Issues: Plans to Operate Clermont Park at Night
On Dec. 3rd, 2019, the Board of Supervisors voted to removed a deed restriction to allow Clermont Park to operate at night. This change opens the door for noise, car parking, and significant lighting of the ball fields, parking lot and walkways. Neighborhood residents agree this is a bad idea.
See Take Action page for what you can do to say "no".
ISSUE # 1
Poor Community Engagement
The original request to light the fields began in 2018. However, broader community engagement was so lacking before the July 25th public meeting that even the other ball-fields stakeholders (the girl's softball league who uses Clermont Park) showed up with feedback that they were unaware of this discussion.
The original distribution of innocuous "master plan revision" postcards for the July 25 meeting appear to have been mailed only to residents adjacent to the park (despite this "local" park serving residents in a 3-mile radius).
The broad community perspective supporting the deed restrictions has been ignored in favor of a single-use interest of expanding the infrastructure to interrupt the quiet, night time of the park. Changes to the deed do nothing to support broader community use of Clermont Park because the community who lives closest to this park hasn't been sufficiently considered.
ISSUE # 2
Deed Prohibits Lighting
In 2000, Park Authority staff working with a community task force agreed to exclude lighting, permanent loudspeakers, and permanent concession structures from the Master Plan in return for reduced set back of the parking lot and ball fields from Franconia Rd and nearby homes.
In March 2007 – The Board of Supervisors Transferred 40.61 Acre Property to Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA) with Deed Restrictive Covenants including:
Prohibition of installation or Use of Any Lighting, Permanent Concession Areas and Permanent Sound Systems on the Property
FCPA is proposing to remove the deed restriction in order to allow night operation and lighting of the park -- UNLESS THERE IS SUFFICIENT PUBLIC OPPOSITION.
ISSUE # 3
Noise and Traffic
Residents in homes near Clermont Park enjoy, or are used to, the daytime noise of baseball, from the crack of the bat to the cheering crowd. They hear the practice and games in the early evenings during the week and all day on the weekends. This noise is expected to end at dusk, returning to peace and quiet at night. If this proposal is enacted, residents will be subject to noise from yelling and cheering late into the night daily from late March (field open) until early November (field closure). There are 100 homes within just the first 1,000 feet of the park and many more hear the sounds from the park.
Traffic along Franconia Rd. is congested in the morning and evenings and frankly quite hazardous to pedestrians crossing near the park. Traffic into and out of the park will extend congestion challenges on Franconia Rd. to evening hours.
No traffic impact study was conducted in advance of this proposal.
ISSUE # 4
Lighting of a Large Area
The proposed lighting plan calls for artificial illumination of two of the four baseball fields, parking area, and walkways. The total lighted area will be quite large and will transform the park from a tranquil naturally lit property that recedes into the night to a bright, large, artificially lighted parking lot filled with cars and large brightly lighted ball fields that span much of the park's width.
Clermont's parking area is 53,000 square feet which is more area than a football field. Two ball fields will require about 137,000 square feet of field to be lighted from 70' poles so players can see fly balls. Total proposed Park lighting exceeds 190,000 square feet! For comparison, this is nearly the area of the Rose Hill/Safeway shopping center lighted parking.
Lower Real Estate Value
Today, proximity to Clermont Park is perceived as adding value to homes nearby. If FCPA implements night time Park operations, home proximity near the park's artificial lighting, night time parking and noise could be perceived as a nuisance and the value of properties have the real possibility of being negatively impacted.
Which would you choose to live next to: (1) a lighted parking lot full of cars or (2) a park that closes at dusk?
The wooded area directly adjacent to the proposed lighted fields is designated as a Resource Protection Zone (RPZ). Staff tells us there will be "No changes proposed for the conservation area" (page 15), but light and noise are not included as part of their definition of "changes". Would we as humans agree with that? No environmental impact study on the lights or the noise has been done. And yet, this RPZ is home to many animals which will be directly affected by ever-encroaching human activity.
Barred owls, flying squirrels, migrating songbirds in the spring and fall, and insects which are in decline worldwide due to lighting are just some of the animals who call this area home. Night lighting and crowd noise will negatively affect wildlife habits and night time feeding patterns, leading to further displacement.
Two articles addressing LEDs and impacts on wildlife are:
April 3, 2019: National Geographic
Our nights are getting brighter, and Earth is paying the price
Electric lights have revolutionized our lives, but as illumination increases, the toll on wildlife and human health is becoming harder to ignore.
July 5, 2018: The Wildlife Society
Increasing use of LED lamps may affect wildlife