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Park Authority begins plans for two south county parks

The Fairfax County Park Authority is launching a master plan process for two park properties adjacent to one another. The master plan, expected to be completed next year, will govern future uses of Mason Neck West Park and Old Colchester Park and Preserve.

Both parks are located on Old Colchester Road in the Lorton area.

The county has owned 14 acres of Mason Neck West Park since 1983 and the park currently features several athletic facilities, including a baseball diamond. In 2007, the Park Authority acquired an additional 31 acres of land to expand the park. The master plan process will focus on how to use this additional land.

Also in 2007, the county acquired a 141-acre property through the Federal Lands to Parks program. Now known as the Old Colchester Park and Preserve, the park includes portions of the former chartered Town of Colchester as well as Native American sites. The town was chartered in 1753 and is one of the oldest settlements in the county.

Park Authority archaeologists have been excavating the Old Colchester site since 2010 and the park has hosted occasional open houses to educate residents about what they have found there.

The property also includes a marsh, wetlands and other valuable natural resources. According to the Park Authority, the master plan for Old Colchester Park will be focused on preserving the cultural and natural resources there.

A public meeting on the master plan process will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Gunston Elementary School, 10100 Gunston Road in Lorton.

Free cab rides available for St. Patrick’s Day

Revelers celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in Northern Virginia can take advantage of the SoberRide service, which offers free cab rides on many holidays in an effort to curb drunken driving.

The service will be available to people 21 and older who are celebrating with alcohol from 4 p.m. Monday through 4 a.m. Tuesday. Fares are covered up to $30. Call 800-200-8294 to request a ride.

More than 200 people used the service last St. Patrick’s Day, according to the Washington Regional Alcohol Program, which administers the SoberRide program.

Silver Line receives latest batch of federal funds

The U.S. Department of Transportation released an additional $90 million grant for the first phase of the Dulles Metrorail Project this week, according to U.S. Rep. Jim Moran’s (D-8th District) office.

This does not represent newly approved funding for the project. The grant is the latest installment of a $900 million grant that was approved in 2008.

The 11.7-mile extension, known as the Silver Line, includes five new Metro stations in Fairfax County. Construction of the first phase originally was expected to be complete by early this year, but the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority and its contractor, Dulles Transit Partners, still are working to resolve issues that emerged during testing.

Falls Church city manager proposes budget

City of Falls Church Manager Wyatt Shields released his $81 million budget proposal for fiscal 2015 on Tuesday. His budget includes a nearly 10 percent increase in spending on city schools and a 3.7 percent increase in spending on city government functions.

To fund the increased spending, Shields is proposing a 4.5-cent increase in the city’s real estate tax rate, to $1.35 per $100 of assessed value.

“The FY15 Budget will require tough decisions given the gap between expenditure growth and economic growth,” Shields wrote in the introduction to the budget document.

The City Council will hold public hearings on the budget March 24, April 14 and April 22. All three hearings will begin at 7:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers of Falls Church City Hall. Budget documents are available at