Blake Lane Park Shouldn’t Become A School

Sahithi Jammulamadaka , Editor-in-Chief

   As Fairfax County is looking to deal with major overcrowding problems and, one park right next to Oakton looks like it may be a solution. Blake Lane Park which is the largest open space available for public use in the Oakton area and is home to the only off-leash dog park in Providence District. While the community wants to solve the overcrowding issues they want to retain this open space for recreation and enjoyment as it is the only one they have. Fairfax County has begun conversations about making this area a school without consulting the community which has sparked a backlash and brought out many community members to urge their lawmakers to save Blake Lane Park.

   In the 1970s, when development was booming and there was a plethora of land, it seemed smart to set aside a 10-acre area as a potential school site, but fast forwarding to today that just doesn’t seem feasible. Since there has been a huge influx of people moving into Oakton and especially around the park. There are dozens of condos that sit right next to the park and even more that are in a  0.1-mile radius of it. There just isn’t the same amount of open land left, and Blake Lane Park has become some people’s backyard. What was once for FCPS an easy business decision to build an elementary school on a site dedicated for school use is now a much more complex one in which community values are in conflict.

   Blake Lane Park represents a vast number of Fairfax County commitments to quality education, protecting natural resources- including wildlife and plants, and equity. If looking at all of these things it is quite obvious the park should be left as open space opposed to a school. Once this green field is lost, it will be lost forever. And to put it simply FCPS has an imbalance of school facilities. Some schools are very overcrowded while others are underutilized and they are all within the same geographic proximity.

   To avoid destroying the park some have proposed repurposing an empty office building or using the “brown fields” in the area. “I believe that we need more creativity to work with the people, to find an alternative solution”, Dalia Palchik, a current member of the school board and a candidate running for the Board of Supervisors, said. There has been overwhelming support between the Democrats running for local government positions in the Providence District to keep Blake Lane Park and Democrats in office right now. Ryan Mcelveen, a current an at-large member of the School Board and a democratic candidate running for chairman, said, “As we look towards the future of our county, we need to be in a position where we have not only have a plan for climate and energy but also for resilience as we look towards the future of climate change.”

   Even with all the controversy surrounding the park, Fairfax County says that it will take about one year to think about all of the questions that have been raised by the public before it comes to a decision on the future of the park. We must keep in mind that when this green land is destroyed it will be gone forever and that it is imperative that FCPS takes a stand against losing the only open space that the Oakton Community has. The use of a park to meet another public need should only ever be considered as a very last resort and only then after early engagement and in partnership with the community.