Arlington, VA

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.

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A group of local residents have launched a petition against an Arlington County plan to remove more than 80 trees at the Donaldson Run Nature Area.

The nature area, part of Donaldson Run Park at 4020 30th Street N. between Military Road and N. Upton Street, is set to have a section of its stream restored early next year.

The project on Tributary B is designed to help prevent erosion by creating a new natural stream and re-connecting it with the flood plain. Opponents said the project would remove 81 trees, endanger another 52 and remove vegetation along 1,400 feet of Donaldson Run. Work to restore the stream’s Tributary A was completed in 2006.

But a group of residents have launched an online campaign against what it described as the “rapid loss of trees on public and private lands” and urged the county to reconsider.

“The Donaldson Run Tributary B [stream] restoration project, costing taxpayers over $1 million, sacrifices broad local natural environmental benefits for a narrow distant storm water purpose,” the petition reads. “This project must be put on hold until… comprehensive technical and cost/benefit reviews can be completed that include better alternatives that use the money most effectively to meet all the community’s goals.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, the petition had received 14 signatures.

Opponents of the project will host an event on Sunday, September 10 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the nature area to hand out free saplings to “expand our urban forest.”

Photo No. 4 via petition, photo No. 5 via Google Maps.

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Storm drain marker featuring Sherlock ShadIt’s that time of year when Sherlock Shad (pictured left) begins appearing more frequently in Arlington neighborhoods. But the county needs help attaching the storm drain markers bearing his likeness.

Arlington marks many of its more than 10,000 storm drains as a reminder that anything going into a drain heads directly to local streams that flow into the Potomac River. The river is the source of tap water for Arlington and much of the D.C. metro area.

Nothing should be dumped into storm drains, per Arlington County Code Section 26-5, which reads: “…it shall be unlawful for any person to discharge directly or indirectly into the storm sewer system or state waters, any substance likely, in the opinion of the County Manager, to have an adverse effect on the storm sewer system or state waters.”

Arlington partners with the neighboring jurisdictions of Fairfax County and Alexandria to all order the same style of markers. Ordering the markers in bulk helps each jurisdiction keep costs down. The costs vary each year based on how many markers need to be attached.

Arlington County Department of Environmental Services Stormwater Outreach Specialist Jen McDonnell said in addition to affixing the markers to currently unmarked drains, volunteers replace some markers that are damaged or have come loose from the pavement.

“Whether it’s snow removal or new construction, these markers do come off with time,” said McDonnell. “Not only are they [volunteers] affixing the markers, but they can tell me which streets need new markers or what is unmarked.”

The markers list different streams depending on which neighborhood they are placed in. Some of the waterways include Lubber Run, Four Mile Run, and Gulf Branch.

The glue used to attach the markers to the pavement does not work in cold, wet conditions. Therefore, the markers only can be applied on dry days during the late spring, summer and fall.

Nearly anyone can volunteer to help out, including adults, scout groups or middle school and high school students wishing to fulfill service hours. Volunteers receive all the materials necessary to attach the markers. Once finished with the task, volunteers report which drains they have marked so the locations can be entered into an electronic database.

“This project allows the citizens to be involved and clues them in to all the storm drains. It makes them think about if there are things in the street, where it all goes,” McDonnell said. “It’s a great, easy program that people can get out and do whenever they have time for it.”

Anyone who would like to volunteer to affix the markers in their neighborhood should contact Jen McDonnell at [email protected] or 703-228-3042. Residents can also contact her to report a storm drain in need of a new marker.

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Update on 10/22 — The advisory has been lifted.

Raw sewage overflowing from a manhole near the Long Branch Nature Center has prompted county authorities to issue a warning about the water in the Upper Long Branch stream and in Four Mile Run from Glencarlyn Park to the Potomac River.

People and animals should avoid contact with both streams until future notice, the county said Friday night. Among the affected areas is the popular Shirlington dog park.

From a county news release:

ARLINGTON, VA – Arlington County advises residents (and their pets) to avoid water downstream of a sewage release in Upper Long Branch stream. The area to avoid begins near the Long Branch Nature Center and continues through Four Mile Run at Glencarlyn Park to the Potomac River. This precautionary measure follows the discovery of sewage discharging from a sanitary sewer manhole near the Long Branch Nature Center on Friday evening, October 15.

Residents are advised to stay away from the affected waters – and also keep their pets away until further notice, to eliminate the risk of exposure to untreated sewage. Residents should not fish in the streams or have any contact with the waters – including wading or swimming – until further notice from the County. The advisory to avoid all contact is considered an extra precaution until the discharge is stopped and to allow the effect of the discharge to be diminished by natural flushing of the streams. The recreational areas affected include the following parks adjacent to the streams: Glencarlyn, Barcroft, Allie Freed, Shirlington, Jennie Dean and Four Mile Run.

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Did you know that all of Arlington’s storm drains empty directly into local streams and waterways? Many people do not, which is part of the reason why 50-100 cases of stream contamination are reported each year.

To help reduce that number, Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment and Whole Foods are teaming up to put “Don’t Dump” markers on neighborhood storm drains.

The project is taking place this Saturday. Volunteers are asked to meet at the Clarendon Whole Foods (2700 Wilson Blvd) at 1:00 p.m. A light snack will be served at Whole Foods afterward.

Contact Jackie Zovko (jackie.zovko[at]wholefoods.com) for more information.

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