Arlington, VA

In the midst of Arlington’s efforts to protect local streams, the county last week released an extensive guide debunking what it says are common stream restoration “myths,” touching on everything from ecology to rain gardens.

The following six “myths” were challenged by the county:

  • #1: If Arlington County did proper maintenance on the streams, we wouldn’t need to do stream restoration.
  •  #2: If Arlington County regulated infill development more, the streams wouldn’t be in such bad shape.
  • #3: More rain gardens and trees in the watershed could restore the streams without having to reconstruct the stream channel.
  • #4: Stream restoration makes stream habitat and stream ecology worse.
  • #5: Streams should never overtop their banks. After stream restoration, stream flow should be significantly less.
  • #6: The July 8, 2019 storm showed that stream restoration projects cannot handle intense storms or climate change.

When storms occur and water builds in steams, the resulting erosion can cause health issues for water-based wildlife and create infrastructure challenges. In order to prevent erosion, restoration alters the stream’s direction and adds step-pool structures to slow water flow, the county said.

County officials argue that restored stream sections of Donaldson Run, Windy Run, and Four Mile Run kept the channels from eroding during the summer storm. On the other hand, “unrestored sections of Donaldson Run did not fare well during the July 8 storm, with new erosion undermining the fence and trail.”

Arlington’s stream restoration projects aren’t without its critics, especially when it comes to the touchy subject of tree removal in Myth #3.

In an email sent to ARLnow, Suzanne Sundburg, a local environmental activist and member of the Arlington Tree Action Group, argues the opposite — “planting trees… ABSOLUTELY DOES reduce the stormwater runoff,” she wrote.

“These stream restoration projects, as implemented in Arlington County, use heavy equipment that involves significant tree loss in the very riparian areas that are supposed to be protected from tree loss and development,” said Sundburg.

Sundburg argued that development has damaged local streams.

“Maintenance of our streams and their banks isn’t the issue and thus stream ‘restoration’ is not the solution,” she wrote. “The underlying cause of urban stream syndrome is the increasing volume and speed of runoff coming from the watershed. Unless and until the county begins to correct and reverse the increase in impervious surfaces — now covering 45% of the county’s land surface — stream restoration is impossible.”

Local advocacy groups have previously sounded off against tree removal, namely in 2017 when local residents launched a petition against the removal of 70 trees in Donaldson Run.

Currently, the county is in the design phase of its Gulf Branch Stream Restoration project, which is intended to protect the waterway and the trees along its banks.

A Gulf Branch-specific “Myths and Misconceptions” was presented during a November 6 community meeting on the project. In the presentation, officials addressed the effects of the July 8 storm on the stream, noting the “unrestored stream segmented eroded tons of sediment, degrading and stressing habitat downstream.”

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Applications to receive a grant from Arlington’s Tree Canopy Fund are now being accepted.

The community program funds grants for a county-administered contractor to plant a tree on private property.

New for spring 2020, the Tree Canopy Fund will also sponsor grants for property owners who may have issues with utility lines and/or have tighter yard space.

Per the application website, those eligible to apply for and receive trees include:

  • Civic and homeowner associations
  • Community nonprofit organizations
  • Civic service clubs
  • School-related groups planting on private property
  • Ad hoc neighborhood groups
  • Individuals
  • Places of worship

Those who received tree grants from previous years and now have trees that are “not thriving” can also submit requests for their tree to be considered for a warranty replacement.

The applications are due next month on Friday, December 20.

The Tree Canopy Fund was launched in 2009, after approval from the Arlington County Board two years prior. Per its website, the fund was founded with the “goals of arresting the decline and restoring and increasing the County’s tree cover over time.” Since 2009, over 1,213 trees have been planted.

Flickr pool photo by Tom Mockler

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The Arlington County Board has signed off for NOVA Parks to apply for a $5.6 million grant that would widen a portion of the Washington and Old Dominion Trail.

If approved, the project will widen two miles of the W&OD Trail between N. Roosevelt Street and N. Carlin Springs Road by eight feet. In addition, the trail will incorporate a “dual path” to divide walkers and cyclists.

“When I talk to trail users I hear the same complaint, which I will attribute to Yogi Berra, ‘No one goes there anymore because it’s too crowded,'” said chairman of NOVA Parks Michael Nardolilli during Tuesday’s recessed County Board meeting.

Officials are expected to know if the grant, submitted to the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA), has been approved by June 2020. If it is, the County Board will review the project plans before giving an official vote on whether to begin construction.

Nearly a dozen people spoke in opposition the project during Tuesday’s meeting. Many stressed that the project it could destroy a large number of trees and damage storm water management, while others expressed disappointment in what they describe as NOVA Park’s lack of public outreach.

Among the groups opposed to the widening is Arlington Tree Action Group, which called it — perhaps a bit hyperbolically — “the most environmentally destructive project that has ever occurred in Arlington’s public spaces.”

The Arlington County Board has moved consideration of a resolution that will allow NOVA Parks (formerly known as the…

Posted by Arlington Tree Action Group on Sunday, November 17, 2019

“My commission learned of this a week ago with no information about what was being planned,” said Phil Klingelhofer, chair of the Arlington Urban Forestry Commission, a county commission that is also concerned about the project. “[This] is in fact putting a multi-lane highway for bikes through the middle of the park.”

Arlington Transportation Commission Chair Chris Slatt said widening the trail would be great for the area’s bike community — citing recommendations from the county’s Master Transportation Plan — but also stressed the need for public engagement and environmental analysis.

“This whole conversation tonight has been one big, giant paradox,” said County Board member Eric Gutshall. “I can’t wrap my head around folks who are concerned about preserving nature and trees, allies to those interested in cycling and using alternative modes of transportation to be a part of larger, sustainable society — somehow, you’re against bicycling and trails.”

The County Board unanimously signed off on the application, with two recommendations for County Manager Mark Schwartz:

(1) Determine the data and analyses that NOVA Parks must submit to substantiate the safety and levels of service concerns along the subject street of the W&OD trail, and (2) initiate a process with NOVA Parks to determine the appropriate level of public engagement for the project along with the information that must be developed and presented…[including] plans to address environmental stewardship including impact on vegetation, flood risk management, erosion, and natural habitats.

“Our support for the seeking of funding, so those plans can be drafted, does not mean endorsement of the final design,” said County Board member Libby Garvey.

Nearby in Falls Church, NOVA Parks has begun a $3.7 million project to widen 1.2 miles of the W&OD Trail in Falls Church, funded mostly through a similar NVTA grant.

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A new, eco-friendly form of transportation is in the works for some residents along Columbia Pike.

Electric shuttle company FLARE Technology and Services is in the process of securing contracts with several apartment buildings in south Arlington. Once finalized, residents those buildings will be able to use the free service — offered as an amenity — to shuttle anywhere they might not have immediate access to, such as a Metro station or grocery store.

The service will be exclusive to the apartment residents, meaning those who stumble upon the cars along Columbia Pike will not be able to hop in, clarified FLARE CEO Andres Delgado.

Delgado said he hopes to have FLARE ready by the start of next year. In the meantime, the business will host a ribbon cutting ceremony at the Arlington Economic Development office in Ballston today (Tuesday).

“There are many desirable places to live within Arlington County, but everyone is not able to live in locations with easy access to transit,” said Delgado in a statement. “We created FLARE as a solution to solve the connectivity problem within Arlington and in the greater D.C. metro area.”

The company’s white vehicles, which look a bit like stretched-out golf carts with doors, have spent the last several weeks testing rides in the Shirlington area.

“We were able to drive people in Shirlington from a farmers market, to their apartments, to the grocery store,” said Delgado, “and it was awesome.”

Delgado emphasized that he is working with his co-founder, Chris Yeazel, to eventually have an app-based subscription service available for public use.

“Then anyone in the neighborhood will be able to jump on,” he said.

Another free ride service, Sprynt, hit the streets in Arlington in 2017. A “100% electric on-demand” ride, the service was paid for by advertisers, but the company stopped operating a year later.

Photo courtesy FLARE

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Officials say a new statewide renewable energy commitment could help Arlington achieve its own green goals.

Gov. Ralph Northam (D) announced today (Friday) that Virginia has struck an agreement with Dominion Energy to purchase 30% of the all energy used by the state government’s buildings from renewable sources. Local officials says the agreement to sustainability agreement also helps their own goals.

“It means that we’re kind of being aggressive but the state is pulling in this direction so it does make it easier for us,” said Arlington County Board Chair Christian Dorsey, who is running for re-election and who said the governor’s morning press conference at George Mason University’s Arlington campus meant the county was no longer “swimming upstream” when it came to leading in sustainability.

“When you consider the state government, when you consider Amazon’s commitment to even exceed their originally ambitious goals — this is all good stuff for us,” Dorsey said, referring to Amazon going from Gold to Platinum LEED certification goals for its new headquarters. “This means we have a better likelihood of achieving all of our the goals in the timeframe set forth.”

“Arlington recently committed to its own, ambitious energy targets and we hope to see more cities follow its lead,” the governor said during the press conference.

Northam’s announcement comes two months after Arlington committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 for all buildings — public or private. The goal was part of the county’s updated Energy Plan, a planning document which envisions a future for Arlington where “all electricity will come from renewable sources, where more residents will drive electric vehicles and more will use transit, and where homes and buildings will be more energy-efficient.”

Since passing the plan in August, Dorsey said Arlington has been contacted by “three or four” other Northern Virginia jurisdictions for advice on enacting similar carbon-cutting goals themselves.

“Sometimes all jurisdictions need to see is one shining example,” said state Sen. Barbara Favola, who is also running for re-election. “Somebody gets out there and takes the lead and something good happens and they go, ‘I can do that, too’.”

She told ARLnow that when the state government takes a stance on sustainability, it also paves the way for local jurisdictions to do the same.

“Richmond is not known all the time for being a trailblazer but in this area but seem to be trailblazing so I’m delighted,” Favola said.

Renewable energy for state government buildings and universities will be sourced from Dominion Energy’s Belcher Solar project in Louisa County and its offshore wind farm near Virginia Beach, among others.

“Under the partnership, Dominion Energy will supply the Commonwealth with 420 megawatts of renewable energy,” the utility company wrote in a statement. “When combined with previously announced solar projects, the power produced is enough to meet the equivalent of 45% of the state government’s annual energy use.”

“That’s the equivalent of powering more than 100,000 homes,” noted Northam.

Friday’s announcement comes on the heels of the governor’s earlier promise to power the state using 100% carbon free resources by 2050 — a mission aided by agreements with Dominion Energy and planned initiatives like replacing traditional diesel school buses with electric buses and investing in electric cars.

The governor said collaboration is key to tackle climate change and “move this state in the right direction.

“We can leave our children and our grandchildren a world that’s cleaner and more sustainable,” Northam said.

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(Updated at 2 p.m.) Arlington residents have gone out of their way to chuck 200 tons of bottles and jars at a pair of drop-off locations since the County Board removed glass from the list of recyclable materials.

In April, county officials asked residents to throw their glass away in their black trash bins instead of blue recycling carts, citing the rising costs of recycling the material.

As an alternative, the county set up two designated glass drop-off sites at Quincy Park (N. Quincy Street and Washington Blvd) and the Arlington Trades Center (2700 S. Taylor Street). From there, the glass is transported to Fairfax County where it is turned into sand and gravel used in construction.

Schwartz said in April he hoped to identify three additional drop-off sites by August. The month has since passed, but officials say they’re close to announcing the new sites.

“I don’t want to jinx it, but it should be a matter of weeks,” said Peter Golkin, spokesman for the Department of Environmental Services. “We live in a tiny county where land is at a premium, so it’s a matter of making sure we can put the bins in a space where we can collect them with big trucks.”

Just over two-thirds of respondents to an ARLnow poll in May said they think Arlington should keep recycling glass in the residential recycling stream, no matter the cost. Some experts, however, say the cost of recycling glass outstrips the marginal environmental benefit compared to simply sending it to a landfill.

Flickr pool photo by Aaron Webb

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So you have a Tesla or some other electric car, but where in Arlington can you charge it?

Most of the electric car stations are grouped around Arlington’s Metro corridors, according to ChargeHub, a website that tracks charging stations. Charging stations follow a line between Rosslyn and Ballston, for instance, and there are 22 throughout the Crystal City and Pentagon City area alone.

But finding stations outside of those areas can be a hassle.

One bank of electric chargers is located along Columbia Pike at the Arlington Mill Community Center (909 S. Dinwiddie Street). In Shirlington, an electric car charging station is located at the Campbell Avenue parking garage.

Additionally, there are three charging stations in residential North Arlington:

  • Discovery Elementary School (5301 36th Street N.)
  • Harris Teeter (2425 N. Harrison Street)
  • Potomac Overlook Regional Park (2845 N. Marcey Road)

There are seven Tesla-specific charger locations in Arlington.

  • Two Liberty Center (4075 Wilson Blvd) — Four Tesla connectors available to the public
  • Clarendon Square (3033 Wilson Blvd) — Two Tesla connectors, parking fees may apply
  • Market Common Clarendon (2800 Clarendon Blvd) — 18 Tesla Superchargers
  • 2311 Wilson Blvd (2311 Wilson Blvd) — Three Tesla connectors, parking fees may apply
  • 1320 N. Courthouse Garage (1320 N. Courthouse Road) — Two Tesla connectors, parking fees may apply
  • The Ritz-Carlton Pentagon City (1250 S. Hayes Street) — Two Tesla connectors, available for patrons only
  • Renaissance Arlington Capital View Hotel (2800 S. Potomac Avenue) — Two Tesla connectors, available for patrons only

Meanwhile, if your car is charged and you’re looking for fellowship with other electric car enthusiasts, a local group of residents has formed the Arlington Solar and EV Charger Co-op, with the goal of making it easier to save money on the purchase of solar panels and electric vehicle chargers.

The group is planning to hold an information session on Thursday (June 27) from 6:30-8 p.m., at the Arlington Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street) to discuss solar energy, electric vehicles, and simplifying the “going solar” process.

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A Catholic church is Nauck is making a big move to solar power, installing a large, cross-shaped set of solar panels over the last few weeks.

Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church, located at 2700 19th Street S. on the border of the Army Navy Country Club, announced what it described as “the largest solar array at a place of worship” in Arlington in a press release yesterday (Tuesday).

The church says the new solar array includes 319 panels in all, generating a total of “over 95 kilowatts of solar capacity.” That should help the church account for just under half of all its power needs across its buildings on the property.

Parishioners at Our Lady Queen of Peace said they were inspired to take on the solar project by Pope Francis’ efforts to spur Catholics to take action on climate change, in addition to recent warnings from the United Nations’ scientific panel on climate change that countries around the world must take drastic steps to prevent the worst effects of global warming.

“We wanted to try to get as much energy as we can from a renewable source,” church parishioner Luc DeWolf wrote in a statement.

The church is working with the D.C.-based firm Ipsun Solar on the project. According to the company’s blog, an investor will provide the $233,000 in up-front costs for the project, then the church plans to sell back excess energy generated by the panels to Dominion Energy. The church hopes to then pay back that investor with the cash it raises through that process, and even support its operating budget going forward.

Parishioners project that in the solar array’s first year alone, it will “reduce carbon emissions by an amount equal to preventing nearly half a railcar of coal from being burned.”

Our Lady Queen Peace will hold a reception Saturday (March 9) at 10 a.m. for anyone interested in learning more about the solar project.

Photo 2 via Ipsun Solar

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Anyone looking to get a little recognition for their favorite tree can now ask the county to designate it as a “notable tree.”

Nominations are open for the next month, through Nov. 15, for trees to earn the designation.

The county has accepted nominations since 1987 to honor notable trees “and those who care for them,” according to the county’s website. Officials will evaluate trees for inclusion based on the following categories:

  • Maturity (Size/Age)
  • Historical or community interest
  • Uniqueness of species
  • Special significance to the neighborhood

Notable trees will earn a certificate or plaque, placement on a county register of trees and could be included on neighborhood walking tours.

Anyone can submit an online form to make a nomination on the county’s website. However, if a tree sits on private property, the county encourages people to contact the property owner for permission first.

County staffers will evaluate each tree, then make recommendations to the Urban Forestry Commission, which has the final say on the matter. The county identified 28 notable trees earlier this year.

Even if a tree earns such a designation, the county notes that private property owners still have a large amount of discretion about the tree’s future.

County officials took quite a bit of flak recently for allowing a large dawn redwood tree, which earned a whole host of local and state commendations, to be chopped down as part of a redevelopment in a Williamsburg neighborhood. Arlington leaders said they worked to avoid that outcome, but said their hands were tied, as the tree was indeed on private property.

File photo

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Fall Tree Giveaway Kicks Off

As part of an effort to expand Arlington’s tree canopy, the Department of Parks and Recreation will be giving away 400 trees for free this fall.

Arlington Residents can apply through the Parks and Recreation website to receive a “whip”; trees in two gallon containers ranging from two to four feet in size.

There are currently nine different types of trees available for pick up. There is a limit of one tree per residential property. Multi-family properties can contact the Tree Stewards organization to acquire more than one.

There will be two distribution days to pick up your trees.

  • Sat., Oct. 20, 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. Arlington County Nursery – 4240 S Four Mile Run Dr. 22206.
  • Wed., Oct. 24, 3-6 p.m. Bon Air Memorial Rose Garden Parking Lot – 850 N Lexington St. 22205.

Photo courtesy Arlington County

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A local environmental group is launching a slew of new advocacy efforts to eliminate the use of plastic products of all kinds in Arlington.

The newly re-branded EcoAction Arlington is hoping the new campaigns can convince restaurants and everyday Arlingtonians alike to abandon plastic straws, bags, bottles and more, as part of a growing national movement to keep plastic out of oceans and other waterways to protect sea life.

“We’re hoping to give people a whole spectrum of ways to reduce how much plastic they use,” Executive Director Elenor Hodges told ARLnow.

One effort involves EcoAction joining a regional campaign dubbed the “Plastic Free Challenge,” which kicked off yesterday (Monday) and will run through Oct. 19. The campaign will include a range of activities over that time period to help people think about avoiding plastic in their daily lives.

But EcoAction is also focusing on Arlington specifically with its “Straw Free Arlington” push, designed to cut back on the roughly 345,000 straws they estimate that Arlington residents use each day. While they hope the effort convinces people to rely on reusable straws instead, it’s primarily focused on pushing local restaurants to embrace paper straws or even reusable straws instead.

EcoAction is offering resources for restaurant owners looking to make the switch, and plans to list any eateries refusing plastic straws on a map on its website for plastic-free consumers. The group will also hand out window stickers for restaurants swearing off plastic, and promote the companies involved among its followers on social media and elsewhere.

But the effort won’t be solely focused on straws — Hodges notes that she also wants restaurants thinking about other one-use items, like plastic carryout containers, and her group plans to rate each restaurant based on what sort of commitment it makes to turning away from plastic.

So far, EcoAction has already convinced two Rosslyn restaurants — Ben’s Chili Bowl and the Kona Grill — to take the straw-free pledge.

Photo via EcoAction Arlington

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