In an effort to speed the day when children from densely populated sub-divisions in southern Alexandria can play, hike and bike in a 40-acre tract along Cameron Run, approximately 50 citizens and Alexandria City Councilwoman Ellen Pickering walked through the proposed Cameron Run park Sunday afternoon.
An offshoot of the 12-million Cameron Run Valley flood control project, the park will be Alexdria's biggest. As planned, it will include areas for 13 different sports, community garden plots and 20 acres of undisturbed woodland.
Residents of nearby subdivisions said they hoped that their show of interest would prod the City Council into giving a higher priority to completion of the park. Pickering agreed, saying, "Tomorrow isn't soon enough."
Under the city's current schedule, the park will be completed in about four or five years, according to Dayton Cook, director of transportation and environmental services. But he said it could be speeded up if the Council supplies money sooner.
The park development is expected to cost $1.4 million, exclusive of land costs. Most of the land was acquired by the city as part of the flood control project, and a final $900,000 parcel is being purchased with half of the funds coming from the state.
"It is a lovely piece of park," said Lena Williams, a resident of nearby Duke Gardens who organized the walk and looked on the park as the belated but welcome fulfillment of a 20-year-old promise to her neighborhood.
The Duke Gardens neighborhood was promised a small park when it was built two decades ago, but because of a land swap by the city the park was put elswehere, Williams said.
"We were so pleased to find that it is so near so many people who need the park so much," Williams said. "I think all children deserve a place where to, and throw a ball as far as they want to, and throw a ball as far as they want to. They couldn't do that in the streets."
vinnie Belletti, 18, agreed. "I'm just glad this thing is happening. Before, we played around our street and got thrown out all the time when the police came."
Like many local youths, Belletti said he has ignored the no trespassing signs and played in the woodland along Cameron Run. But he said he was still looking forward to using the bike trails, tennis courts, playing fields, and skating rink that the city is expected to build once it completes flood control work, in about two years.
Until recently, the park was almost inaccessible. The recent flood control fixtures made access easier,M theough two railroad overpasses over the old stream bed on the northwest side of the park.
City landscape architect James Chasovitz said this main access to the park will eventually be paved as a bike trail and pedestrian walkway. Chasovitz said an access to the northeast, nearer Duke Gardens, would be "very costly."
For some of the residents on last weekend's tour, the walk was their first look at a natural area only a few minutes walk from their homes. Though located in a densely populated area, the park area is landlocked by railroad tracks on the north and west, the Capital Beltway on the south and an elevated stretch of Telegraph Road on the fourth side.
Until recently, the entire area was woodland. Now much of the area has been cleared, as the city has made new channels and flood basins for Cameron Run.
Flood control fixtures will take up about 30 acres of the park, but of the remaining 40 acres, half has been committed for a nature area.
Marian Bond, a member of a citizens' committee that recommended preserving a large nature area, said the citizens' group divided the park into plots and inventoried its flora and fauna. The group concluded that the area was a natural Virginia woodland that should be preserved. Among other things rabbits, raccoons, possums, skunk, foxes and deer inhabit the woodland.
However, the Springfield/Francomia Metrorail line, which is under study and uncertain of funding, will intrude on the park if it is built. And a planned six-lane stretch of Eisenhower Road between Van Dorn Street and Telegraph Road, would go through the middle of the park.
When it is completed, Cameron Run Park will be come part of a "stream valley park" stretching through western and southern Alexandria and part of Fairfax County. Wallace Toney, a member of the citizens' advisory committee, estimated that the valley park will include approximately 100 acres of parkland along Cameron Run and Holmes Run. A bike trail will also run along the length of the stream valley.