Has your garden been damaged by hungry deer?
Local master gardeners with the Virginia Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners of Arlington and Alexandria City program are asking residents to fill out an anonymous survey about the impact of deer on private property.
“Information gathered will assist Extension Master Gardeners as they interact with the public on landscape management, urban agriculture education and future outreach programs,” per a release, adding that the survey will be open until March 30 and results available in April.
Meanwhile, this evening (Wednesday), the association of master gardeners, the Arlington Regional Master Naturalists (ARMN), and others, are sponsoring a webinar with a professor who will discuss ways to address Arlington’s reported deer overpopulation issue.
“Deer are charismatic native species that belong in our fields and forests,” Cornell University professor Bernd Blossey said in a statement. “Humans have allowed them to become ecological bullies, and if we are serious about our responsibilities to protect all native species, we need to embrace the need to reduce deer impacts through reductions in the local deer herds.”
The groups hosting the survey and webinar are sounding the alarm on the impacts of deer, including the loss of understory foliage, and saying their current efforts — like protecting native plants with deer-proof cages — are not enough.
“Our suburban forests are dominated by a few native species that deer don’t find appetizing, like Spicebush and Pawpaws, and lots of harmful exotic invasive plants that deer won’t eat,” per ARMN’s website. “Early attempts at habitat restoration were frustrated when overabundant deer devoured the large native plantings.”
The study and webinar come about six months after a wildlife consultant began working with the county to determine if Arlington’s natural lands can support the current deer population and whether the county needs to step up management.
Prior to this, the county had its deer population counted by drone and a report summarizing what the drone recorded found parts of Arlington had populations of 20-39 deer per square mile, which it said was “unhealthy.”
But not everyone agrees with this assessment. Arlington County’s animal control group, the Animal Welfare League of Arlington (AWLA), maintains that the issue is not the number but how humans interact with them.
“Many conflicts with deer in our gardens are a result of planting ornamental non-native plants that are irresistible to deer,” Chief of Animal Control Jennifer Toussaint said in a statement to ARLnow.
“Deer will always seek out tasty hostas and tulips first, regardless of the amount of deer present,” she continued. “The best way to mitigate deer eating from your yard is to plant deer-resistant plant species, erect fencing, and utilize repellents. One or a combination of these techniques is an effective and humane way to co-exist with deer.”
Toussaint said AWLA is working with the county throughout the deer study.
Four privately owned trees of “outstanding size” in Arlington could be protected from future removal or injury.
The owners, who live in the Williamsburg, Cherrydale and Glencarlyn neighborhoods, nominated these trees to be recognized as “specimens” worthy of protection, the county says in a report.
The trees meet criteria for this designation “by virtue of their outstanding size and quality for their particular species,” the report says. The Arlington County Board is set to grant this protection at its meeting this coming Saturday.
Over two decades ago, the Board approved a tree preservation ordinance that provides a four designations — “Heritage, Memorial, Specimen and Street Trees” — through which trees on public or private property can be protected from removal or injury. Some 17 trees are highlighted on the county’s website for their size, condition and heritage.
There are approximately 755,000 trees in Arlington, according to a draft of an update to the county Forestry and Natural Resources plan. The county controls about 120,000 trees, including those in parks and about 19,500 street trees. The remainder grow on private property or on public institutions that are not directly managed by Arlington County.
Protecting private trees is one strategy the county has for maintaining its canopy. For about as long as this ordinance has been in place, and despite redevelopment on private property, tree canopy has covered about 41% of land area in Arlington.
“This level of canopy has remained constant for the past 20 years, largely because significant losses on private property were offset by tree planting and preservation on parks and other public lands,” the plan says.
Arlington will have to rely more on designating and preserving trees, like the four going before the County Board this weekend, going forward, per the plan.
“With little ‘plantable space’ remaining on existing county-owned land, opportunities to offset future losses will be limited by the need to conserve natural areas,” it says.
Trees play an important role in reducing carbon, energy use and runoff.
Tree branches, roots and trunks remove and store about 9,360 tons a year of carbon in Arlington, but that represents “only a fraction of the County’s greenhouse gas emissions,” the plan says.
Tree canopy provides shade, reducing energy use in buildings and transportation and preventing the radiation of heat back into the environment. A recent study found leafier — and often wealthier — Arlington neighborhoods are cooler than its Metro corridors and lower-income areas, a disparity a local nonprofit is working to address.
Tree roots hold soil in place, reducing runoff during rain storms. Since a deluge in 2019 caused extreme flooding, there has been increasing focus on county stormwater infrastructure, as well as concern that trees are lost due to the redevelopment of older homes into larger homes that cover more of a given lot.
Ballston Beaver Pond is in need of a new name because, well, there are no more beavers.
An online survey to rename Ballston Beaver Pond is set to close on Wednesday, June 1, as renovations at the pond are on hold due to a delay in material delivery.
Residents are asked to suggest names for the pond that either “reflect a park’s unique character and features” or one that “honors someone who made a significant and positive impact to Arlington County,” the survey says. Prior to the renovation, the pond was home to a variety of wildlife, including beavers. But the county is installing beaver baffles to discourage them from returning and building dams again.
The survey says residents will also be able to weigh in on a list of potential park names, compiled at least in part from the survey, in June. Aileen Winquist, the communication manager for the renovation project, said the final name is set to be presented to the Arlington County Board in September.
Renovations at the Ballston pond, which include converting it from a dry pond to a wetland, are paused because of a delay in the delivery of a concrete block that will be installed in the upper part of the pond, according to the project’s website. Winquist said the block is expected to arrive in mid-June.
“That’s kind of the last grading work that will need to be done,” she said. Much of the excavation and grading work was completed in April.
“The contractor has made excellent progress so far and the project is on schedule,” she said. The renovations are expected to wrap up in July 2023.
After installing the concrete block, which Winquist said would be a settling area for sediment and trash from water coming into the pond, renovations will continue with building viewing platforms and planting vegetation.
“The remaining work will be to install the platform — there’s a viewing platform on the east side of the pond — and then to do all the planting,” she said, adding “thousands of plants will be planted in the pond.”
The renovation process faced a series of interruptions before it began in December 2021. The project was planned, but in a holding pattern, between 2013 and 2019. It went into hiatus soon after the redesigned project went public in 2019 due to “COVID-19 and related budget concerns,” according to a county report in June 2021.
The current renovation project is a “high-priority project” in the county’s Stormwater Management Program and “contributes to restoring the Chesapeake Bay,” according to the project’s website.
Other renovation measures listed include constructing turtle basking stations and other wildlife components, planting wetland vegetation, and removing invasive species. The design plan for the project also includes spaces for a shrub wetland and a marsh.
The pond was initially built as a dry pond, which she said meant stormwater runoff from I-66 would temporarily sit in the pond area. That changed after the beavers arrived and built their dams. The renovations, meanwhile, aim to convert the pond into a wetland.
“The pond will have a lot of flow channels for the water to flow through, and as it’s filtered through the wetland plants and soils, that will remove pollutants from the stormwater runoff,” Winquist said.
A new program seeks to increase equity in Arlington by planting more trees in certain neighborhoods.
The local non-profit EcoAction Arlington announced that it’s starting the “Tree Canopy Equity Program” with the goal of raising $1.5 million to fund planting at least 2,500 trees over the next five years in local neighborhoods that have too few.
Insufficient tree canopy is closely tied to heat and temperature increases. The reason certain areas of Arlington are hotter than others, like the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor, is due in part to lack of trees, recent data shows.
“The neighborhoods most impacted by insufficient tree cover are communities with higher-than-average minority populations and communities with people living in poverty,” EcoAction Arlington said a press release. “The lack of trees has a real-world impact that can lead to poor physical and mental health outcomes, higher utility costs, and a lower quality of life.”
The ten civic associations and neighborhoods that the program will work with are below.
- Arlington View
- Aurora Highlands
- Columbia Heights
- Green Valley
- John M. Langston Citizens Association (Halls Hill/High View Park)
- Long Branch Creek
- Radnor/Fort Myer Heights
The current levels of tree cover in those neighborhoods is between 17% and 33%, according to EcoAction Arlington.
“The goal is to radically increase tree planting in the neighborhoods with the lowest tree cover to align with the average for other Arlington communities of approximately 40 percent,” the press release says.
EcoAction Arlington executive director Elenor Hodges tells ARLnow that that the group has already begun to plant more trees. That includes American hornbeams, pin oaks, river birch, sugarberry, American sycamore, swamp white oak, and American linden.
The program needs about $150,000 a year to cover operations, marketing, staffing, and the actual planting of trees, Hodges says, with each tree costing about $500 to plant.
Amazon, an inaugural sponsor, has already contributed $50,000. The goal is to raise $1.5 million from other corporate and individual donors, while also obtaining funding from Arlington’s existing Tree Canopy Fund Program. This initiative allows neighborhood groups, owners of private property and developments, and places of worship to apply to have native plants or trees planted on their property.
Residents in neighborhoods lacking sufficient tree canopy note that the the problem is often tied to the construction of large, new homes and not prioritizing trees while building.
“As we lose trees due to infill development of large homes on lots in our neighborhood, they need to be replaced and even expanded,” John M. Langston Citizens Association president Wilma Jones tells ARLnow. “We all know that trees give off oxygen and they reduce stormwater runoff.
Natasha Atkins has been a resident of Aurora Highlands for nearly four decades and has “watched with alarm” the number of trees lost to homebuilding projects.
“With the County’s zoning code, requiring only very small setbacks for residential housing, it is questionable whether there will be much of a tree canopy in the future in the single-family neighborhoods that are being redeveloped,” she says. “Trees are an afterthought in planning and zoning. They should really be a driver.”
Hodges concedes that planting 2,500 more trees over the next five years will only “make a dent” and it will take tens of thousands of trees for all these neighborhoods to reach the 40% tree canopy threshold.
But the Tree Canopy Equity Program is just as much about what one can do today as what one can do tomorrow, says Hodges.
“It’s about behavioral change and teaching people about the importance of having a sufficient tree canopy in Arlington,” she said.
A recently-announced partnership between is helping to clear hundreds of invasive plants from Upton Hill Regional Park.
For the past year, work has been ongoing to remove invasive plants from the 27-acre Upton Hill Regional Park located on Wilson Blvd in the Dominion Hills neighborhood. In particular, work has focused on a two acre section of the wooded section of the park with the highest concentration of invasives.
The work is being done by NOVA Parks, the inter-jurisdictional organization that operates Upton Hill, in collaboration with Arlington Master Naturalists, a group of certified volunteers with the mission of protecting local public lands. The partnership between the two organization is being touted by NOVA Parks in conjunction with today’s Earth Day holiday.
Nearly 1,000 volunteer hours were logged in 2021 managing invasive plants at the park, according to a NOVA Parks press release. In particular, volunteers cleared 19 invasive plants that are commonly found in Arlington, including Amur Honeysuckle, English Ivy, Wintercreeper, Rose of Sharon, and Winged Burning Bush.
“Park visitors who know the difference between native and invasive plants will already see a difference, as the natural habitat has been significantly enhanced,” Jill Barker of the Arlington Master Naturalists said. “We are thrilled with the partnership and progress over the last year.”
The work remains ongoing since the removal of invasive plants “is never really done,” notes the release.
Paul Gilbert, the executive director of NOVA Parks, tells ARLnow that the effort is costing NOVA Parks “at least” $100,000 a year in staff time, equipment, and a $60,000 a year contract that brings in “expert contractors to complement the efforts of volunteers and NOVA Parks staff.”
“This work will continue for years,” Gilbert said. “It may scale up or down some based on need over the years.”
Twice a month, the park hosts an invasive plant removal event. Volunteers are encouraged to sign up. The next one is being held this coming Thursday (April 28).
NOVA Parks and Arlington Master Naturalists have recently partnered on other programs as well. In 2020 and 2021 the two organizations, along with the Arlington branch of the NAACP, hosted the “Black and Latin/Hispanic Birder and Naturalist Series.” One of the leaders of that program was noted forestry trailblazer — and Arlington resident — Melody Mobley.
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It was a reasonable ask. Amanda Dabrowski and Jessie Dertke just wanted to do more outdoor activities and go camping. So, they joined the Boy Scouts. Specifically, Arlington’s Troop 104, the oldest continuously operated troop in the Commonwealth and first established more than a century ago.
For nearly all of those years, though, girls weren’t allowed to join.
But all of that changed in 2019 when the Boy Scouts of America allowed girls ages 11 to 17 years old to enter their ranks for the first time. The organization was renamed Scouts BSA. Additionally, the new members were given the opportunity to rise to the rank of Eagle Scout.
The very first day, February 1, 2019, that girls were allowed to join the Boy Scouts, then-12-year-old Dabrowski did exactly that. And went camping, winter be damned.
“I was so excited. And there was a camp-up that day, so I went out and did it. It was six degrees and freezing cold. But I was really, really psyched,” Dabrowski tells ARLnow, now 15 and living in the Ashton Heights neighborhood.
Dabrowski, as well as Dertke have gone on to become Eagle Scouts, making them among the first girls in Arlington to not only be part of what was once called the Boy Scouts but achieve the organization’s highest rank.
“I’m super proud,” Dabrowski says. “It makes me really happy and [becoming an Eagle Scout] doesn’t feel quite real yet… I’m one of the first people within the movement to be part of this.”
Overall, the two Arlingtonians are part of as many as 140,000 girls nationwide who have joined Scouts BSA since early 2019.
Like some who make history, the locals’ initial intentions weren’t necessarily to be first. It was simply to have the same opportunities as their male counterparts. They just wanted to go camping, build fires, and learn how to use a hatchet.
Dabrowski explains that she used to tag along with her twin brother’s troop, doing all of the same activities and completing all the tasks, but wasn’t given the same opportunity for recognition.
“It was really hard to see my brother get the awards and, then, I had done the same things, but wasn’t able to be awarded it because of my gender,” she says.
For 18-year-old Dertke, who’s now a student at Virginia Tech, joining the Scouts was also a way to get outside and go camping. Though, she did have some trepidation about joining.
“I kinda didn’t really want to join at first because I was worried people would say, ‘What are you doing here? You are a girl?’,” she says. “It was actually a great atmosphere and everyone was very supportive. It was a very good decision [to join].”
Supporters of Gulf Branch Nature Center are pushing to expand the hours of Arlington nature centers, as the 2023 county budget proposes to keep hours at pandemic levels.
In a letter to the community last week, Friends of Gulf Branch Nature Center president Duke Banks took issue with the County Manager’s proposed budget, which would keep the county’s two nature centers open only three days a week. That’s in contrast with the centers’ six day a week schedule prior to the pandemic.
The reasons for the cuts are due to safety and practicality.
A new Department of Parks and Recreation directive, as director Jane Rudolph noted in a budget work session earlier this month, is that two staff members are now required to open a county facility when previously only one was needed. That policy was put in place in response to a sexual assault that occurred at the Barcroft Recreation Center in 2019.
The other is that with more virtual programs — and school field trips still restricted, in part due to a bus driver shortage — nature center staff are more often going into schools instead of students coming to the facilities themselves.
Banks says that his organization understands the challenges, but believes it’s important to hire a few extra employees to keep the nature centers open as often as possible.
“Friends of GBNC understands the need for safety, and we laud nature center staff members on their flexibility in continuing to provide programs during COVID — both to the public and schools. However, these emergency initiatives don’t justify closing Arlington’s remaining nature centers three days a week,” Banks says in the letter. “Our nature centers anchor the creative new programming, providing essential facilities like exhibits, restrooms and shelter (during storms) and serving as a physical focal point that makes nature accessible to everyone, young or old, rich or poor.”
As Rudolph brought up at the work session, staffing and hiring remains a challenge across the department (as well as in the county as a whole). She noted that the department is making an effort to “meet people where they are” by taking nature center programming out of the facilities and into community centers, as well as schools.
“There is nature center programming happening, it just isn’t always happening in the nature center,” Rudolph said at the work session.
Banks and Friends of the Gulf Branch Nature Center disagreed with the approach, saying that structured programming shouldn’t be a driver of when the nature centers should be open.
“Many folks visit nature centers without attending a program and thus would be denied access to the nature centers at a time when the public’s visits to our parks have significantly increased during COVID,” Banks said in the letter. “With our highly urbanized environment and the pandemic-related fallout, children need the respite of enjoying nature now more than ever.”
The two county-run nature centers, Gulf Branch and Long Branch, averaged about 21,000 visitors annually in 2018 and 2019, according to a county report.
Rudolph made a point to say that the operational changes may not be permanent. The department is currently evaluating not just how many days the nature centers should be open, but their hours as well.
The centers are currently open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., with no evening hours, but Rudolph said that there’s a possibility of using some money to keep the centers open later this year, after kids are out of school and parents return from work. This could make centers more accessible without opening on additional days, officials said.
Friends of the Gulf Branch Nature Center is not the only organization advocating for bring nature centers hours back to pre-pandemic levels. During the work session, representatives from the county’s Park and Recreation and Forestry and Natural Resources commissions also expressed a desire to have the nature centers open longer.
Supporters of Gulf Branch Nature Center are asking those who agree with them to send an email to the County Board and County Manager expressing “how important it is to keep our nature centers accessible to the public and how disappointed you are by the proposed cuts to the nature centers’ public hours.”
The full letter from the organization is below.
County Prepping New Tree Study — “Arlington leaders may take their next crack at guesstimating the number of trees in the county – a topic not without political as well as environmental ramifications – early in 2023, if all goes according to plan… estimating the cost at $100,000 to $150,000.” [Sun Gazette]
New Name for GMU Arlington Campus — “George Mason University announced today that its Arlington Campus will be renamed Mason Square as the new centerpiece of the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor for multi-disciplinary talent and business development, as well as a civic and cultural destination. Also being announced is Fuse at Mason Square, the name of the new technology-forward building that is the heart of Mason’s commitment to growing Northern Virginia’s next-generation workforce. A groundbreaking ceremony for Fuse at Mason Square will take place April 6.” [Press Release]
FBI Warns of ‘Sextortion’ of Boys — “The FBI Washington Field Office is warning parents and caregivers about an increase in incidents involving sextortion of young children. The FBI is receiving an increasing number of reports of adults posing as young girls coercing young boys through social media to produce sexual images and videos and then extorting money from them.” [FBI]
Nature Center Staffing Slowly Returning — “Don’t expect hours of operation at Arlington’s two county-government natures centers to return to pre-pandemic levels in the coming year, or maybe ever, but local leaders say that doesn’t mean nature programs won’t have priority in coming years… [the] hope for the coming year was to use funding for temporary workers to increase hours at the nature center, including perhaps evening hours.” [Sun Gazette]
Church Wins Climate Award — “Rock Spring Congregational United Church of Christ’s commitment to fighting climate change over the past 15 years landed it a top award in the 2022 Cool Congregations Challenge. Rock Spring, on Little Falls Road in Arlington, was named the 2022 winner of the Energy Saver category in the challenge, sponsored by Interfaith Power & Light, a nonprofit group that seeks to motivate people of faith to take steps to address climate change.” [Patch]
Alexandria Schools Propose SRO Extension — “Alexandria City Public Schools is requesting an extension of its controversial school resource officer (SRO) program through the end of the 2022-2023 school year. School Board Chair Meagan Alderton says that the extension is part of the reimagining of the $800,000 program.” [ALXnow]
It’s Friday — Mostly cloudy throughout the day. High of 58 and low of 47. Sunrise at 7:05 am and sunset at 7:26 pm. [Weather.gov]
It’s a beautiful November morning among the trees outside of Long Branch Nature Center and Melody Mobley is at peace. She’s remembering how her mom used to take her and her siblings to creeks and collect leaves on weekends.
“To this day, I feel like I’m in more than church any time I’m out in the forest,” Mobley says, sitting on a bench in front of a pond. “This is my sacred space.”
In 1977, Mobley was hired to work at the United States Forest Service, after being recruited at her university’s career day. She was the first Black female professional forester in the agency’s history.
For decades, her life was in forests across the country, including in Washington, California, and Florida. In the late 1980s, she made the move to the D.C. area to help manage state forestry resource plans as well as watershed restoration. She’s lived in Arlington ever since, near N. Carlin Springs Road.
When Mobley started at the Forest Service as a forester, she loved the job.
“Just being in those beautiful, beautiful situations every day, picking your berries and greens from nature,” she tells ARLnow. “Just physically being in that place was wonderful. And seeing bears, porcupines, and everything we would see out there was just a real treat.”
It was the humans that made Mobley’s life hard. In fact, she hadn’t realized that she was the only woman of color at the Forest Service until a year into her job.
“I wasn’t into it,” she says. “When I found out I was the one and only, no one would ever let me forget it.”
As a young woman living in a small town, she felt isolated and constantly the focus all at the same time. It was like living in a fishbowl, Mobley says. Even things that one might think of as small were not available to her.
“I couldn’t get my hair done. I couldn’t find the products,” she says.
There were also far worse situations. She was sexually harassed, the target of racist remarks, and sexually assaulted by a work colleague when she was 20-years-old.
She thought about quitting, but did not want to give others the satisfaction that she was giving up. Plus, it was a full-time job that could help provide for her grandmother, who had cancer.
“I don’t want it to sound all doom and gloom because it wasn’t,” Mobley says.”But it sure was challenging.”
Even during her time working at the U.S. Forest Service headquarters in D.C. in the 1990s, Mobley says she constantly faced gender discrimination, harassment, and was even physically assaulted.
Later, as a leader, she hoped her speaking out would end this for herself as well as others facing similar mistreatment in the agency.
“I really put myself on the line speaking out,” she says. But in 2005 she retired, saying she had “no choice.”
To this day, she still fields calls from others in the Forest Service who are facing circumstances similar to her own. She provides advice, a sounding board, and sometimes even reaches out to leadership on their behalf.
“The Forest Service isn’t very happy with me, but that’s all right,” she says.
Mobley, however, has found her next calling, spending her days inspiring the younger generation by volunteering at Carlin Springs and Barrett Elementary schools. This includes taking students on nature walks, helping with their science assignments, and answering questions about the environment.
“I love, love, love kids so much,” she says. “I want them to see someone who looks like them. That’s so important.”
She helps to lead Black and Latin/Hispanic Birder and Naturalist series in partnership with Nova Parks and the NAACP’s Arlington Branch.
Mobley says those hikes are wonderful, but few people of color actually come on them. She’s not totally sure why, but this challenge isn’t unique to this program.
“Many of the programs around here don’t get people of color coming,” she says. “We really need to open that door and really make sure that they feel welcome… we need to make sure people know there’ll be people of color actually there.”
This is her mission, she says, to show that nature and forest are for all.
The National Landing Business Improvement District and the group Friends of Mount Vernon Trail are teaming up to help maintain the heavily-used trail.
This includes financial support from the BID for supplies and equipment, and a series of Saturday clean-up events through Jan. 22.
“We are really excited to partner with the National Landing BID to achieve our common goal of making the Mount Vernon Trail a safe and pleasant doorway to National Landing,” Judd Isbell, president of the Friends of the Mount Vernon Trail, wrote in a press release. “The BID’s sponsorship of our 2022 trail improvement events is providing vital support to purchase equipment and supplies for our volunteers.”
“We’ve had over 800 volunteers so far in 2021 and there have been times where we’ve had more volunteers than tools at our events,” Isabell added.
The sponsorship will provide resources to “better connect trail users to facilities, events and businesses in National Landing,” the nonprofit organization wrote in a blog post on Friday.
The BID declined to comment on exacts in terms of resources and funding. The sponsorship deal does appear to come with some swag, however.
Inked a sponsorship deal with National Landing. It's for Friends of the Mount Vernon Trail and not a personal sponsorship deal though. https://t.co/wmxGyNZwwv pic.twitter.com/j8cmqqWpH7
— Judd Lumberjack (@JuddLumberjack) December 10, 2021
The BID said the partnership will further its mission of making the Crystal City, Pentagon City and Potomac Yard neighborhoods a better place.
“Our wealth of green spaces and access to regional trails like the Mount Vernon Trail which boasts uninterrupted views of the D.C. skyline and stunning nature preserves, is part of what makes National Landing such an active, vibrant community,” National Landing BID president Tracy Sayegh Gabriel said.
The clean-up events began this past Saturday and will continue every week until Jan. 22. Each event will focus on a different section of the trail. For example, on New Year’s Day, volunteers will meet on the trail near the Crystal City Connector to help prune vegetation, cut tree branches, and pick up trash. Volunteers don’t need any special training and all tools will be provided.
There will also be a day of service on Jan. 17, Martin Luther King Day, in Alexandria.
“National Landing’s green spaces and direct access to trails like Mount Vernon are an integral part of our community,” wrote a National Landing BID spokesperson to ARLnow. “The National Landing BID’s mission is to support and complement our community’s exciting transformation, and that involves working with local groups, like the Friends of Mount Vernon Trail, to preserve our natural surroundings for years to come.”
The 18-mile Mount Vernon Trail runs from Mount Vernon in Fairfax County to Roosevelt Island near Rosslyn, passing by Crystal City as it parallels the GW Parkway. The trail is controlled by the National Park Service but volunteers have stepped up to keep it clean and safe for users amid sparse maintenance from the park service.
Work began yesterday (Wednesday) on the long-delayed Ballston Beaver Pond remediation project — but no busy beavers will be involved.
The $4.2 million, 18-month project approved by the County Board this summer will retrofit the pond, originally built in 1980 to collect stormwater runoff from I-66. Today, sediment in the pond prevents detention, and it instead has become home to abundant wildlife, including beavers, according to a county report.
The project, expected to wrap up in July 2023, aims to improve stormwater retention and the wildlife habitat by restoring native plant species and adding habitat features. There will be a new observation platform with educational signage, seating and a reconstructed trail with bike racks.
Arlington County says the new two-acre wetland area will provide stormwater treatment to 460 acres of land in the Lubber Run watershed, and “is among the County’s most effective opportunities to achieve its water quality objectives and meet its regulatory requirements.”
This month, the construction contractor will be setting up the site, county project manager Aileen Winquist tells ARLnow. Excavation will begin next year.
“From now until the end of the year, neighbors will see the contractor bringing in equipment and setting up the boundaries of the construction area,” she said. “In the new year, neighbors will begin to see dump trucks full of sediment removed from the pond leaving the site.”
Public access will be limited as well. The grass area within the park will be off-limits, as it will be used for construction. A bike and pedestrian detour will reroute trail users from Washington Blvd to the Custis Trail and along the south side of the pond.
The detour will be in place for the entirety of construction, Winquist says.
The project is divided into a few phases, as work can only occur on one half of the pond at a time, Winquist said.
First, workers will remove sediment from and re-grade a half of the pond while removing invasive plants.
After the second half of the pond receives the same treatment, construction will begin on a new observation platform, trail upgrades, native species planting and new habitat features, including basking stations for turtles, she said.
The project is a long time in coming.
After community engagement in 2011-12, the project was paused in 2013 until the necessary easements were obtained from property owners. A redesigned project with new permits went to the public in January 2019, but “COVID-19 and related budget concerns” again delayed the project, the report says.
Still, those nearby welcome the pond redo, according to the report.
“The community continues to be very supportive of the project and it is highly anticipated by Ballston area residents and businesses,” it said.
But once beaver baffles are installed to discourage these critters from returning — and damming the pond again, which could compromise water quality — the wetland area will need a new name.
“This beautiful natural area needs a name that fits its unique space,” says Department of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Martha Holland.
Next year, the county plans to ask the community for name ideas and provide an opportunity to comment on a list of potential names.