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Sparrow Pond, located in Glencarlyn Park and off the Washington & Old Dominion Trail (via Arlington County)

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.

Two aerial views from Arlington County of Sparrow Pond, in 2003 and 2018

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.

New designs for Sparrow Pond (via Arlington County)

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.

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Morning Notes

Dog park in Rosslyn (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Arlington Rents Continue to Rise — “Apartment rents in Arlington keep on moving upward, maintaining their position as most expensive in the D.C. area and are now well above pre-pandemic rates, according to new data. With a median rental of $2,063 for a one-bedroom unit and $2,469 for two bedrooms, Arlington’s rental rate grew a whopping 2.8 percent from May to June, the sixth highest increase among the nation’s 100 largest urban areas.” [Sun Gazette]

Local Group Donating Thousands of Socks — “The Nursing Professional Development Council at VHC Health decided to have a ‘Sock Hop’ – not a dance party but a sock collection benefiting ‘Doorways,’ an Arlington non-profit helping people out of homelessness, domestic violence and sexual assault. The goal was set at 1,940 pairs – 1940 was the year the Sock Hop started but the generous nurses and staff at VHC Health tripled that number. It’s the biggest sock donation the group has ever received.” [WJLA]

Dems Resuming Breakfasts — “In another sign that life is getting back to normal(ish) – or at least adopting a ‘live with COVID’ practicality – the Arlington County Democratic Committee is resurrecting its monthly in-person breakfasts. The return engagement – the first since early 2020 – will be held on Saturday, July 9 at 8:30 a.m. at Busboys & Poets in Shirlington. Del. Patrick Hope (D-Arlington) and others will discuss gun issues.” [Sun Gazette]

Cleanup Event Saturday Morning — “WalkArlington & BikeArlington partner to clean up a part of the W&OD Trail on Saturday, July 9. We will make our way down the W&OD, starting near the Barcroft Community Center, setting up our tent on the W&OD Trail at the intersection of a small road named ‘Barcroft Center’ and Four Mile Run Drive. We will pick up trash that accumulates alongside the trail. We will provide trash bags, gloves, trash pickers, drinks and some snacks. We will also have Bike and Walk giveaways.” [WalkArlington]

Metro Seeking Feedback on EFC Project — “Metro is seeking public input on the proposed bus loop expansion and pedestrian improvements at East Falls Church Station.  The station currently has four bus bays that are operating at maximum capacity. In coordination with Metro, Arlington County seeks to expand the footprint of the existing bus loop, upgrade the existing bus shelters, and add three bus bays with shelters at the station.” [WMATA]

Flood Watch This Afternoon — “Multiple rounds of scattered to numerous showers and thunderstorms are likely this afternoon and tonight. The most likely time period for thunderstorms producing heavy rain and potential flash flooding is this evening, but thunderstorms could develop as early as this afternoon, and may linger well into the night. Several inches of rain is possible in a short period of time, which would cause rapid rises of water.” [National Weather Service]

It’s Wednesday — Heavy rain starting in the afternoon. High of 86 and low of 78. Sunrise at 5:51 am and sunset at 8:38 pm. [Weather.gov]

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A new interpretive sign is being installed near Bluemont Junction Park to explain how Jim Crow laws impacted passengers riding the Washington & Old Dominion (W&OD) train line.

The sign is being installed by NOVA Parks and will be outside of the retired train caboose along what is now the W&OD trail. The historic marker is a few minutes walk from Bluemont Junction Park’s parking lot at 601 N. Manchester Street.

First in operation in 1859, the W&OD was one of the most popular train lines in the region. It began in Alexandria, cut through Arlington, and terminated in what is today Loudoun County. The railroad closed in 1968, but not before helping to establish a number of Northern Virginia suburbs.

Like other forms of public transportation at the time, the trains were required by Virginia state law to be segregated. A number of these discriminatory laws in the Commonwealth were technically still on the books until early 2020.

As the new sign details, Black passengers (as well as Native Americans) were often forced to sit in the back of the train and curtains were sometimes installed to further separate passengers of different races. Passengers who didn’t adhere to this law were fined and arrested, much like Barbara Pope, who was arrested in Falls Church in 1906 for not sitting in a certain section.

“Knowing our past is important to understanding the present. Injustice and inequity were built into the law and part of everyday life not that long ago,” said Julius D. Spain, NAACP Arlington Branch President, in a press release. “The Arlington Chapter of the NAACP is pleased to partner with NOVA Parks to tell the story of how segregation was part of the rail service that is now the most popular trail in Virginia.”

While a temporary sign was first placed last week, a permanent marker is being installed this week, a NOVA Parks spokesperson tells ARLnow.

A formal unveiling is happening at 10 a.m. this Saturday (Feb. 19). Spain, NOVA Parks leaders, as well as some Arlington County Board members are expected to be in attendance.

“Efforts that educate about the impact of segregationist Jim Crow laws in our community are essential: They remind us of our responsibility to ensure that our parks, transit and other services are inclusive and equitable for the present, and for generations to come,” said County Board Chair Katie Cristol. “I’m honored to join NOVA Parks in recognizing the history of the W&OD railroad and renewing the commitment to make the W&OD trail a welcoming space for everyone.”

Similar signs are being placed along the W&OD trail in Fairfax and Loudoun Counties. Each sign cost about $1,165 to make and install.

After operating as a railroad for nearly a century, the W&OD was converted into a park and trail starting in 1974. Completed in 1988, the trail stretches about 45 miles from Shirlington to Purcellville.

Today, the W&OD is a popular thoroughfare for walkers, joggers, and bikers so much so that separate paths were created for cyclists and pedestrians in Falls Church. There’s talk of that happening for the trail’s Arlington section as well.

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Morning Notes

The Theodore Roosevelt Bridge, the Memorial Bridge, and the 14th St. Bridge over the Potomac River in fog (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Free Outdoor Wi-Fi at Libraries — “During the month of January, 2022, two new free outdoor Wi-Fi hot spots were installed at the Cherrydale and Glencarlyn Libraries. Library patrons and Arlington residents have now 24×7 access to the free Arlington County Wi-Fi network ‘ArlingtonWireless’ at all library branches, both outdoor and indoor, and at various locations around the County. No ID or password is required for the free service.” [Arlington Public Library]

Four Arlington Joints on Best BBQ List — Post food critic Tim Carman’s new “best barbecue” list includes a number of Arlington favorites: Texas Jack’s (9), Smokecraft Modern Barbecue (6), Smoking Kow (5), and Sloppy Mama’s (3). [Washington Post]

W&OD Bridge Work Complete — “The re-decking of the bridge east of Wilson Blvd in Arlington is completed!” [Twitter]

County Conducting Satisfaction Survey — “Arlington County is conducting its sixth County-wide, statistically valid community survey to measure satisfaction with major County services and gather input about issues facing the community. The results enable County officials to assess performance across many County agencies and services.” [Arlington County]

AWLA Selling Pentagon Chicken Shirts — From the Animal Welfare League of Arlington: “No-one asked for this but we did it anyways – get your official #PentagonChicken shirt now! With the Henny Penny stamp of approval, proceeds will go to help keep other wayward poultry out of government buildings.” [Twitter]

Beyer Delivers Boxes of Protective Equipment — “A constituent reached out notifying U.S. Rep. Don Beyer (D-8th) that Restart Partners, a West Coast-based charity involved in planning for and procuring PPE, learned of a significant amount of it available in a local warehouse. Partnering with the owner (who wishes to remain anonymous), Beyer identified two charities (Doorways and PathForward) that needed the items for those they serve and for their staffs.” [Sun Gazette]

De Ferranti Makes It Official — “County Board member Matt de Ferranti kicked off his bid for a second term on Feb. 2 with a call for Arlington leaders to accelerate efforts to enact Democratic priorities and serve as a bulwark against the new Republican majority in Richmond.” [Sun Gazette]

It’s Friday — Rain before today 5 p.m., then a chance of rain and snow. Patchy fog before 1 p.m. Temperature falling to around 37 mid-afternoon. Winds could gust as high as 22 mph. Little or no snow accumulation expected. Sunrise at 7:09 a.m. and sunset at 5:35 p.m. This weekend will be sunny with highs in the 30s. [Weather.gov]

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Morning Notes

Snowy bridge in Rock Spring Park (Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann)

New Leadership for Local Dems — “The Arlington County Democratic Committee went with the more centrist option on Jan. 5, electing Steve Baker to a two-year term as party chair. Baker defeated Matt Royer in the balloting, held at the party’s biennial reorganization meeting. Baker promised to use his leadership post as ‘a collaboration and a partnership’ and ‘keep Arlington Democrats a big-tent party.'” [Sun Gazette]

W&OD Bridge Work Has Started — From BikeArlington: “Work on the @WODTrail bridge [near the caboose] was delayed but has begun today. Please follow detour signs onto the Four Mile Run Trail.” [Twitter]

Amazon Donates to Local Nonprofit — “Amazon.com Inc. donated $25,000 to Arlington nonprofit Boolean Girl to support the organization’s workshops that teach young students how to code and build electronics. Amazon’s gift from November boosts the Clubhouse educational program to meet weekly instead of monthly.” [Washington Business Journal]

It’s Friday — Following the overnight snowfall, today will be sunny, with a high near 30. Northwest wind 13 to 16 mph, with gusts as high as 31 mph. Sunrise at 7:29 a.m. and sunset at 5:02 p.m. Saturday will be sunny, with a high near 33. Sunday there’s chance of freezing rain and sleet before 9 a.m, then rain likely. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 44. [Weather.gov]

Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann

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Morning Notes

W&OD Trail Detour — From the Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services: “On 12/30-31, crews will be working on the W&OD Trail Bridge east of Wilson Blvd (near the caboose). The W&OD Trail will be detoured onto the Four Mile Run trail for about ½ mile and will be clearly marked.” [Twitter]

Single-Vehicle Crash on S. Glebe Road — On Tuesday afternoon: “S. Glebe Road is partially blocked at 7th Street S. after a one-vehicle crash with airbag deployment. One vehicle occupant reported to have facial injuries.” [Twitter]

Congrats, Vernon! — ARLnow and ALXnow’s own Vernon Miles just got engaged. Congratulations to the happy couple! [Twitter]

It’s Wednesday — Today will be cloudy with light rain possible throughout the day and temperatures reaching a high of 54. Sunrise at 7:26 a.m. and sunset at 4:55 p.m. Expect rain and fog tomorrow morning, with a low of 42 and a high of 54. [Weather.gov]

Flickr pool photo by Vincent

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Morning Notes

The Grinch, illustrated in Post-It Notes by Brigid Donaghy on the front of the H-B Woodlawn school building in Rosslyn (photo courtesy Dan Donaghy)

Redevelopment of Parking Garage Proposed — “The owner of a pair of Crystal City hotels along Richmond Highway is moving to redevelop a parking garage on the property into residential, the latest bit of change for the neighborhood as part of an Amazon.com Inc.-inspired development boom. Miami’s Sound Hospitality is on the hunt for a development partner to manage the transformation of a garage that currently serves Crystal City’s Hampton Inn and Suites and Hilton Garden Inn.” [Washington Business Journal]

Parent Group Wants More Class Time — “An advocacy group is pressing the Arlington School Board to add more instructional time to the school system’s proposed 2022-23 calendar. The comments came at the Dec. 2 School Board meeting, in which board members were presented with a staff proposal that meets the letter of state law in providing at least 990 hours of instructional time. But the school system should be going further – holding classes the full 180 days that had been the pre-COVID standard – said Camille Galdes, who spoke on behalf of Arlington Parents for Education.” [Sun Gazette]

Firefighter Unions Call Out Alexandria — “Understaffing within the Alexandria Fire Department put people and buildings at risk during a fire at Crystal City’s restaurant row on 23rd Street earlier this month, according to two unions representing more than 500 Alexandria and Arlington firefighters, medics and fire marshals.” [ALXnow]

Middle School Student Disciplined for Weapon — “On Thursday afternoon, the Swanson Administrative team received a report that a student was in possession of a weapon on their walk home from school. As a result of our investigation and consultation with the Arlington [County] Police Department on Friday, the student was disciplined in accordance with the Arlington Public Schools code of conduct.” [Twitter]

New ACPD Officers Sworn In — “December 10, 2021 marked a significant milestone for the Arlington County Police Department’s 18 newest officers as Session 145 graduated from the Northern Virginia Criminal Justice Training Academy. During the graduation, the officers took their oath to serve and protect the Arlington community and safeguard the Constitutional rights of all.” [ACPD]

Abduction Arrest in Clarendon — “At approximately 3:22 a.m. on December 10, police were dispatched to the report of a check on the welfare. The reporting party advised the female victim was inside a vehicle with a known suspect who would not allow her to exit… [The suspect], 26, of Washington D.C. was arrested and charged with Abduction and held without bond.” [ACPD]

W&OD Trail Bridge Gets Decked — “Enjoy a smooth ride on the newly-redecked bridge east of Little Falls St in Arlington.” [Twitter]

It’s Tuesday — Today will be sunny with a high of 54 and a low of 38. Sunrise at 7:19 a.m. and sunset at 4:47 p.m. Tomorrow will be mostly cloudy with a high of 55 and a low of 39. [Darksky]

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W&OD Trail crossing near the intersection of S. George Mason Drive and S. Four Mile Run Drive (via Google Maps)

(Updated at 1:25 p.m.) A pedestrian was struck and seriously injured by a driver who then fled the scene last night.

The crash happened near the intersection of S. George Mason Drive and Four Mile Run Drive, just before 8:30 p.m. The road was closed while police investigated.

The W&OD Trail crosses just north of the busy intersection, next to a service road that’s also labeled as S. Four Mile Run Drive.

“At 8:25 p.m. on November 29, police were dispatched to a crash with injuries involving a pedestrian at S. Four Mile Run Dr. and S. George Mason Drive,” Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman Ashley Savage tells ARLnow. “Upon arrival, officers located the pedestrian, an adult male, in the roadway. He was transported to an area hospital and remains hospitalized in critical condition.”

“During the preliminary investigation, officers did not locate any witnesses to the crash and there is no description of the striking vehicle,” Savage continued. “The circumstances of the crash remain under investigation. Anyone with information that may assist with the investigation is asked to contact ACPD’s Tip Line at 703-228-4180 or [email protected] Information may also be reported anonymously through the Arlington County Crime Solvers hotline at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).”

Photo via Google Maps

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A newly-reopened segment of the Washington & Old Dominion (W&OD) Trail in Falls Church boasts a feature that could be replicated in Arlington: separate paths for cyclists and those on foot.

Regional parks authority NOVA Parks widened just over one mile of the trail through the Little City in order to accommodate separate tracks. The organization celebrated the completion of the five-year, $3.7 million project this morning.

The parks authority says something similar should be done along the Arlington segment, which has seen an increased number of pedestrians, leisure riders and commuters competing for the same narrow asphalt strip.

“Our focus was getting Falls Church completed, since we had all the funds and city approval lined up for that,” NOVA Parks Director Paul Gilbert said. “The next step will be to see when we can get the Arlington section done — when we have design work done and we can talk to civic groups.”

Two years ago, the organization signaled its intent to widen the two-mile stretch between N. Roosevelt Street and N. Carlin Springs Road and incorporate separated trails. Work is contingent, however, on when a $5.6 million grant from the Northern Virginia Transit Authority becomes available.

That likely won’t happen until 2024, but having the Falls Church segment done helps the process in Arlington, he says.

“It’s not a theoretical,” he said. “Everyone can experience it, see it, understand how it works.”

Among those trying it out was local cycling advocate Gillian Burgess, who hit the trails this past weekend, ahead of the official opening today.

She says she wants to see similar mode-separated trails for the entire length of the W&OD in Arlington, as well as the Mt. Vernon Trail, the Bluemont Trail and parts of the Custis and Four Mile Run trails.

Gilbert says widening large sections of the Arlington W&OD Trail is “feasible, desirable and necessary.”

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Morning Notes

Summer School Enrollment Limited — “Despite having offered financial incentives to teachers to teach summer school, there are fewer applicants than the number of students who are eligible for summer instruction at the elementary level, making it impossible for APS to offer summer strengthening support to all eligible elementary students.” [Arlington Public Schools]

Car Driven onto W&OD Trail — “We were riding our triple bike and came across someone who had driven onto the W&OD Trail from Park Rd S… it was rather scary that they barely stopped before we passed by.” [Twitter, YouTube]

New Location for Free Covid Tests — From Arlington County: “Our no-cost, no-appointment mobile COVID-19 testing has moved! It’ll be based in the parking lot of Unitarian Universalist Church (4444 Arlington Blvd) through May 28.” [Twitter]

Dems Prepare for Apartment Outreach — “Voters [in multi-unit buildings] may have tipped the outcome of the 2018 County Board race, in which Democrat Matt de Ferranti ousted independent John Vihstadt… This year, races for local and legislative posts are probably not in much doubt across Arlington. But Democrats are hoping to run up the score in the races for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general in order to offset Republican strongholds downstate.” [Sun Gazette]

Va. GOP Selects Gov. Nominee — “Former private equity chief Glenn Youngkin became the Republican nominee for Virginia governor Monday night after his closest rival, business executive Pete Snyder, conceded while votes were still being tabulated.” [Washington Post, Associated Press]

D.C. Planning Full Reopening — “D.C. plans to lift a slew of coronavirus capacity restrictions starting May 21, with a full reopening to come in June.” [WTOP, PoPville]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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(Updated at noon) The new W&OD Trail bridge over Lee Highway in East Falls Church is now open.

VDOT announced the opening of the $6 million bridge Friday morning, touting “a safer, faster crossing over busy Route 29.” Previously, trail users would have to wait to cross Lee Highway at a crowded intersection, next to ramps to and from I-66 and Washington Blvd.

The trail is used by cyclists and pedestrians for both commuting and recreation. About 1,500 people travel on the W&OD near new bridge each weekday, while more than 2,000 use it on weekends.

The project prompted trail detours over its nearly two years of construction. It was funded — along with upgrades to I-66 ramps, repairs to overpasses, sound wall replacements, and a new Custis Trail roundabout — as part of the larger I-66 eastbound widening project.

Some finishing touches on the bridge and the nearby intersection will be completed through this summer, VDOT said. As of noon, however, the bridge was officially open.

https://twitter.com/VaDOTNOVA/status/1370416729227137038

More from a press release, below.

The new Washington & Old Dominion (W&OD) Trail Bridge over Route 29 (Lee Highway) in Arlington will open this afternoon, Friday, March 12, announced the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT). This new bridge will provide bicyclists and pedestrians with a safer, faster crossing over busy Route 29 adjacent to I-66. The new bridge was built as part of VDOT’s I-66 Eastbound Widening Project.

“This new W&OD Trail bridge is another step forward in VDOT’s commitment to expanding multimodal transportation options in the I-66 corridor and across the region,” said Bill Cuttler, P.E., VDOT Northern Virginia District Construction Engineer. “The new bridge will benefit a range of trail users, from people walking and bicycling to the nearby East Falls Church Metrorail Station to the dedicated bicycle commuters who use the trail year-round to reach destinations across Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C.”

The new crossing separates trail users from motorists at the signalized intersection of Route 29 and Fairfax Drive. The new bridge will enhance safety for both trail users and motorists and improve operations at nearby intersections on Route 29.

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