Stephanie Dimond, along with other Old Town Alexandria residents, finds the city's Jones Point Park an idyllic stretch. She likes to exercise her white Labrador retriever there after work. "It's perfect the way it is," she said.
But not for long.
Since the City Council voted to restore Jones Point, the park has been the focus of a neighborhood row reminiscent of the turn-of-the-century days when neighbors complained about rowdy and red-light riverboat activities.
"The less done to Jones Point the better," Old Town resident Ann Marie Fedder said about the 60-acre park at Alexandria's southern tip. "Anything that will bring more people, we don't want."
Fedder, a 28-year-old lawyer, said that everyone wants the park clean, but that many believe the planned additions will upset the park's rabbits, squirrels and herons. "There has got to be a better use for all the money they're spending," she said.
The City Council decided in February to allocate $892,985 during the next seven years to rid the area of trash and to build a bicycle path, nature trail and boardwalk in Jones Point. Last week, the National Capital Planning Commission, which reviews all projects concerning federal land, approved that plan.
Jones Point, the site of what local historians say is the oldest lighthouse on inland waters and the former site of a fort from the War of 1812, is leased by Alexandria from the federal government.
"It would be a shame to change it," Dimond said, echoing the sentiments of many regulars. "It's one of the few places in Old Town not overly planned."
Currently, only two soccer fields, a few fishing piers and a smattering of picnic tables adorn the wooded park.
But while some residents vehemently oppose the upcoming changes in the park, others, including Ben Brenman, the president of the Alexandria Archaeological Commission, strongly support the park plans.
"I resent like hell anybody saying they don't want more people looking at the Potomac," said Brenman. "It's one of the most historical sites in the city."
Robert C. Hoffman also believes that increasing the use of the park is exactly what the city should be doing. Hoffman, a retired captain formerly with the Alexandria fire department, rides his bicycle twice a week along the edge of Jones Point Park, but after the new bicycle path is constructed, he said, he'll be riding through the park.
And Frederick Tilp, of course, wants most of the park replanted with trees. Tilp, 77, considered a local Potomac River authority, said he would like the park to resemble the forest Cadwalader Jones saw when he established an Indian trading post in 1682 at what is now Jones Point.
Tilp, the author of "This Was Potomac River," a compilation of 52 years of historical research, said that since Jones' trading times, the waterfront park has been a rich source of debate.
"In 1902 and 1903 there were gambling barges moored there," and later, he said, there was Madam Rose's houseboat, christened "Dream," on which "girls peddled their bodies."
"The do-gooders in Washington didn't want the boats on their property," Tilp said, but the nearby residents were not pleased with them either and eventually forced them farther downstream.
George Colyer, the city's planning director, said that when the plans he has worked on for three years are implemented, Jones Point will once again "look significantly different." But the additions approved by the City Council in February are minor compared to those proposed, he said.
Because of opposition from Old Town residents, Colyer said, the council turned down plans for a tot playground, tennis courts, a historical memorial and a museum. Considering that the federal government discussed in the 1960s building the National Aquarium at Jones Point, Colyer said, neighbors have nothing to fear in the new plans.