Tag Archives: M.O.R.E.

Finding Love In All The Right Places

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Worn down. Eroded. Unstable. Degraded.

And it didn’t even have a name.

Talk about feeling unloved.

But a year from now, this small stream will be stabilized. It will have the flow and look of a natural creek. It will meander, it will trickle across rocks, its banks will be secured with native plants, flowers will line those banks, and the water it sends into Accotink Creek will be cleaner.

And it now has a name. Wakefield Run.

Talk about love and appreciation for the outdoors. It’s happening because a lot of people who care got together and did something.

There’s a project under way to restore Wakefield Run, a stream that Laura Grape, the executive director of the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District (NVSWCD) calls, “a piece of jewelry, a gem in the Accotink Watershed.”

When the project is over, life will be a little bit better for the Fairfax County hikers, runners, bikers, birders and scouts who use the trail along the stream and for the wildlife that lives around and in it.

Wakefield Run starts west of Ossian Hall Park in Annandale and flows under the Beltway before joining Accotink Creek in Wakefield Park and sending its waters on to the Potomac River. Runoff from the 100 acres it drains has eroded the banks and damaged the stream.

When part of Wakefield Park was taken for the expansion of I-495 to make room for the Express Lanes, the Fairfax County Park Authority was given $75,000 towards site mitigation. The Park Authority approached NVSWCD with the idea of putting the funds toward the restoration of 800 feet of Wakefield Run. That kicked off a partnership that led to the Fairfax County Department of Public Works and Environmental Services (DPWES) putting up $300,000, and Dominion Power stepped forward with another $35,000. The Fairfax County Park Foundation joined the effort and garnered more support from the I-495 Express Lanes contractor, Transurban Fluor, and the Friends of Accotink Creek arranged monitoring of the stream so everybody would know how much the project helped.

At the groundbreaking ceremony on July 24, Supervisor John Cook called the involvement of the Friends of Accotink Creek “a great example of citizen engagement,” adding, “This is how we will make environmental management, in a good way, the reality in Fairfax County.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Grape thanked the Park Authority for bringing the idea to NVSWCD as she explained the project to the groundbreaking ceremony audience. She said the project design will reduce the size of the stream’s outfall at I-495, and a pool will slow runoff of the drained acreage. A more natural setting will replace riprap, clean the water and reduce runoff speed. Revamping of a stream crossing used by Virginia Dominion trucks and mountain bikers will reduce the environmental impact usually caused by such crossings. Water flow will be diverted away from banks and toward the center of the stream, which Grape said is what traditionally happens in less urban waterways. Some trees have to be removed during the work, but Grape said that will allow some invasive species to be removed as well, and the area will naturally recover. A plant save has already been conducted with plans for replantings later.

Grape called the project “a tremendous example of the investment being made in the Accotink watershed by Fairfax County and by our local communities.”

DPWES Director James Patteson pointed out that partnerships and projects such as this one are part of an evolution. He said that 20 years ago his department may have just assessed the situation and built “an armor channel,” but that now the department is staffed with urban foresters and biologists who understand environmentally responsible design.

Dominion Virginia Power’s Manager of state and local affairs, Tim Sargeant, said his company was glad to be invited into the partnership. “This great partnership of public and private organizations and individuals will yield an environmental and aesthetic benefit that allows all of us to share a sense of pride and accomplishment and contribution to our communities,” he said.

Suzy Foster of the Friends of Accotink Creek said the project “will serve as a small example of a healthy and stable state that we hope to achieve for the entire Accotink watershed and Fairfax County.” Another citizens group, Mid-Atlantic Off-Road Enthusiasts, will have key input into the design of the stream crossing, and Earth Sangha will play a role in the native plantings.

Friends of Accotink Creek representative Suzy Foster spoke passionately about protecting the local environment.

Friends of Accotink Creek representative Suzy Foster spoke passionately about protecting the local environment.

The Park Authority Board’s Braddock District representative, Anthony Velluci, summed up the groundbreaking by noting that roads like the nearby Beltway are just as much a part of the county as the natural resources of the Wakefield Run project. “We have to realize that that’s just not going to go away,” he said. “We have to find that balance between environment and development where we do smart things and not haphazard things that we have done in the past, and I think we’re doing that.”

Author Dave Ochs is the manager of Stewardship Communications for the Park Authority’s Resource Management Division.

Trail Planner Liz Cronauer Discusses Park Authority Trail Development

Trail Program Manager Liz Cronauer speaks at the 2010 opening of the Clarks Branch Crossing bridge in Riverbend Park.

Liz Cronauer, trail program manager for the Fairfax County Park Authority, recently updated members of Fairfax Trails and Streams (FTAS) on the agency’s Trail Development Strategy. Cronauer visits the group at least once a year to discuss completed trail projects and future connections. FTAS’s primary focus is on trails in Great Falls and McLean, but they’re also interested in seeing the completion of the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail (PHNST) in southern Fairfax County, which, according to Cronauer, could be completed within the next decade. “This is a good crowd of people to talk to. They’re all pro trails, and members have lots of ideas,” she said.

Trails are consistently ranked as the most popular park amenity by Fairfax County residents. According to Cronauer, the reason trails are liked so much is because trails appeal to such a wide range of people. “You can use them for walking, cycling, and bird watching. All ages use trails, and they’re free,” she said. “There is a big demand for passive recreation,” she continued. (Although most recreational pursuits on trails are considered active, trails are officially classified as passive recreation. Organized facilities such as ball fields and swimming pools are classified as active recreation areas.)

Flooding from remnants of Tropical Storm Lee ravaged trails throughout the county last September.

In September 2011, the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee ravaged Fairfax County, and some areas within the Park Authority’s stream valley trail network were washed away. “Significant damage remains,” said Cronauer. She said the damage was so extensive in some places that the short term goal of the Park Operations Division was to simply make the trails functional again rather than restore them to their original condition.  In certain places the damage was severe.  It will take a little longer to restore functionality in those areas.  “Long Branch Stream Valley was hit hard, specifically the bridge.  A bridge needs to be replaced and plans are now in place to move that project forward in the next 12 to 18 months. Part of the trail along Difficult Run has also been severely damaged. Parks Ops has done a tremendous amount of work and replaced tons of stone,” Cronauer said. Repairs to trails throughout the county continue.

The Cross County Trail connects the Potomac River in the north to the Occoquan River in the south.

Although the Park Authority is always trying to add new trails, Cronauer said it’s important to “improve areas that we already have.” She’s always looking for ways to forge new connections to the Cross County Trail (CCT), the 41.5-mile trail which links Great Falls Park in the north to Occoquan Regional Park in the south. In 2010, the Park Authority completed the Barbara Lane connector trail, which made it easier for people in the eastern Mantua neighborhood to access the CCT.  Cronauer said future trail connections include “fixing the footpath within Mount Vernon District Park along Fort Hunt Road.” Once this trail has been improved, people will be able to safely walk and bicycle to Mount Vernon RECenter. There are also plans to improve the South Run Stream Valley trail by paving the section that traces the north side of Lake Mercer and connecting it to South Run RECenter. “Any time you can create ways for people to bicycle to a RECenter is just great,” Cronauer said.

The Lake Fairfax trail network continues to grow.

The 2012 Park Bond, still to be authorized and then potentially approved by voters, allocates additional funds for trail improvements. The Park Authority Board will decide where to spend the money if Fairfax County citizens pass the bond.  Cronauer hopes to see funding for some particular trail projects noting, “Pohick Stream Valley is one of the last major stream valley trail areas that hasn’t been completed. That would be a high priority for me because we could make a really good connection to the Cross County Trail. Additionally, we would like to finish the trail network at Lake Fairfax Park.”

The Park Authority is regularly approached by volunteers with an interest in trail building and maintenance. Cronauer said “The best way for them to be involved is through a trails group. The Park Authority coordinates with trails groups such as M.O.R.E. (Mid-Atlantic Off-Road Enthusiasts) and FTAS, and they manage volunteers and coordinate with area managers to identify projects. Together they get a lot of work done.”

Cronauer was hired as the trails program manager in October 2005, when the Park Authority created the position. She leads a small team of two project managers.  

As a resident of Prince William County, Cronauer spends a lot of time in majestic Prince William Forest near Quantico, but she has her favorite trails in Fairfax County, too. “I really love the section of the CCT in the Pohick Stream Valley and all the Riverbend Park trails. I also like the single track trails we built in Laurel Hill,” she said.

Written by Matthew Kaiser, deputy public information officer