160-garbage-bags-of-trash-and-recyclables-collected/) In addition to this event, Balance Paddleboarding, in partnership with Potomac Conservancy hosted a second event on August 13th. These events are planned to be recurring seasonal activities to draw attention to the health of Potomac River and make more people aware of what Jones Point Park offers.

New Recycling Bins

I strongly support the addition of dedicated recycling bins to be alongside the existing trash cans. To that point, it would be beneficial to beneficial to increase the number of trash and recycling cans and locate them in areas adjacent to the picnic tables. These areas are most used by families and groups of friends having cookouts. The current layout of trashcans, located far apart from each other, asks for loose trash to escape and make its way into the Potomac.

Coordination with Alexandria City

On page 25, the plan mentions that Alexandria City and NPS already coordinate some operations. I would suggest that the scope of this partnership expands broadly. It was recently brought to my attention that Alexandria’s Department of Recreation and Cultural Activities does not have access to Jones Point Park fields for programming activities. Given the historic relationship between Jones Point Park and the City of Alexandria, this should be addressed, and open fields should be made available to RPCA programming activities given the mutual benefit that would result.

Additionally, Alexandria City is in the process of planning draining improvements to rectify the combined storm water sewage (CSS) infrastructure. Given the critical importance of this infrastructure improvement for Alexandria, Jones Point Park, and the Potomac River watershed, I would hope that National Park Service coordinates with the City to ensure that any work does not interfere with infrastructure improvements that would need to be made. Completing both types of improvements in conjunction with other work could lead to important cost-savings.

Bike Path

In regards to NPS’s plans to relocate the bike path, I support that proposed plan to redirect the bike path to the perimeter of the park so long as the road is large enough to accommodate dedicated and separate bike and pedestrian lanes. Without separated lanes, NPS should expect that same conflicts and safety hazards that currently occur on the bike path to continue to occur on the new path. As it stands now, a combination of limited visibility and the speed at which the cyclists travel through Jones Point Park, make it very dangerous for pedestrians to use the paved path. By widening the path and creating separate pedestrian and cyclists lanes, I believe that both would be accommodated safely and enjoyably.

Boat Launch

In regards to changing the boat launch to accommodate kayaks, I would like to note that Balance Paddleboarding is able to safely and effectively use the existing dock. Before beginning operations, I expected that the height of the dock would make it difficult, that has not been the case.

Expansion of Accessible Space

In regards to the improvements, I believe the concrete retaining walls north of the USS Gunston Hall interpretive ship footprint should be improved to the same condition that they were improved elsewhere, as part of the most recent redevelopment of Jones Point Park.  Currently, a fenced area surrounding that retaining wall is inaccessible and consequently a place where immense amounts of litter accumulate. I would recommend finishing the retaining wall to match the rest of the park. Making this available as a shaded fishing area would be a beneficial improvement.

Fishing Pier Signs

In regards to the fishing piers, park users would benefit from increased guidance to fisherman through signs to encourage  responsible clean-up, which is currently often neglected. It would also establish guidelines for how to use bait. To that point, having running water closer to the piers would enable more effective cleaning of the pier areas where baitfish that are often used.

Overflow Parking

Given the existing parking limitations, I would suggest that there be a curb cut from the existing parking lot in use to the open grass field to the north of that lot that would allow for overflow parking when special events require additional parking. Currently, the field is rarely used, and unless it is made available as a dedicated sports field, making it available for limited access overflow parking would allow it to yield utility.

Dogs

In regards to page 14 and the language regarding dog-related infrastructure, as someone who spends 8 hours, twice a week, at Jones Point Park, I have noticed no misuse of the open grass area by dog owners. Though many owners do find that it is a good opportunity to unleash their pets, from my experience at Jones Point Park, dog owners there are very responsible, and clean up after their pets. I reject that notion that there are significant amounts of “Dog Waste” that would contribute to runoff contamination. Though, I am sure that dog owners would very much appreciate a dedicated dog-friendly area. In the South Old Town, there is limited dog park areas, the only other of which, Windmill Hill Park, is a much smaller space than Jones Point Park, and is in the midst of improvements that may make it inaccessible at times in the future.

 

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