Monday, April 6, 2009

Sun Gazette Calls Out County on Gulf Branch

Want to make anyone involved in Arlington County government visibly uncomfortable? Bring up the proposal to close Gulf Branch Nature Center. Both County Board members and county employees get very defensive at the mere mention of Gulf Branch.

Today, the Sun Gazette calls shenanigans:
THUMBS DOWN: To those county officials who have yet to offer a cogent explanation for why Gulf Branch Nature Center is about to be closed.

Clearly, it’s not about money. The less than $150,000 budgeted for the facility is peanuts in a spending package that tiptoes up to $1 billion. There are plenty of ways to find that money, and much more, in the crevices of the county manager’s proposed spending plan.

If it’s not about money, what is the reason? The argument that there’s a nature center nearby doesn’t wash with us; that facility, Potomac Overlook Regional Park, is a fine place, but is operated by the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority, which has no specific duty to Arlingtonians. Comparing Gulf Branch and Potomac Overlook is like comparing apples and oranges.

Barring a better explanation, we don’t know why County Board members would move forward with the proposal to close the nature center at this point.
I have no inside knowledge of discussions on Gulf Branch, so this is complete speculation. But it was surprising that county first proposed not just temporarily closing or cutting back at Gulf Branch but demolishing it. That leap made it hard not to get the impression, as the Sun Gazette and many others have, that some in county government may not be so sad to see Gulf Branch go.

If that's the case, the county should've just said "Gulf Branch doesn't fit our long-term plans, period." That would've involved taking a small public relations hit, but now the county is setting itself up for a much bigger hit from the nearly 3,000 people who are rallying to save Gulf Branch.
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