In February of this year a sell out crowd gathered at the county public seat in Leesburg to provide feedback to the Loudoun County Planning Commission on the idea of adding additional sports lights to the upper athletic fields at Franklin Park.
Franklin Park includes a really wonderful performing arts center. A community pool complex. Beautiful natural areas. Walking paths. A frisbee golf course. Tennis courts. Campfire and grill pavilions. Baseball and soccer fields. It, in short, is a really wonderful place, purchased, crafted and planned by a board of supervisors with active community involvement. A community that knew what it wanted and worked, through its government, to get it done.
Per the citizens, lighted ball fields were great. But, let’s keep the lighted ball fields on the park’s lower levels and make sure they are turned off by 9:00 p.m. during the week and 10:00 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. And, let’s keep the lights off completely on Sundays. Why? Because, while providing the area’s growing youth populations with expanded recreational activities, western Loudoun citizens also wanted to preserve the right of Franklin Park’s neighbors, including adjacent homeowners, to enjoy their properties free of late-into-the-evening floodlights and noise. A win-win for all.
The reason so many citizens showed up at the February public hearing is because they know the history of the issue. And, they didn’t like the fact that contrary to previous agreements, Blue Ridge Supervisor Janet Clarke was pushing a $2 million project to install more lights to allow nighttime play on those upper fields at Franklin Park.
Anyone who follows these kinds of issues knows the deal. As Lincoln resident Jean Brown said that night, “western Loudoun is different.” Here, rural values matter. And, as newly-relocated small business owner Barbara Anderson said to me recently, “I moved here for a different way of life.”
They are all related – the Franklin Park lights issue, the monstrous, newly-approved Autumn Hill/Mayfair development, the Reston Town Center-style development know as “Vineyard Square,” the proposed bumper-style Purcellville project known as Catoctin Creek Town Center. Each of these seems to say that what is good and appropriate and preferred for other densely developed regional counties and communities is good and appropriate and preferred for western Loudoun.
Well, not really.
The planning commission seems to be on the side of western Loudoun. As its February public hearing worked its way to conclusion, the commission voted to oppose the Clarke proposal to install more lights at Franklin Park.
The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors needs to accept their recommendation. Western Loudoun is different. Sometimes horses and cows cross the roads here. And, dark skies matter.