The Alexandria City Council has approved a plan for expanding and improving the West End's Holmes Run Greenway park that calls for the purchase of several adjacent parcels of land.
The council authorized the city staff to take the issue of acquiring the various tracts called for in the Holmes Run plan to the planning commission.
If approved by the planning commission, the council will then make final decisions on acquisition and financing.
"It feels great," Bernard (Ben) Brenman, self-described citizen-at-large and secretary of the Holmes Run Committee, said after the council vote.
Calling Saturday's public hearing a case of the people making their voice heard, Brenman praised the diverse group of "neighbors, civic association heads and community leaders" who came to the hearing "singing the same song."
City Manager Douglas Harman said that "carrying this plan out is going to take a long period of time and will involve more than this City ccuncil." He said there are a "large number of issues," including financial ones, to be settled before the plan can be fully implemented.
Approximately 100 persons packed the City Council chambers Saturday to hear 18 citizens testify on the plan. The speakers were united in their desire for an improved park and their opposition to a proposed high-rise apartment building that the Bethesda-based Courcheval Corp. wants to put on land it owns near the park.
Several speakers called the acquisition of the additional tracts the "last chance" for the city to expand the open space around Holmes Run and cited the need for additional parkland in the fast-growing West End.
Among them was Del Pepper, a former aide to Mayor Charles E. Beatley Jr., who represented the League of Women Voters at the hearing. Pepper said the park "needs to be protected and expanded" and that the city "may never have this opportunity again."
Speakers also said that residents of the West End, which make up more than half the city's population, feel left out when it comes to receiving city attention in such areas as parkland.
Donna Fossen, who represents the Hallmark Condominiums on the Holmes Run Committee, said the estimated 15,000 people living near Holmes Run have already lost a swimming pool on Van Dorn Street to a town house development.
She said residents of the West End would like facilities in their part of the city, too.
The facility the Holmes Run Committee has in mind for the park site is a new central city library. In August 1984, Courcheval Corp. offered to donate 50,000 square feet of the property it owns for the library in exchange for zoning concessions.
The city turned that offer down when some West End residents objected to the location, and Courcheval withdrew the offer from its latest plan for the apartments.
Brenman envisions a "high-tech information center" rather than the traditional library, a place "where you can read instead of looking for a parking space."
He wants a library with humidity control to preserve the books, computer-controlled stacks like those at the Library of Congress, and tie-ins to other libraries and industries in the area to give library patrons access to "any non-classified material" available.
In addition to placing the library on the Holmes Run site, the committee's plan calls for children's playgrounds, picnic areas, seating areas and a wildflower garden. The committee would also like to partially reroute a park bicycle trail that crosses the parking lot of a high-rise at 4600 Duke St.
Brenman calculates that the Holmes Run Committee has saved the city approximately $200,000 since it was formed three years ago. The members of the committee have worked thousands of hours, paid for their own postage, copies, travel and gas, and hand-colored their maps of the site, Brenman says.
And he's prepared to do more. Brenman would like to change both the name and the mission of his committee, expanding it into a West End planning committee. His objective would be a study of the area to assist the city in revising its master plan -- again, at no cost to the city.
Brenman said West End residents are looking for a reasonable balance between occupied and open space.
"We have been told the West End will grow by 11,000 people, while other areas may lose population . We're going to need the library and additional open space and maybe a school. We should plan for that now.
"We who live in the West End don't want to take from anyone else, but we don't want to be ignored. We believe no matter what it costs, we're worth it. We want to be a part of this city."