As restoration work continues at Sparrow Pond, one trail will close as another opens.
The Washington & Old Dominion Trail will be closed for six to seven weeks starting in mid-to-late February, per an Arlington County webpage.
“The work will allow the construction team to finish the new outfall that will connect Sparrow Pond to Four Mile Run,” the county says. ‘Thank you for your patience and understanding with the trail closures and weather-related delays.”
Restoration of the man-made pond along the W&OD Trail is still on track to be completed on time, with work expected to wrap up in August, according to the county.
A detour will direct cyclists and pedestrians to a newly reopened Four Mile Run Trail, set to open this week, says Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services. This trail had been closed for the construction of a new outfall connecting Sparrow Pond to Four Mile Run.
“The team has been excavating, placing the concrete outfall structures, and stabilizing the area to build a new outfall from Sparrow Pond to Four Mile Run,” the county webpage says.
Good news: Four Mile Run Trail near Sparrow Pond reopens this week. Don't-let-it-ruin-your-2024 news: The W&OD Trail near Sparrow Pond will detour for 6-7 weeks starting mid-late February for the same pond outfall work. https://t.co/OWUMFFtUuk @bikearlington @walkarlington pic.twitter.com/KdDtpfAYV7
— Arlington Department of Environmental Services (@ArlingtonDES) January 30, 2024
The trail closures are part of a multi-phase project to restore the pond — which had filled up with sediment — to its original depth.
The county is removing sediment and adding a collection bay, which it says will make maintenance and future sediment removal easier going forward, maximize water quality benefits and restore the pond’s habitat.
Through February, the contractor is working on excavating and installing pipe segments in the new outfall from Four Mile Run up to Sparrow Pond.
“Most habitat structures have been installed, including turtle basking logs, root wad habitat structures, and poles for wood duck boxes,” the county says. “Wood duck boxes will likely be installed in late February or March. Once the outfall is completed, work will resume on the remaining pools.”
Local officials, meanwhile, are asking that pedestrians and cyclists using the S. Park Drive trail spur to keep a wide distance from active equipment and follow flagger instructions during active construction hours.
Cyclists are cautioned to go slow and exercise caution due to large moving machinery, equipment, rocks, debris and wet or slippery conditions on the trail.
Typical work hours are weekdays from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., the county says.
Reconstruction of Sparrow Pond is currently underway.
Last Thursday, part of the Four Mile Run Trail closed while a new pipe from Four Mile Run up to Sparrow Pond is built. A detour is in place for the 6-7 weeks this work is expected to take place.
“Please use caution on the South Park Drive trail connector as the spur is shared between pedestrians, cyclists and construction equipment,” Dept. of Environmental Services Stormwater Communications Manager Aileen Winquist said.
In late November or early December, there will be a 6-7 week closure of the W&OD Trail with a detour to the Four Mile Run Trail.
“Thank you to the neighbors and trail users for your patience and understanding during the pond work, outfall construction and trail closures,” Winquist said.
The pond was initially built in 2001 and has since filled with sediment. Restoration work includes removing the sediment, creating deeper pools and making other habitat improvements for wildlife.
“As heavy storms continue to bring silt into the pond, remaining water pools have filled in,” the project website says. “Most turtles and other wildlife have already moved to other areas along Four Mile Run… Once the project is complete, we look forward to drawing them back with deeper pools and good habitat.”
A new sediment collection area is intended to make future maintenance and sediment removal easier.
Construction began in August with construction site preparations and set up. Tree removal, to make room for the new sediment collection area and expanded pools, is ongoing.
Construction is expected to continue through next August.
The restoration of Ballston Wetlands Park is officially complete and the park is now open to the public.
Arlington County officials and community members marked the occasion today (Tuesday) with a ribbon-cutting.
The rain-soaked event marked the end of a $4 million renovation project that transformed what was formerly known as Ballston Beaver Pond — until the departure of the beavers — from a sludge-filled area into a natural stormwater filtration system and wildlife refuge.
“Over the years, sediment, trash, and invasive plants essentially filled the pond,” County Board Chair Christian Dorsey told a crowd of attendees. “Now, cleared of that sediment and other debris, this retrofitted wetland system not only improves stormwater flow and filtration but also captures trash, serving as both a wildlife refuge and a natural respite within our urban village of Ballston.”
Initially built in 1980 as a stormwater detention facility for runoff from I-66, the pond gradually evolved into a haven for local wildlife. By the 1990s, species such as beavers, muskrats, geese, herons, egrets, red-winged blackbirds, fish and turtles had migrated to the area.
Dam-building activities by the beavers, however, interfered with the site’s original drainage systems. When the beavers eventually left, the county took the opportunity to make necessary improvements.
Planning for the renovations dates back to 2011 but it took a decade for the work to kick off in December 2021. Acquiring the necessary easements took about eight years and Covid further delayed the project.
The site now features new informative signage, educational exhibits and thousands of native trees and plants. Logs for turtles to sun themselves, dubbed “basking stations,” have also been added.
There is also a hidden feature to manage beaver activity going forward. The county installed a secondary, concealed pathway for water to flow out and bypass their dams, a solution known as a “beaver baffle.”
That may be prescient, given some reported beaver sightings, Lily Whitesell, a stormwater outreach specialist with Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services (DES), told ARLnow. Perhaps the beavers moved back to enjoy the upgrades to their old habitat.
Jason Papacosma, a DES wetlands project manager, said the project extends beyond local restoration efforts and contributes to the broader clean-up of Chesapeake Bay.
“This is a project that gives us credit for our obligations to clean up the Chesapeake Bay. And in terms of all the progress we’ve made to date, this project gives us at least 10% of that overall progress,” Papacosma said.
Demetra McBride, bureau chief of the county’s Office of Sustainability and Environmental Management, acknowledged that while the site was not originally an “environmental asset,” it has now become one.
“I realize that this is not a natural asset… But the community, going back as far as 10 years, wanted more. The leadership of Arlington inspired more. And your public servants and their contractors delivered more,” she said during the ceremony.
A $2.1 million contract to restore Sparrow Pond in Glencarlyn Park is set for Arlington County Board consideration this weekend.
The planning of the Sparrow Pond restoration project began in the spring of 2019. It will add new stormwater management facilities while restoring the sediment-laden pond.
At its upcoming Saturday meeting, the Board is set to consider a contract with construction company Triangle Contracting that includes a base of about $1.8 million and a contingency of around $300,000.
Construction is now projected to take six to nine months to complete, wrapping up sometime in 2024, according to the county’s project webpage. With the project’s permitting phase now complete, construction is anticipated to start by the end of this summer or early this fall.
The work is necessary because the pond has become filled with sediment and overgrown vegetation since being built in 2001-2002, according to county staff.
“The project will convert the pond to a constructed wetland to restore its stormwater management functions, as well as improve water quality, increase wildlife habitat, and restore native plant species,” a staff report to the County Board said.
“Planned improvements include adding a forebay to accommodate accumulation and removal of sediments, a maintenance access path, a riser structure, and an outfall culvert to safely convey the stormwater runoff to the Four Mile Run stream during high storm events,” staff noted.
A community meeting, open to the public, will be held regarding construction plans before the project begins. The specific date of the meeting will be posted on the project webpage.
The restoration will benefit residents in the area of the pond, county staff said, along with W&OD Trail users and local wildlife.
Reducing sediment infiltration from stormwater and improving water quality will “restore the pond to the original depth,” the county said, and improve the “habitat for herons, ducks, turtles, frogs and fish.”
Arlington County is looking to restore and replant a man-made pond along the Washington & Old Dominion Trail starting in 2023.
Since it was built between 2001-2002, significant sediment deposits have settled in Sparrow Pond in Glencarlyn Park, harming the wildlife habitat and the water quality. About a decade ago, the county decided to defer cleaning up the sediment and instead, redesign and restore the pond, according to a staff presentation.
Fast forward to 2022 and the county is finally wrapping up the project’s planning phase and preparing for construction.
Planned work includes an access path from S. Park Drive, a residential street off Arlington Blvd that dead-ends behind Glencarlyn Park, to the pond. The county intends to dig a sediment forebay and larger pools “to better filter stormwater and restore habitat for herons, ducks, turtles, frogs and fish,” according to the project webpage.
Additional, new stormwater management facilities will redirect runoff to the Four Mile Run stream, which could cut down on pollution and clouding downstream in the Chesapeake Bay. These changes should also prevent the W&OD Trail embankment from flooding during “100-year storm events” — or storms with a 1% chance of occurring every year — such as the 2019 flood precipitated by a torrential rainstorm, according to a staff report.
Before it can start, however, the Arlington County Board needs to approve agreements with the NOVA Parks and Dominion Energy, both of which own or control parts of the land surrounding the pond, where the new access path and stormwater facilities will be located.
The Board is slated to review these contracts on Saturday.
If the project is approved, construction would begin next year and take between six and nine months.
Preparatory work is already underway with special attention to wildlife, at the insistence of community members.
In the spring of 2021, the county installed a beaver baffle to help keep water levels stable and prevent the W&OD Trail embankment from flooding, all while not disturbing a beaver encampment in the pond area.
“The beaver baffle was an elegant solution that allowed the beaver to stay without endangering the W&OD trail embankment,” the county said in a project update.”The water levels came down and the pools on the bottom of the slope dried up. The slope and trail were safer again.”
Community members have emphasized in project meetings the importance of protecting wildlife, including beavers and the pond’s namesake swallows.
“We will work together to rescue native plants and affected animals like turtles and fish before beginning construction,” the county said. “Before being released, staff will test the animals so we don’t spread disease around the County.”
Plant and animal rescues will be planned for fall 2022, according to the project page.
This project — like the ongoing dredge work at Four Mile Run to prevent extreme flooding — is part of county efforts to improve stormwater management as storms appear to intensify, which many scientists attribute to climate change.
County staff and environmental advocates have attributed some flooding, at least in part, to development — including the construction of large homes — and the associated loss of trees and other plantings that absorb water.
Fewer trees and shrubs mean more water runs into stream banks, causing erosion, water pollution and sediment build-up. That, in turn, causes more tree loss and harms to wildlife habitats, including the critters of Sparrow Pond. The county has worked to mitigate such effects through stringent stormwater requirements for new construction, though some homebuilders have complained about the cost of such measures.
Tech Startup Moving to Ballston — “MarginEdge Co., a local tech startup with a restaurant management platform, is now reserving more headquarters space for itself. The 7-year-old company is shifting its home base from Fairfax County to larger Arlington digs at 4200 Wilson Blvd., MarginEdge co-founder and CEO Bo Davis told us. It’s building out the top floor of the office building, above Ballston Quarter mall, where he said the company will be closer to Metro and a central point to and from the District and suburbs.” [Washington Business Journal]
Update on Construction Projects — From Arlington County: “Multiple projects are in progress or have been completed around Arlington in the first half of 2022, with more on the way! Take a look at the latest edition of Projects to Watch.” [Twitter]
Goldstein Wants to Restore Trust — “Arlington’s new School Board chair for 2022-23 has tacitly acknowledged frayed relations between county leaders and the constituents they serve, and in remarks kicking off his tenure seemed to ask both sides to work toward repairing them. ‘I’ve seen community trust in our governing institutions erode,’ Reid Goldstein said during six minutes’ worth of remarks after being tapped as School Board chair July 1.” [Sun Gazette]
New Names for Ballston Beaver Pond — The Ballston Beaver Pond is being converted into a wetland and the four finalists for its new name were just revealed: Crossroads Wetland Park, Ballston Wetlands, Thaddeus Lowe Park and Wetlands Vista Park. [SurveyMonkey, Patch]
It’s Thursday — Updated at 7:45 a.m. — Cloudy throughout the day, with chances of showers. High of 81 and low of 74. Sunrise at 5:51 am and sunset at 8:38 pm. [Weather.gov]
Ballston Beaver Pond is in need of a new name because, well, there are no more beavers.
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.
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.
“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.
Next week, county officials will present details and ask for feedback on a long-awaited project to restore a pond along the W&OD Trail.
On Tuesday, October 1, Arlington’s Department of Environmental Services will present a draft plan for digging the Swallow Pond in Glencarlyn Park deeper, and restoring some of the wild habitat in and around the pond.
People interested in learning more about the designs can attend the meeting at the Long Branch Nature Center (625 S. Carlin Springs Road) from 6:30-8:30 p.m. on Tuesday. Officials are also welcoming feedback from community members.
“The project goal is to restore the pond to the original depth by removing sediment, add a sediment collection forebay to allow easier maintenance and sediment removal, maximize water quality benefits, and restore habitat,” the county wrote on the project webpage.
Officials hope that clearing sediment means clearer water will flow from the pond to Four Mile Run — making this project one of several the county is hoping can cut down on pollution and clouding downstream in the Chesapeake Bay.
Sparrow Pond was man made in 2001 and has been slowly filling up with sediment ever since.
Sediment was first cleared out of the pond 2007, per a county presentation. The pond was due for another clean-up in 2012, but the work was delayed. Several studies later, the pond is now slated for a full restoration project.
During a March community meeting, residents expressed concerns that construction could introduce invasive plants like Japanese knotweed via machinery that’s worked in places already seeded with the fast-growing shrub. Residents also requested crews do the work outside of the sparrow breeding cycle (roughly March to August) to protect the pond’s namesake avian inhabitants.
Some long-awaited improvements could finally be on the way for the Ballston Pond, which could help keep trash out of the waterway and help better manage stormwater in the area.
County officials are planning a community meeting to discuss the project tomorrow (Wednesday) at Arlington Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street). The gathering is set to start at 7:30 p.m.
The meeting is the first on the pond improvements since 2012, and the county has been eyeing some work on the small body of water since early 2011.
The pond, located near the intersection of I-66 and Fairfax Drive, was originally designed as a way to collect stormwater runoff from the highway back when it was first built decades ago. But sediment from the water built up in the pond over the years, and a combination of invasive plants and trash have also plagued the area.
Accordingly, the county has long sought to install new trash control devices and other new vegetation buffers around the pond. Officials have also decided to replace a walkway around its perimeter, particularly as it nears the CACI office building and AVA Ballston apartments, and add a new “boardwalk” along a section the pond as well.
The county drained the pond to clean it up a bit back in 2013, then spent the next few years removing unwanted plants growing nearby and securing the necessary easements to let the project go forward.
But with all that work finally completed, the county is now finalizing designs for the project and hopes to get work started later this summer.
So long as the community signs off on the designs, the County Board could vote to send the project out for bid this spring.
County Gets $500k for Beaver Pond Project — Arlington County has received a $500,000 state grant for a project to improve the Ballston beaver pond. “The $2.7 million improvement project, paid for mostly from stormwater funds, includes changing the flow pattern to keep water in the pond longer, allowing wetland plants to remove nutrients and other pollutants before it flows out,” the county said in a press release. “Construction is expected to begin in the summer 2014.” [Arlington County]
Fisette’s Disclosure Doesn’t Include Husband — County Board Chairman Jay Fisette’s annual financial disclosure did not include the finances of his husband. Fisette was married in D.C. this past September, but Fisette says he’s not required to include his spouse in the disclosure since their marriage is not recognized under Virginia law. [Washington Post]
Howze Tops Fundraising Battle — Democratic County Board hopeful Alan Howze has raised the most money of any County Board candidate, with $16,245. Fellow Democrat Cord Thomas appears to be completely self-funding his campaign, while independent candidate John Vihstadt’s donors include a number of local Republicans. [Blue Virginia]
APS Budget Forum Dates Set — Arlington Public Schools will hold three community forums on the upcoming FY 2015 budget. The forums will be held on Jan. 22, Jan. 29 and Feb. 3. [Arlington Public Schools]
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann