Dead Trees Walking at Upton Hill

  • Keep Commitment to Cancelling Parking Lot and Road on Lower Level
  • Save the Playground Maples

After eight months and many revisions to meet storm water runoff standards and the public's demands to save more trees, the LDA permit for the Upton Hill Park renovations was finally approved January 16, 2019. Although the permit is approved, the bid for work on NOVA Parks website was for expanding the upper parking lot and putting in a storm water containment system. The building of the climbing structure on the upper level on the hill and the renovation of the playground on the lower level are in the future.

Happily, the approved permit does not include a new parking lot and road next to the playground. Pressure mounted on NOVA Parks in the summer of 2018 to change their poorly thought out plans for the playground area that included constructing a new parking lot and road right next to the RPA. In September 2018 NOVA Parks cancelled the parking lot and road, saving up to 49 trees. In December 2018, NOVA Parks informed us via our Arlington rep to NOVA Parks that the: "Plans for the lower parking lot and road access have been withdrawn from our permit application." With the permit approved, it seems the parking lot and road are now forgone for the moment, though some uncertainty remains as NOVA Parks keeps them on its website. Continuing monitoring will be needed to make sure NOVA Parks does not renege on its commitment.

Despite these successes, in the latest count, 19 trees will still be cut down in the playground area itself. (The rest to be cut in the upper part of the park primarily to expand the parking lot). Some of these trees are dead, but a number are healthy and good sized too, including three very nice mature maples. If you were in the park during the fall you may have noticed their beautiful fall foliage. They also shade the area on hot summer days and are generally very pleasant.

Toddlers and small children are more susceptible to heat-related illness, and sun exposure at an early age can lead to increased risk of skin cancer in adulthood. It also will be tough for kids to enjoy the new playground equipment while being baked in the hot summer sun!

The playground needs renovation -- adding some swings and sections for older and younger children -- and some TLC like keeping the area free of trash. We continue to advocate that as NOVA Parks continues to refine their plan they should make a natural playground integrating it into the existing landscape or use boardwalks as Arlington County has in its parks to save more trees.

In response to our inquiry about making a natural playground, NOVA Parks in December 2018 relayed via our Arlington rep to the NOVA Parks Board: “The new pathways in the lower playground area are designed to provide ADA accessibility to the lower park features. The maximum slope of such pathways requires some modification to the area to meet the legal standards. The actual playground equipment has not yet been bid out.”

The ADA, however, is not an obstacle to saving trees, protecting the RPA and improving our environment. Reasonable alternatives to the playground renovations would preserve at least some of the existing trees — if NOVA Parks chooses to be flexible.

The Three Maples

Left to right: Tree 3097, a 13” Red Maple; Tree 3098, a 16” Sugar Maple, and; Tree 3099, a 24” Red Maple. All to be removed for playground renovation.

Tree 3097, a 13” Red Maple on right. Tree 3098, a 16” Sugar Maple, and Tree 3099, a 24” Red Maple behind on left.

NOVA Parks September 6, 2018 letter to Arlington's Urban Forestry Commission cancelling plans for lower parking lot and road, saving 49 trees.