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What’s the Big Picture?

Some thoughts on the development of the new Potomac Nationals Stadium in Prince William County

There was a lot of discussion on Patch this week about the proposed . Some of the comments revolved around concerns for traffic and a couple of folks mentioned noise. A few people demanded to know what was wrong with the stadium in the current location. Many of the comments reflected concern the stadium might cost the taxpayers of Prince William County some tax dollars.

I appreciated learning the parking area for the stadium would accommodate commuter parking, too. (As well it should, since the Virginia State Secretary of Transportation, Sean Connaughton, said there was already $15 million allotted toward the commuter parking facility.)  I fully support stacked parking as an alternative to the typical huge sprawling asphalt lots that are not only hideous in appearance, but environmentally unfriendly, so this whole part appeals to me.

In a story from WTOP, some of the other amenities of the stadium were listed including a crab house and sky boxes, plus more dual purposing as described here: “Silber expects the park to be busy year-round with putt putt golf, ice skating in the winter and plans for a Christmas light show."

These activities all sound like fun, family-oriented and much needed in our local communities. I hope they will be in an affordable price range so young families can enjoy them.

I am a little dismayed that there will be more retail space and 300 residential units. The proposed 125,000 square feet of office space sounds appealing to me if it is possible to land a large corporate or government agency to fill it and to bring some jobs and business to PWC not dependent upon food service or retail. Better still if the 300 residential units house families who can simply walk across the street to their office instead of parking in that new commuter lot.

Another concern for me is the “walkability” factor. Trails and sidewalks are often planned to encourage residents to leave their cars at home. That’s great if you’re talking about a leisurely stroll and traffic whizzing by at 65 miles per hour is screened from view to help us maintain the illusion we have the best of both worlds. It’s not so appealing for residents in older neighborhoods where the noise and traffic is a deterrent factor.

Trails and walks designed just for leisure don’t serve that dual purpose, either. Is it possible to design more natural trails for leisure and walks that actually take us to a destination? Will the residents at Stonebridge be able to walk to shopping or dinner? If they can walk to Wegmans (and that seems increasingly unlikely) how would they get their groceries home?

I think back to a time when all the children walked to school. It’s too late for that, now. The minimum requirement for land for an elementary school is 20 acres, for a middle school it’s 40 acres and for a high school it’s 80 acres. Very few children in Prince William County can walk to school. I don’t yearn for days long past, but I think that a child walking to school with their friends in all kinds of weather was a good thing. It certainly was less expensive and healthier.

My grandfather and I often walked to the Winn Dixie or Kroger’s and carried back a paper bag or two filled with groceries. There were also small neighborhood grocery stores that carried a limited inventory of the basics: bread, milk, toilet paper and for my grandpa, chewing tobacco.

The year I was born, the population of the United States was 160,184,192. In 2011, we had over 311,000,000, the third largest population in the world. We can’t hold back development, but we can plan it better, and some ideas from the past deserve a chance in the future, just like some ideas for the future should be incorporated in our plans now.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Donna Heise July 24, 2012 at 11:29 PM
I wondered how all that traffic for the new stadium would affect ambulance times running to the hospital that is also there.
Connie Moser July 25, 2012 at 12:11 AM
Good point, Donna. I believe they have to do a traffic analysis that will tell the answer to your question. I have a friend that works for VDOT and I'll ask him if he can point us to the answer.

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