Monthly Archives: May 2013

Fish On The Move: Huntsman Lake To Be Drained Later This Year

Contractors remove fish from Huntsman Lake.

Contractors remove fish from Huntsman Lake.

It was an unusual day for the fish. An adventurous one, too. They’ll certainly have something to talk about with their BFFs.

If they can find them.

On May 15, an estimated 800 to 1,000 pounds of fish were shocked, netted and moved from Huntsman Lake to Lake Mercer. Huntsman, a 28-acre lake in the Pohick Creek watershed, will be drained later this year to allow for dam maintenance, which would certainly have been an even larger inconvenience for the fish.

Ecologist Shannon Curtis of the county’s Department of Public Works & Environmental Services says that after Huntsman Lake is drained, the lake bottom will be dredged, and the sediment that has flowed into it in recent years because of erosion upstream will be removed. That means the lake will be deeper and, once again, more effective at trapping sediment, which Curtis says is one of the lake’s primary functions.

In addition, there will be some engineering work done on the Huntsman Lake dam.

There’s nothing wrong with the dam. The lake’s emergency spillway needs to be upgraded because there are new regulations governing dams. This is just an upgrade to meet the new regulations.

Fairfax County also is going to repair and replace the riser structure, which visitors to the lake see as a large concrete block standing out in the water near the dam. It houses the pipe that drains the lake into the stream below the dam, and it’s the work on this structure that requires that the lake be drained.

There will, unfortunately, be a loss of some fish that are in the lake. That’s why the shocking boat was on the waters saving as many fish as possible. The loss of fish means there may be a stench around the lake, and there could be visits from predators – hawks, eagles, foxes – looking for an easy meal.

There’s good news coming at the end of the project. “There’s a lake restoration plan that’s going to occur that’s actually going to improve the conditions of the lake,” Curtis said. Engineers plan to add an underwater berm, or ridge, across the upper part of the lake that will create a sediment forebay, a kind of pocket in the lake’s upper reaches. That pocket should catch most of the sediment coming into the lake and help the deeper part of the lake remain somewhat free of sediment. That also means the next time the lake requires dredging that engineers may not have to drain the entire lake. Rather, they can lower the water so that the silted-in area behind the berm can be dredged while water in the deeper, lower basin can be left in place.

There are shoreline improvement plans, water quality improvements and habitat improvements coming for the lake after the construction. Residents may notice a change in the flora around the shoreline.

Curtis says the shocking showed that the lake “currently actually has a very productive fishery in it.” Some nice largemouth bass in the two-to-four pound range were captured and moved to Lake Mercer. Once the construction work is complete and the lake is restored, it will be put on an annual stocking plan managed by state fisheries biologists.  Even better, the restoration plan includes creation of submerged habitat (structure) for fish, shoreline stabilizations and both wetland and aquatic vegetation plantings.

The entire project, “mucking up, draining, digging, dump trucks hauling dirt out, moving dirt, general construction activity” as Curtis puts it, is expected to start in late summer or fall and likely last six to eight months.

Written by Dave Ochs, manager, Stewardship Communications

Local Golfer Takes Aim at Playing in U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship

Jackson Lizardo, a graduate of Oakton High School and current sophomore at Niagara University, hopes to qualifiy for the 2013 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship at Laurel Hill Golf Club.

Jackson Lizardo, a graduate of Oakton High School and current sophomore at Niagara University, hopes to qualifiy for the 2013 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship at Laurel Hill Golf Club this July.

This July, elite amateur golfers from around the country will gather in southern Fairfax County to compete in the 2013 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship at Laurel Hill Golf Club. Along with the honor of raising the James D. Standish Trophy, the winner of the 88th and penultimate meeting of this historic championship will receive an invitation to play in the prestigious Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia.

Several golfers have launched successful professional careers from the tee boxes of past championships, including Brandt Snedeker who won at New Jersey’s Blue Heron Pines Golf Course in 2003 and is currently ranked fifth best in the world. This is what golfers are really playing for at the APL; a chance to make a name for themselves and to earn a spot on the PGA Tour.

Jackson Lizardo, 18, a sophomore on the Niagara University golf team, has always dreamed of becoming a professional golfer. He has been playing competitively for 10 years and, based on his accomplishments thus far, his goal to play professionally is within reach. Lizardo won the Burke Lake Junior Golf Club Championship at age 11. Since then, he has won a number of events on the Middle Atlantic PGA Junior Tour, the Plantations Junior Tour, and the Capital Area Golf Tour. Lizardo played four years of high-school golf, the final two as team captain, and recently tied for “Low American” in a Canadian PGA qualifying event in Saskatchewan. In addition to his triumphs in competitive play, he has aced three hole-in-ones in his young career.This year’s APL provides the opportunity for Lizardo to realize his dream, but first he has to qualify for the event. Lizardo will play a round at Clustered Spires Golf Course in Frederick, Maryland next month, one of 71 qualifying sites around the country. He feels that shooting a pair of 70s will be sufficient to be included in the field of 156 competitors at Laurel Hill. “While just qualifying for the event would be a great accomplishment and honor, I hope to have the fortune and blessings to use it as a springboard to even bigger events,” he said.

 

Laurel Hill Golf Club is built on land that formerly housed the D.C. Department of Corrections facility at Lorton.

Laurel Hill Golf Club is built on land that formerly belonged to the D.C. Department of Corrections facility at Lorton.

 

As a Fairfax County native, Lizardo has the advantage of familiarity with Laurel Hill’s challenging layout. At the South County Stallion Invitational in 2010, he finished tied for third with a score of 73. And while home from college on spring break, he didn’t miss an opportunity to practice at the course. While Lizardo considers the entire course fantastic, his favorite hole is the fifth, which is typically set as a long par four during USGA events. “The challenge and the picturesque layout of the hole, along with the risk-reward option it presents make it a very enjoyable hole,” he said.

Lizardo is counting on support from family and friends in his quest to play in the APL. One person whose support he can count on is his father, Tom, who served as the head coach of Robinson Secondary’s golf team until last year and runs the Capital Area Golf Tour, a regional tour for junior golfers.  He describes watching Jackson’s rise from playing Fairfax County’s par three courses to national and international events as a “blessing and a wonderful experience.” The elder Lizardo is confident that if his son puts in the effort he has the ability to qualify for and contend at this year’s APL.

Through his hard work and dedication to improvement, Lizardo’s goal of competing at the APL is tantalizingly close. He feels that as long as he maintains a positive attitude and a high level of confidence he will play well enough at Clustered Spires to qualify for the event. If he qualifies, will the hometown kid win the 2013 APL? Lizardo says, “One of the great things about golf is that anyone can break through and move up the ranks to become a great player. I figure I’ve come this far, so there’s no reason to stop now.”

Written by Matthew Kaiser, deputy public information officer

Laurel Hill Golf Club is seeking volunteers for the 2013 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship. Opportunities include walking scorers, forecaddies, and standard bearers. Volunteers receive a commemorative shirt and hat, as well as a complimentary meal and a free round of golf for each shift worked. To sign up, complete the online application. Enter event code 2013APL when prompted.

Editor’s note: Tom Lizardo is a member of the fundraising committee for the 2013 APL at Laurel Hill.

Flood Watch 2013: Rising Waters At Riverbend Park

Everyone here at Riverbend Park has seen some form of the water rising at one point or another. Some of us have seen the raging overflow of whitewater pouring from the trails, others have seen the picnic areas flooded out and have chased picnic tables down the river. Others still have seen only small increases that close the boat ramp. This time, we’re not quite to raging whitewater, but this one is still pretty exciting.

We keep track of the rising waters through a couple of means. Our first one is just by looking. The longer you’re at the park, the more you recognize the different rocks and islands out there. What starts as this…

Riverbend Park

Riverbend Park in August 2012

…and turns into this…

Potomac River Flooding

Riverbend Park on May 10, 2013

…tends to be pretty easy to spot. Another way is to look at the caution levels painted on our boat ramp. When the boat ramp closes, you know it’s getting high.

 The boat ramp closes when water levels get too high to safely launch.


The boat ramp closes when water levels get too high to safely launch.

Finally, we also look online. We use information collected from our friends at NOAA to follow the changing water levels. You can do so as well here.

Nature doesn’t have the chance to look online or collect data. The animals at Riverbend Park deal with floods the best way they know how, which is to move! Snakes, geese, spiders, and dragonflies are just some of the animals heading for higher ground as the water rises and speeds up. Check out some of the neat ways these guys are keeping safe near home:

This Northern Water Snake hangs out on the bottom railing of the walkway as water levels rise.

This Northern Water Snake hangs out on the bottom railing of the walkway as water levels rise.

 This Northern Water Snake looks for a safe place away from curious school children and rising waters.


This Northern Water Snake looks for a safe place away from curious school children and rising waters.

Tracks of snakes in the mud show evidence of those that evacuated early.

Tracks of snakes in the mud show evidence of those that evacuated early.

Snake on a Fence

This Queen Snake has found an artistic way to avoid the rising waters.

This Queen Snake has found an artistic way to avoid the rising waters.

A Dark Fishing Spider spins a safety harness out of silk on a fence post.

A Dark Fishing Spider spins a safety harness out of silk on a fence post.

The Canada Geese hardly seem to mind the rising water in the picnic area near the kayak racks.

The Canada Geese hardly seem to mind the rising water in the picnic area near the kayak racks.

Dragonflies are emerging from the water and leaving behind their exoskeletons on fence posts.

Dragonflies are emerging from the water and leaving behind their exoskeletons on fence posts.

Be sure to check out the river this Mother’s Day weekend…though you might want to save the Potomac Heritage Trail for another weekend.

The water takes over the Potomac Heritage Trail.

The water takes over the Potomac Heritage Trail.

By Michelle Brannon, naturalist, Riverbend Park

Spotlight On George Thigpen: Park Employee And Artist

Thigpen recreated the famous Afghani Girl from the cover of 1985 National Geographic using small pieces of cut paper.

Thigpen re-created the famous Afghani Girl from the cover of 1985 National Geographic using small pieces of cut paper.

George Thigpen is a valued employee who has worked at the Oak Marr Recreation Center for eight years.  During the course of his work at Oak Marr, it was discovered that he has a very special talent.

This discovery began when Thigpen started creating portraits of Oak Marr employees and their spouses. And it was then that it became apparent he has a very unique style, and utilizes some very interesting artistic methods.  His style of art is called “portrait collage,” and he begins by producing a pencil drawing of a subject, usually from a photograph.  From that drawing, and beginning with the eyes, he then begins to build the subject’s face with cut pieces of acid free construction paper, which are attached with glue.  His inspiration came long ago from a junior high school art teacher in Costa Rica.  He is primarily self-taught.  Other strong influences for him have been Frida Kahlo, a Mexican painter best known for her self-portraits, and Charles Thomas Close, an American painter and photographer.  Thigpen has worked in this medium for approximately 20 years.

Among outstanding works is his most recent piece, called “Afghani Mother and Child”. His best known work is based on the famous National Geographic cover from 1985 entitled “Afghani Girl”.  Afghani Mother and Child is currently on display at the Jo Ann Rose Gallery located at Reston Community Center at Lake Anne Village Center, where he is a member of the League of Reston Artists, and has submitted his work into competitions. This most recent piece recently won “Best of Show.”  His work is also displayed in other locations, such as at a restaurant in Sterling, Va., and most of his completed works are for sale.  (And yes, he accepts commissions for portraits.)  His current work in progress is a portrait of his father, who is turning 90 years old this year! 

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Sadly for all who have come to know him, our local artist is planning to retire in approximately two years.  And for both his dedicated work at Oak Marr and his unique artistic talents, he will be sorely missed!     

Written by Ken Adams, Fairfax County Park Authority volunteer