Community groups in Fairfax County are coming together to fight a school district’s plan to turn part of a park into a parking lot. They are calling their effort “Justice for Justice Park.”
The area in question is 18 acres just across the street from Justice High School. The land provides playing fields like a basketball court and a wooded area for many residents in the Bailey’s Crossroads area. A majority of those residents are Black and brown.
“We have the highest socioeconomic needs in this area and we have the smallest amount of parkland, so this is space worth fighting for,” Kathleen Brown, a Justice High School parent, said.
The fight started earlier this year, when residents got word that the school district wanted to put a parking lot there as part of a Justice High School expansion project.
Community opponents placed flags around the area that would cease to be valuable greenspace to show the impact.
"This is an 18-acre park that we can’t lose a quarter of, because there’s no place to get other parkland,” Carol Turner, the Justice Park invasive plant coordinator, said.
The NAACP is also joining the battle to preserve the park. While they and other opponents said they support school improvements, equity is what they say is at stake here.
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“Our wealthier areas don’t have to choose between good schools and good green spaces,” Lydia Lawrence, of the Fairfax NAACP, said.
Both FCPS and the Fairfax County Park Authority said there is no signed agreement yet to pave part of the park.
A park spokeswoman told News4 that they value and protect parkland, but adds that they also want to be good neighbors to the school.
Residents said too much of the discussion has happened behind closed doors.
“It does not belong to county staff at the government center to give away. It belongs to the people who use it,” Marie Reinsdorf, a former park authority board member, said.
This weekend there will be an open house at the park as community organizers urge other residents to join their efforts to oppose the parking lot and look instead for alternatives.
"We think it’s short-sighted,” Whitney Redding, part of a group called Friends of Holmes Run, said. “We think this is a wonderful opportunity for leadership... to be able to come up with a more imaginative solution that the community can get behind.”