Some residents in and around Crystal City want to open up the Roaches Run Waterfowl Sanctuary to more walking and hiking — with help from JBG Smith.
The developer owns property around Roaches Run and is interested in converting parts of its private land into a public connection accessible from the surrounding neighborhood.
This partnership is one way that the Arlington Ridge, Aurora Highlands and Crystal City civic associations propose adding open space to their neighborhoods. A second solution is to redesign and upgrade Virginia Highlands Park for more uses than sports.
The two ideas are part of a report published last week from the three associations, which have banded together to form Livability 22202. The report also recommends ways to plan new parks in Crystal City and enhance local biodiversity.
“COVID-19 has changed everyone’s thinking about open spaces,” Livability 22202 President Carol Fuller said. “The traditional parks of the past do not serve the purposes of our new world. We need to have open space, parks and trails for people to go out for casual use outdoors.”
The group is scheduled to present its recommendations to the Parks and Recreation Commission in February, she said.
Compared to other parts of the county, Pentagon City and Crystal City have fewer trails and open parks, Fuller said.
“If we did not have Long Bridge [Park] — which is fairly new — and if we didn’t have Virginia Highlands Park, we would have no trails and very little open space,” she said. (Crystal City is also served by the Mt. Vernon Trail, which connects to the neighborhood near the intersection of Crystal Drive and 18th Street S.)
Livability 22202 is proposing a loop trail and connecting trails into and out of Roaches Run. The County too is interested in turning the area into publicly-accessible natural space as the neighborhood experiences a wave of redevelopment in the wake of Amazon’s HQ2 decision — but officials indicated this spring that it could take 5-10 years to implement.
JBG Smith is willing to make use of its land to advance the broader open space discussion happening in National Landing — the collective term for Crystal City, Pentagon City and Potomac Yard — Andrew VanHorn, Executive Vice President, JBG Smith said in a statement.
“JBG Smith is supportive of plans that would make Roaches Run more accessible to the community and allow more people to enjoy this important natural asset,” he said.
VanHorn added that JBG Smith welcomes “the opportunity to work with the community, the County Board, and the National Park Service to help make this vision a reality.”
“One of the problems with Virginia Highlands is it’s primarily for recreation,” such as tennis or softball, she said. “It needs an upgrade badly.”
At 18 acres, it is one of Arlington’s largest parks, but suffers from underused and wasted space, at least according to the authors.
The Aurora Highlands Civic Association has long pushed for changes to the park, and this upcoming fiscal year the County was slated to start developing a master plan for it.
But that plan is now on hold, Fuller said. So, in the meantime, Livability 22202 is proposing upgrades that include a gathering space, a sledding site, better lighting, permanent community gardens and a dog run — similar to the dog park proposed by a separate local group.
Money is perhaps the biggest missing ingredient for making changes to Roaches Run and Virginia Highlands Park, Fuller said.
“COVID-19 has not only shown us great need for open space, but it also destroyed the budget to give it to us,” Fuller said.
A stone’s throw from Crystal City is Roaches Run, a waterfowl sanctuary on the northern flight path to and from Reagan National Airport.
The body of water, surrounded by woods, is home to birds, ducks and dragonflies. Accessible primarily from a small parking lot off the southbound GW Parkway, most human activity is confined to fishing and birdwatching.
But that may eventually change.
Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey toured a portion of woods around Roaches Run last week with the chair of Arlington’s Planning Commission and representatives of Crystal City property owner and Amazon landlord JBG Smith.
— Libby Garvey (@libbygarvey) February 27, 2020
Though Roaches Run is controlled by the National Park Service and is part of the GW Parkway, JBG owns parcels of land adjacent to the waterfowl sanctuary and could help link it to Crystal City. That would give the rapidly-developing neighborhood newfound accessibility to natural spaces.
“JBG owns a lot of the land over there and is in communication with the Park Service,” Garvey told ARLnow, noting that the developer invited her to last week’s tour. “Can we take this land and turn it into an accessible, usable space for people?”
Garvey said Roaches Run is “a lost area” that’s “not very accessible for anybody” at the moment. Active railroad tracks currently separate it from Crystal City and Long Bridge Park.
JBG declined comment for this story.
Among the ideas for Roaches Run are walking and biking trails, a floating dock for boaters in canoes or kayaks, and bird observation stations. Roaches Run would remain a nature preserve, however, and is not envisioned for other sports or recreation uses.
“It’s going to take some cooperation” to see this idea come to fruition, Garvey said.
The county, the Park Service, JBG and even the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority would likely be involved. That’s not to mention local civic associations, which have floated the idea of establishing connectivity to Roaches Run from Long Bridge Park and the Mt. Vernon Trail as part a series of improvements to the Crystal City and Pentagon City are dubbed Livability 22202.
“I think it’s an advantage for everybody…. making that whole area spectacular for people,” Garvey said. “You could get on an airplane and go hiking and boating within a mile radius.”
While discussions about Roaches Run have been informal in nature so far, with Amazon moving in nearby and demand for recreational opportunities growing it’s likely to advance to a more formal planning process at some point in the near future.
“It’s all very tentative but this is how ideas start, you have to start somewhere,” Garvey said. “Nothing is happening tomorrow or even next year… it’s probably 5-10 years out.”
Map via Google Maps
The Arlington County Fire Department was among the numerous agencies assisting with a search for human remains at the Roaches Run Waterfowl Sanctuary near Reagan National Airport today.
The search is linked to the discovery of a human skull and other bones along Four Mile Run in Arlington, near the GW Parkway.
“After multiple searches over several days, three (3) human bones to include a skull, were recovered from the creek bed,” U.S. Park Police said on July 19. “The scene spanned approximately 200 yards, suggesting that the bones may have washed into the area during heavy storms.”
During that search, a D.C. fire department cadaver dog was injured and airlifted to an emergency vet. That dog, K-9 Kylie, was recently released for full duty and was back searching around Roaches Run today, according to a video posted by D.C. Fire and EMS (below).
Today’s search also involved divers, but did not turn up anything and has since been called off, according to reporters on scene. More via social media:
Just two days after being released for full duty after recovering from a near fatal injury,#DCsBravest human remains detection K-9 Kylie is back at work with handler Sgt. Gene Ryan, assisting @usparkpolicepio with a search in Northern Va. pic.twitter.com/wwUci6r0vR
— DC Fire and EMS (@dcfireems) August 1, 2019
US Park Police Capt Scott Brecht says they’ve called off the search permanently for remains associated with a skull found near National Airport. Dogs hit on a possible spot on Roaches Run, but divers found nothing. Brecht said it’s likely the skull of a 40-50 yr old white male. pic.twitter.com/hCIOZtwpYQ
— Sam Ford (@ABC7Sam) August 1, 2019
— Joe Spevak (@CameraCrazyFox5) August 1, 2019
@ARLnowDOTcom what’s going on at Roaches Run? Underwater search and rescue, police and fire. Lot closed and taped off
— John Wick’s Dog (@wick_dog) August 1, 2019
I-66 HOT Lanes Open Dec. 4 — Beginning on Dec. 4, the new toll booths along I-66 will be switched on and solo drivers will be able to use I-66 during rush hour, for a price. Cars with two or more occupants will be able to continue using I-66 for free, as long as they have an E-ZPass Flex transponder. [WAMU]
Transportation Secretary Regrets Streetcar Cancellation — “As he prepares to wrap up a four-year tenure as Virginia’s secretary of transportation, Aubrey Layne said the cancellation of the Columbia Pike streetcar project ranks as one of the major disappointments of his tenure.” [InsideNova]
Investigation into ANC Cop Photo — “Officials at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall now say they are conducting an internal investigation after a photo surfaced depicting several officers who patrol Arlington National Cemetery smiling and laughing while pretending to beat a fellow co-worker. A source within the base police department shared the photos with FOX 5 and says the officers took the pictures on Thanksgiving Day while on duty at the cemetery.” [Fox 5 DC]
Roaches Run Now Sanctuary for DCA Drivers — The Roaches Run Waterfowl Sanctuary was first established by FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corps in the mid-1930s. What was once intended as a tranquil place to watch waterfowl is currently mostly being used by drivers waiting to pick up passengers at Reagan National Airport. [Falls Church News-Press]
NBC Correspondent is Arlington Resident — NBC News correspondent Peter Alexander lives in Arlington with his wife, ABC 7’s Alison Starling, and their two daughters. He recently shared ten pieces of wisdom he’s learned over the years. [Northern Virginia Magazine]
Arlington Store Featured on VOA — Wild Birds Unlimited, the store for bird watching enthusiasts along Lee Highway, was featured in a recent Voice of America report about the “popular American hobby” of bird feeding, which “connects people to nature.” The store and owner Michael Zuiker also publish a biweekly column on ARLnow.com. [Voice of America]
The test is being conducted to determine how oil traveled from Dominion’s Crystal City substation to the Roaches Run Waterfowl Sanctuary.
The dye will be a bright peach color and it is non-toxic; it’s expected to last no longer than a week and, according to Dominion, currents and sunlight will likely cause the dye to dissipate within a day.
Photo Courtesy Dominion Virginia Power
Dominion Admits Culpability for Potomac Oil Spill — Last week’s mysterious oil spill that ran from the Roaches Run Waterfowl Sanctuary, down the Potomac past Reagan National Airport, came from a Dominion Power substation in Crystal City. The company is taking responsibility for the mineral oil spill, which killed 21 birds, mostly Canada geese, and prompted a large Coast Guard and Arlington County cleanup response. [Washington Post]
Loverde Issues Statement on Scalia’s Death — Diocese of Arlington Bishop Paul Loverde issued a statement on the passing of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia over the weekend. Loverde said “we are all deeply saddened” by Scalia’s unexpected death, lauding him as “a man so deeply rooted in his faith, so brilliant in the law and in jurisprudence, so clear and precise in his judicial statements, so wholly committed to his family, so engaging with colleagues and friends, often with great humor.” [Catholic Diocese of Arlington]
D.C. Denies St. Paddy’s Bar Crawls — The annual Shamrock Crawl bar crawl will be coming to Clarendon next month. Arlington police helped keep a lid on crime and rowdiness associated with the bar crawl last year. In the District, however, concerns about bad behavior prompted officials to deny permit applications for the D.C. version of the Shamrock Crawl and another St. Patrick’s Day-themed crawl. [Borderstan]
Garvey on Kojo Show — On Friday, Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey was a guest on the Kojo Nnamdi Politics Hour, which is broadcast on WAMU (88.5 FM). Garvey spoke to Nnamdi and NBC 4’s Tom Sherwood about the proposed widening of a portion of eastbound I-66, as well as related topics like Metro and transit. [YouTube]
W-L Shot Put Record Smashed — Washington-Lee High School junior Benedict Draghi has convincingly set a new school record for shot put. At a recent track meet, Draghi recorded a throw of 61 feet and 4.75 inches. The performance was good for first place at the meet and it blew away the school’s 50-year-old previous indoor shot put record by nearly 10 feet. [InsideNova]
Old Guard Offers Horses for Adoption — The Army’s Old Guard, based at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, is offering two caisson horses for adoption. The horses, Quincy and Kennedy, have served in military funerals and ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery for almost a decade. [WJLA]
Volunteers Remove Wreaths from Cemetery — Despite bone-chilling cold temperatures, on Saturday volunteers picked up tens of thousands of holiday wreaths that were placed on headstones at Arlington National Cemetery in December. The cleanup was postponed from January due to the blizzard. [WUSA 9]
Flickr pool photo by WolfpackWX
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell will lead an effort to clean up the shoreline at Roaches Run Waterfowl Sanctuary near Crystal City tomorrow (Thursday).
The Department of the Interior oversees the National Park Service, which is in the middle of a process of environmental and access enhancements to the sanctuary and to Gravelly Point Park, across the George Washington Parkway from the sanctuary. To help out with that project, Jewell and volunteers from AmeriCorps and the Student Conservation Association will plant “native wetland species,” remove invasive plants and clean up trash from the sanctuary’s shoreline.
The program will start at 11:30 a.m. and the cleanup efforts will go until 4:00 p.m. The cleanup is meant to not only help with the ecosystem of Roaches Run, but also to commemorate the 13th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, as part of the September 11th National Day of Service and Remembrance.
“The day is going to be commemorating 9/11 and recognizing the importance of giving back to the community through hands-on service work,” SCA events manager Lori Robertson told ARLnow.com. “Because it’s so close to such an urban area and really close to the parkway, [Roaches Run] has been neglected over time. [The NPS] is trying to rehab and restore its health.”
The event is also part of Jewell and Interior’s youth initiative. About a third of the Interior Department’s staff will be eligible to retire within the next five years, according to Jewell. As a result, the department is looking to recruit young people who can be the nation’s future stewards of public lands.
“I’ve had the privilege of being out on many service projects in the outdoors with young people,” Jewell says in a video about the initiative. “One thing that strikes me is, when they get their hands dirty working on the land, when they make a difference and they build a segment of trail, they never look at that place in the same way.”
Photo via Google Maps
(Updated at 3:45 p.m.) The National Park Service is seeking public input on a series of changes proposed for Gravelly Point and the Roaches Run Waterfowl Sanctuary, which are located along the George Washington Parkway near Crystal City.
The proposed changes, which have been in the works since 2008, are intended primarily to improve access to Roaches Run and reduce trail use conflicts along the Mount Vernon Trail at Gravelly Point. Other changes will “enhance the visitor experience… and enhance the safety of pedestrians, motorists, and cyclists.”
The proposal includes:
- The addition of a boardwalk/pedestrian trail from the Crystal City pedestrian underpass to Roaches Run
- A removable, floating boat launch at Roaches Run
- Either widening the congested trail area at Gravelly Point or building two separate trails — a “through route” and a “pedestrian route”
- A permanent “waterless restroom” located in the southwest corner of Gravelly Point
- Converting the dusty, over-used field at Gravelly Point into two rotating fields or one permanent field with either reduced use or more intensive turf management
- “Interpretive sites” at Gravelly Point that will include “signage detailing cultural and natural histories of the area”
- Improved landscaping at Gravelly Point that will remove invasive species and “frame parkway views across the Potomac to Washington, D.C. based on historic planting plan”
- Additional safety features along the Mount Vernon Trail where it parallels the GW Parkway near Reagan National Airport. Safety features may include reflective lines, protective barriers, or protective plantings.
The National Park Service will be holding a public meeting from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, June 5 to gather input on the options for the Gravelly Point field and the Mount Vernon Trail safety improvements. The meeting will be held at the Indigo Landing Restaurant on Daingerfield Island, located off of the GW Parkway near Alexandria.
Interested parties can also submit comments via the project website. Comments will be gathered through June 22. There will be another opportunity to comment on the options later this year, after an environmental assessment is released for the project.
Once the environmental assessment is released and final project decisions are made, park planner Thomas Sheffer says it could “take a number of years” until the entire project is complete. The timeline is still very much up in the air, and depends on the project’s ability to receive federal funding. Some work, however, may be completed sooner.
“Smaller actions would be considered for more immediate completion by Parkway work crews,” Sheffer told ARLnow.com.
On a fishing expedition to the Roaches Run Waterfowl Sanctuary, located between Crystal City and the GW Parkway, local fly fishing guide Rob Snowhite made a surprising discovery: a group of wild chickens that has apparently taken residence in the sanctuary.
Snowhite wrote on his blog this morning that shortly after parking in the Roaches Run parking lot (across from Gravelly Point, the lot is frequented by limo drivers waiting for airport arrivals) an animal control officer arrived on scene and started trying to round up the wily birds, who seemed determined to not be evicted from their South Arlington home. To assist the effort, Snowhite and his fishing buddy got out their nets and joined the chase. After 20 minutes of fruitless effort, the trio gave up — an outcome that was cheered by some bystanders who told the men to leave the chickens alone.
The two fishermen continued on with their fly fishing mission at the sanctuary, marveling at the prospect of wild chickens living near an urban pond but lamenting the unsuccessful chicken chase.
“There won’t be any fresh roast chicken at Ri Ra tonight,” Snowhite quipped.
Photo courtesy Rob Snowhite