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Greenway Downs

A Community Since 1942

John Mastenbrook Park

John Mastenbrook Park

   

Greenway Downs is lucky to have a such a beautiful 3.45 park that includes a tot lot, a basketball court and a creek that runs along Custis Parkway.

The history of how all those elements we enjoy today became  John Mastenbrook Park is rather complicated and very, very interesting.  

The Older Section

The strip of park and creek along Custis Parkway is the oldest section of our park.  An examination of the original 1927 Berry & Clark Civil Engineer map for section 1 and section 2 of Greenway Downs, which was created when Ruby Lee Minar bought and subdivided the 109 acre farm upon which we now live, revels that the narrow strip of land drawn in as park, was in fact a low lying wasteland of woods too wet to build upon. Note that no lot numbers were assigned to this land in 1927. 

The Newer Section

The portion of the park with the tot lot and stairs leading up to Chestnut Ave. was not part of Ruby Lee Minar's original subdivision but platted in 1930 out of the Rixey Estates. The land that now comprises this upper portion of the park was assigned lot numbers 61 & 62 in 1930, but in a later decade deemed too wet to build on.

This upper portion of the park was re-subdivided in 1973 and deeded to Fairfax County for a park  by Geo. H. Rucker Realty Corp. A Greenway Downs resident, Rebecca Dial (1894-1986) who had bought lot 59 in the 1940's as a home and woodland retreat,  gained some portion of lot 61 in that transaction.

The most spectacular part of our little park story is that Ms. Dial left us an autobiographical account of her retreat, her stream and her fight to keep it as such in a delightful little book called  "My Stream Without a Name." 

A stroll through the park correspondence archives 1971-1985  paint a picture of how Greenway Downs residents petitioned the county for help to channel the water down Custis Parkway (it was a flood zone), take erosion control measures, install curb and guttering, guard rails, play equipment and general beautification projects.

A Combination of the New and Old and Wallah, a Park is Born!

In December of 1975, the Fairfax Journal took a picture of the dedication ceremony for Greenway Downs's new multi-use park. The picture recorded Randy Myers, then president of the GDCA,  presenting a plaque to Henry Rodriquez (past GDCA president), while Providence District Supervisor James Scott and Park authority member John Mastenbrook looked on. The dedication took place on the strip of park land along Custis Parkway.

Trouble in Paradise

In 1993 the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors enacted the development of Resource Protection Areas (RPA) as regulated by the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Ordinance. https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/landdevelopment/faqs-resource-protection-areas

Unfortunately, this had an unintended consequence for the older man-made creek portion of John Mastenbrook Park. 

The RPA overlay covered the portion of our Park and creek from Cameron Rd. to the cul de sac on the tot lot end, but did not involve the bamboo overgrowth part of the park above the tot lot.

By 2018 the condition of the park along the stream bed on Custis Parkway had fallen victim to a tangled jungle of invasive species that choked out trees, vegetation, and obscured traffic safety signs. The practice of neighborhood volunteers pitching in and helping to maintain the park fell victim to new federal application requirements that required official permits. 

Why was this a problem and Legal Limbo?

Remember the absence of parcel numbers in the 1927 plat along Custis Parkway? The federal application for such a permit required parcel numbers.  No parcel numbers, no permit. Not only that, but since there was no official recorded transfer of land from that section to the FCPA, they claimed they did not own it, hence the "legal limbo."

Happily, after petitioning our Providence Supervisor for help, we were given permission to cut out all the invasive species in this section of the park and a quick review of the before and after slideshow will attest to the hard work and dedication of our neighborhood volunteers  to restore this to what you see today.

Fortunately, the RPA overlay did not apply to the upper portion of the park so the Greenway Downs Citizens Association was able able to get permission from the FCPA to take out the bamboo in the upper section of the park (that have parcel numbers). This is an ongoing project, but as you can see from the slideshow, we have the bamboo on the run! Watch our events calendar and come and help us out!

So enjoy our beautiful 3.45 acre park and revel a little when contemplating its rather strange history.  It is a green oasis for which we owe a debt of gratitude to those before us who worked hard to preserve and improve it over a course of many decades.

 

 

Park Correspondence From the Archives

 

Correspondence with Fairfax County Park Authority 1971-1988

 1980 Master Plan Greenway Downs Park map Correspondence with FCPA & Others 1978-80

 Greenway Downs Park Dedication 1975

 Letter re: ownership of Mastenbrook Park path 1991

 1927  platt for section one of Greenway Downs showing Custis Parkway Park

1927 platt for section two of Greenway Downs showing Custis Parkway Park

 

Recent Correspondence

re: Park barriers and sledding (2019)