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Urban Parks in Fairfax County


Urban Park

Future development in Fairfax County will be concentrated in growth areas such as Tysons, Reston, central Springfield, Merrifield, Annandale, Seven Corners, Bailey's Crossroads, and Richmond Highway. The increasing urbanization requires that the existing suburban park system be supplemented by parks that are more suitable for the unique urban context. Urban parks will provide appropriate elements to enhance the urban landscape, create a sense of place, promote community building, and allow for varied leisure opportunities.


In May 2013, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved amendments to the County Comprehensive Plan to incorporate an Urban Parks Framework into the Policy Plan’s Park and Recreation Section. The Framework can be found in Appendix 2 of the Parks and Recreation Section. The Framework was originally endorsed by the Park Authority Board in 2008 and serves to set expectations for residents, developers, county staff, and community decision-makers to ensure that new urban developments will provide for park and recreation needs in the County's growth areas.


The Urban Parks Framework includes the following five urban park types:


Pocket Park – Pocket parks are small-scale open spaces incorporated into developments and designed for casual use by people working and living in the immediate area. A pocket park is a single defined space designed to provide limited casual open space to enjoy individually or in social interactions. These spaces may consist of hardscape elements or lawn and landscaped areas, seating and visual amenities such as water features and public art. Small scale recreation may be incorporated including game tables, playable art, or bocce.

Common Green – Larger than pocket parks, common greens include flexible open spaces with open lawn areas, serving as the recreation and social focus of a neighborhood or larger area. Although a central lawn will be the main focus of this type of park, it may be designed with multiple defined spaces offering a mix of complementary facilities and uses and may be large enough to support multiple simultaneous activities. Community recreation facilities such as dog parks, gardens, sport courts, and play areas may be incorporated into the park’s design.

Civic Plaza – Civic plazas are primarily hardscape areas located near public transit, at the intersection of important streets, or at other significant locations. A civic plaza can serve as a focal point, community gathering space, and unique placemaking feature for a mixed-use area. Flexible, programmable spaces could support open air markets, summer concerts, festivals, outdoor exercise classes or special events. Public art, fountains, gardens, and recreational facilities may be included.

Recreation-Focused Park – This park type is distinguished by its primary function to provide recreation facilities for nearby residents and workers. Facilities such as athletic fields, multi-use courts, off-leash dog areas, outdoor fitness equipment, playgrounds, and skate features may be provided. Facilities could be scheduled or casually used. Athletic fields should have synthetic turf and lighting to maximize use. Support facilities and amenities such as trails, seating, tot lots, shade structures, water features, picnic areas, restrooms, landscaping or hardscape will complement the recreational component.

Linear Park – Linear parks are long and narrow and usually occur in an area between destinations or points of interest and/or along streams, transportation features, or power line easements. These parks can serve many different purposes and may include a variety of small scale facilities (e.g., fitness stations, dog exercise areas, information kiosks, public art).

You may contact Andrea Dorlester, Senior Park Planner, Park Planning Branch, at 703-324-8692 if you have questions or would like more information about Fairfax County’s Urban Parks Framework.

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