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HJB (user 401) - Comments by Date

I totally agree with Anik's comment. The arts play an important role in the well being of our community and the attractiveness of our City to visitors. It is important that the arts continue to thrive here. The Art League is one of the cornerstones of our arts community, but it faces significant pressure to find adequate studio space for its classes. The Art League lost significant studio space when the Cummings warehouse was sold to Carr to become a hotel. It would be a severe loss to the Art League, to the arts community and to all of Alexandria if the Art League lost its space in North Old Town.

HJB (401) | User | November 20, 2015 - 3:57 PM | Old Town North Small Area Plan (SAP) Update

I am president of the Founders Park Community Association. I am writing on behalf of the Founders Park Community Association.

In particular, I am writing to express our objection to most of the proposals offered by the Art and History Committee for changes to Founders Park.

Founders Park

Founders Park is a peaceful riverside park where the public can stroll along the shore, enjoy the beautiful river vistas, walk their dogs, play volleyball, have a picnic, and enjoy the tranquility of this wonderful site. It is a great place to relax and enjoy the fresh air and the natural beauty of the river.

The park is a very popular destination, attracting many individuals and families, from around the region. Everyone is welcome to the park. It is crowded on weekends and does not require additional art or activities to draw people to it. In fact, we believe that people come to Founders Park primarily to enjoy its relaxed atmosphere.

Founders Park was created in 1978 through the efforts of a small group of residents along Queen, Quay, Princess and Union Streets who opposed a plan to build an apartment complex of four 18-story towers at the site. If were not for their strong opposition to the proposed development, Founders Park would not exist today.

The city has maintained Founders Park as a passive park, one of the few areas in the city that do not host private events, which keeps the park open to individuals and families and maintains the tranquil atmosphere of the park.

We are very pleased that Olin Studio recognizes the importance of Founders Park as a site for ‘family-friendly passive enjoyment’. We appreciate that they chose photographs of Founders Park to illustrate ‘Open Space’, ‘Access’, and ‘Comfort’.

They might have also used photos from Founders Park to illustrate ‘Strolling and Sitting’, ‘Dog Walking and Jogging’, ‘Picnics’, ‘Individual Activity’ and ‘Non-Activity’. These activities are common at Founders Park.

Founders Park is a very popular park on the waterfront, providing space for individuals and families to enjoy the tranquility of the park and the beautiful views of the river. It should be preserved as it is.

What we support

We fully support the proposal to add flat stone benches on the waterfront. Flat stone benches will easily blend into the environment of the park.

We fully support the proposal to add historical, interpretive signs in the park. Members of the FPCA community would be eager to help develop those signs. Historical, interpretive signs would be a welcome addition to the park and would not detract from the tranquil, family friendly, passive experience of Founders Park.

We cautiously support adding an appropriate sculpture in the north end of the park. We are cautious because we do not find the sculpture used as illustrations in the reports to be appropriate. ‘Fish on Sticks’ is amusing, but would become annoying after a week and would detract from the beauty of the park. An example of appropriate sculpture was overlooked by the Committee, namely, the large, black anchor at the south end of the park. It fits the criteria for public art described by Laurie Olin in his first presentation to the community: it is appropriate to its environment and visitors to the park can interact with it. We often see children playing on it and visitors taking photographs by it.

We have mixed feelings about the proposal to naturalize the shoreline. We appreciate the goal to develop a more natural setting at the shoreline. But we have two significant concerns.
• A naturalized shoreline will reduce the proximity of the open water by the shore, which seems contrary to the goal of bringing waterfront visitors to the water.
• A naturalized shoreline will collect large amounts of debris that will be difficult to clean. Members of FPCA participate in a monthly clean-up at the park. We focus on the rocks along the shoreline and fill garbage bags with the trash that has floated ashore. We are concerned that trash would collect in a naturalized shoreline and could not be picked up.

What we oppose

We appreciate the effort that the Art and History Implementation Committee put into developing their report on the Waterfront. It contains many worthwhile recommendations.

However, we are very disappointed by the proposals they offered regarding Founders Park:
• Planting a maze garden, trellises for shade, and an English tea garden using plants of the colonial period, perhaps as in the garden at Mount Vernon.
• Placing a water sculpture in the river offshore or frame views of the Maryland shoreline with permanent and temporary sculptures.
• Arranging for a group of roving performers called “The Founders” to interpret the founding era.
• Having a Founders race (like the President’s race at the Nationals games)
• Sponsoring a competition, to be held every few years, of temporary art composed of lumber. These sculptures would be a reference to Smoot’s lumberyard that once stood here. Perhaps Smoot would be a cosponsor.

These proposals are totally contrary to the experience that the many visitors to Founders Park currently enjoy and that we hope to protect as part of the Waterfront plan. They are inconsistent the family-friendly, passive experience that the Waterfront plan sets for Founders Park.

Founders Park is fully used by the public as it is. The plantings (maze garden, English tea garden) suggested by the Art and History Implementation Committee might be appropriate elsewhere on the waterfront, especially in a location that would have a more formal experience than Founders Park. But they do not complement the ambience at Founders Park and would take valuable space from the park’s current uses.

We especially object to ‘sculpture placed in the water off shore or that ‘frames’ the view of Maryland’. We are shocked that anyone would even suggest this. The natural vistas of the Potomac River at Founders Park are beautiful; man-made ‘enhancements’ will detract from that beauty. Our reaction to this proposal was best captured by one of our members who wrote,

I go to the water's edge at Founders Park often, to sit on the rocks, on a folding chair, or on a bench, and read, relax, look at the ducks and geese, or talk in a naturally beautiful, relaxed setting. I go there to connect with nature through water, something I have enjoyed all my life. Water is soothing. Nature is beautiful. Neither nature nor water needs any man-made object to make it look better. Installing a sculpture in the water would defeat the purpose for which I, like dozens of other people, go to the park to sit or walk at the water's edge. A glassy pond in the early morning fog, a raging current during tide changes, ripples gently lapping on the rocks, home for frolicking waterfowl, a vast mirror for the Moon to watch her own reflection.

There might be a place on the waterfront where a sculpture in or by the river is appropriate, but it certainly is not at Founders Park.

A band of roving ‘performers’ interpreting the founding era would be an unwanted intrusion in the passive experience of Founders Park. We suggest that there are other sites on the waterfront where performers would be appropriate, perhaps at the marina, but not at Founders Park. And for this reason, we also object to placing a site in Founders Park for ‘dramatic presentations’.

The suggestion that we hold Founders Races like the Presidents’ races at the Nationals games cannot be serious. There maybe a place for clowns and a carnival on the waterfront, but it is not at a tranquil, passive park. The same is true with respect to the ‘lumber art’ competition. Please, let’s keep Founders Park as one area on the Waterfront that is free from events.

We urge the City to reject these proposals as inconsistent with the role of the park in providing a family-oriented, passive experience and unnecessary since other venues at the park can offer the proposed ‘art’ and ‘activities’.

Robinson Terminal North

We will soon have new neighbors right on Founders Park. The development of a hotel and condominiums at the site of Robinson Terminal North will add a large number of people to the Founders Park neighborhood. And the proposed restaurant and retail space will bring even more visitors to Founders Park.

We do not know how this development will affect the use of Founders Park. We urge the City Council to allow the use of the park to develop naturally, without making changes from its current use.

Founders Park Community Association

Founders Park Community Association was incorporated in 1979 as a 501(c)(3) non-profit membership organization dedicated to improving and maintaining Founders Park and the quality of life in the Founders Park Area. The Founders Park Community Association has been working to protect, preserve, and improve the beautiful green space, the flowers, and the Potomac shoreline by Founders Park for over 30 years.

Founders Park Community Association has approximately 70 members who are dedicated to maintaining the tranquil, natural beauty of the park and the family oriented, passive experience that the park provides. The members hold informative get-togethers, park clean-ups (continuing a tradition begun nearly 35 years ago) and an annual block party at Quay Street. Anyone who supports the goals of Founders Park Community Association is welcome to join.

We appreciate your kind attention to our views.


Howard Bergman
Founders Park Community Association.

HJB (401) | User | December 17, 2013 - 11:41 AM | Programming, Art and History Waterfront Implementation Ideas

Sharing DJB's views, many of us were impressed when Laurie Olin stated that Olin Studios designs for residents, not tourists. However, many of the examples of 'art and activities' shown seemed to be aimed at visitors, not residents. Moreover, they were primarily from major cities and seemed inappropriate to our needs. It would be very interesting to see examples from other historic neighborhoods that might fit Old Town Alexandria.
One specific comment: we do not need artwork in the Potomac River, especially at Founders Park. Let us enjoy the river, the birds, the boats, without distractions.

HJB (401) | User | November 6, 2013 - 12:34 PM | Programming, Art and History Waterfront Implementation Ideas