Last year, folks on both sides of Route 1 in the Hybla Valley area of Fairfax County got together to try to improve the recreational options for kids on the west side of “The Highway,” particularly for the roughly 1,500 kids who live in the Audubon Mobile Home Park. The 700-unit mobile home park is the largest in the area and offered few options for kids after school or during the summer, but it’s adjacent to a long vacant, vast parking lot that would seem to be perfect for a soccer field or five. Meanwhile, the group of churches and citizens groups assisted by VOICE, an interfaith community organizing group, helped raise funds to build synthetic turf fields at West Potomac and Mount Vernon high schools.
For Audubon, Fairfax County said it was looking at the vacant parking lot in the 7800 block of Route 1 , fronted by a small, diverse strip mall, as a possible transportation hub, and could perhaps convert the back part of the lot to recreational use. That plan has since suffered a setback. But last week, the owner of the mobile home park opened a small soccer field in the neighborhood itself, creating at least some green space while the county and the neighborhood groups try for better things in the 55,000-square-foot vacant lot nearby.
Last week, the neighbors and VOICE and Supervisor Jeff McKay (D-Lee) got together to celebrate the opening of the new field in Audubon, which was financed by Audubon’s management company, Hometown America. “This would not have happened without a lot of the hard work of the members in this neighborhood pressing for things to get better,” said Jennifer Knox, a VOICE spokeswoman. “It’s a mini-soccer field, but it’s enough for the kids to play.”
Carla Claure, one of the Audubon parents who were involved in lobbying for the field, said, “I’m very happy. Everybody’s talking about doing something for the kids in the summer, maybe some classes, especially for the little kids.”
McKay said the field was “obviously a good thing, that they were able to get their managment’s attention. The question is whether that can be sustained.” McKay said that while VOICE and the residents were lobbying the county for help, he suggested approaching Hometown America, which then agreed to build a small field on the property.
But using the parking lot adjacent to Audubon for the community still has some rivers to cross. McKay and the county had hoped that the county could buy the strip mall, with a Subway, a Hispanic grocery and the empty former site of the Hybla Valley Twin movie theaters, and make it into a bus transit hub along Route 1. In the back, the part of the 55,000-square-foot lot not used by the transit center could become soccer fields, the VOICE coalition and Fairfax hoped.
“The transit center’s not going to happen there,” McKay said Monday. “There was a complete refusal by the owner to sell it to the county,” and it wouldn’t be a good candidate for some sort of eminent domain takeover, McKay said, with other sites available. In fact, the county is looking at some other sites within walking distance of Audubon for a possible transit center in the South County area of Fairfax, McKay said.
But McKay has asked the county to look into leasing the vacant back part of the shopping center, where the Hybla Twin used to be, for perhaps a small community center or a Head Start facility, “and we may be able to put some recreational facilities there too.” The county is researching its options, he said.