The Reston Community Center Board of Governors is considering a partnership with the Fairfax County Park Authority to construct a new aquatics and recreation center at Baron Cameron Park.
The RCC has been seriously considering such a facility since around 2008 because of high demand for its program, said RCC Executive Director Leila Gordon.
“There have been years in the recent past when we turned away as many people as we enrolled,” Gordon said. “We have wait lists for all of our after school and weekend swimming lessons. For fitness [classes], it’s the same thing.”
A proposal several years ago, to build a rec center and indoor tennis facility at Browns Chapel Park, was derailed due to strong community opposition. The current proposal is for a smaller building that does not include indoor tennis courts.
Under the concept being discussed now, the RCC would finance and operate the community center on county-owned land at the 68-acre park. Gordon noted that it includes both county and Reston investment, as the lack of county investment was a concern for some residents during the Browns Chapel discussions.
The Reston Community Center currently operates two facilities, including an indoor pool, fitness classes and gyms, a community theater and visual arts galleries. It receives its funding from a special tax district for Reston-area residents.
The proposed new rec center could have another indoor pool and additional fitness offerings, to meet demand, Gordon said, although the RCC Board is still collecting public input on what services people would like to see there.
Some Reston residents are expressing reservations about locating a new rec center at the park at all.
Carrie Sawicki, who lives in a neighborhood off Wiehle Avenue near the park, said people in her community have concerns about the additional traffic the center would bring to the park.
“It is a business,” she said.
Traffic has already increased on Wiehle Avenue as the result of its extension through to the Fairfax County Parkway. The opening of the Wiehle Avenue Metro Station at the end of this year will likely add more traffic, she said.
Sawicki said she would like to see a traffic study of the park area and the potential impact of the rec center traffic.
At a community input meeting last month, there was a diversity of comments, according to RCC Board of Governors member Roger Lowen. Some, like Sawicki, were concerned about traffic or other factors of the location, he said. Others said that Reston desperately needs better aquatic facilities, he said.
There is still ample opportunity for the public to provide input, Gordon said.
The RCC Board is accepting public comments on the proposal at its monthly board meetings and committee meetings through June 17.
In addition, the Fairfax County Park Authority is just starting work on the master plan for Baron Cameron Park. In order for a rec center to be constructed at the park, it would first need to be included in the master plan, which is another public process.
The project would also rely on bond financing, which would have to be approved by voters.
At the very earliest, if the community is supportive and everything goes through, Gordon said, construction could begin in early 2015.