News and notes from Reston (tm).

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Trees vs. Streams: A Planned Real Estate Development Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand

When the folks at Columbia Gas massacred dozens of trees for the sake of some ugly underground pipeline you couldn't even see, we could understand why people got all up in arms. But now elsewhere in Reston, people are flipping out over a teensy bit of collateral damage from the ongoing stream restoration project, in the form of yet another treepocalypse:

David Oliver has lived in his house on Old Trail Drive for nearly 40 years, all along enamored by the neighborhood’s natural surroundings. Oliver put his home on the market for sale on Halloween, attributing the decision to the tree loss in his backyard, a result of the stream restoration project.

"It was beautiful to look at, it was beautiful to walk," Oliver said about his backyard prior to stream restoration work on Snakeden Branch. "What they did is ecological barbarism," he said following a Nov. 5 meeting about a walkway on Soapstone Drive.

Nineteen days later, on Monday, Nov. 24, a group of more than 60 Reston residents, gathered to discuss the merits of the stream restoration work. Not all of the residents gathered opposed the project, but those who did were concerned about the tree loss, which they believe to be excessive, that has resulted from the work.

Alfred Kromholz, another project opponent, warned of the health risks associated with standing water resulting from pools in the streambed designed to slow down the water rushing through the streams and causing erosion. "To what extent will Reston Association be held liable for health problems?" Kromholz asked.

"I moved to Hunters Woods, I did not move to Hunters Streams," Ron Oklewicz, a resident of Triple Crown Road, said. "Reston is the city of trees."
Oh, snap! Besides the fact that we have another entry for our upcoming coffee table book, A Children's Treasury of Wacky Planning Meeting Putdowns, there's the question of where the money for the $70 million project is coming from:
WSSI sells mitigation credits to developers who cannot offset the natural impact in their areas of operation, for example the fourth runway at Dulles Airport or the High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes on the Capitol Beltway bought credits in Reston’s Stream Mitigation Bank. The money from the credits is then used in the restoration project. Under the formula, Reston residents are not paying for the restoration work, most of which is planned on RA property. In addition to the $70 million first phase of the project, Restonians are benefiting from direct contributions from the bank, including $400,000 donated to RA and $650,000 donated to the Friends of Reston.
Wow. So now we know that every time a plane lands at Dulles or a Lexus-driving attorney someday opts to spend $9.50 to drive in the HOT lanes on the Beltway, the money will go to help massacre trees and create fetid mosquito breeding pools in Reston, the "city of trees." Also, $70 million? For that kind of money, you think you could chop down every tree from Reston to the West Virginia line, then salt the ground so no saplings could rise in their place, the end.


  1. Time for RA to terminate this contract.

    WSSI is making a profit destroying square mile after square mile of 60' tall mature woodland that won't recover for decades.

    The extra sunlight reaching the streambed will raise the temperature of the streamwater and kill the fish and other animals that live there.

    What genius at RA approved this boondoogle? Were kickbacks involved?

  2. Restonian does a good job of capturing what's going on in Reston's stream valleys.

    Using data WSSI's Rolband provided at the December 2 meeting, WSSI will "disturb" (a euphemism, sort of like "ethnic cleansing" is a euphemism for "genocide") some 13,000-16,000 of the nearly 90,000 trees in the Snakeden, Glade, and Colvin Mill Run RA watersheds. That's more than 16%!

    If the large-area clear cutting continues throughout the whole 29-mile remediation program planned, some 20,000-25,000 trees will be "disturbed." That's about 16-17% of all Reston natural area trees.

    What this doesn't address is the other vegetation and wildlife that has and will be disrupted if this ecological massacre continues. Indeed, WSSI apparently intends to proceed without completing the required environmental assessments it committed to in the federal permitting process.

    We must stop this mindless, profiteering slaughter of Reston's greatest treaure, it's woodlands.

  3. Because posting on the Restonian is going to make RA stop. Mmhmm. All I want to know is where these concerned people were one year ago when the physical part of this project began and it was front page news?! As long as it didn't affect them they didn't care how many trees were involved. Once it moved to your neck of the woods all of the sudden there's a huge outcry! How come hardly anyone living in the Snakeden branch complained during the last year that WSSI has been doing work there?

  4. To Anonymous Poster #3:

    1. Many people expressed concern to the RA Board and the DRB (its proxy for approving WSSI work) to no avail.

    2. Even more people complained as the slaughter continued down Snakeden Branch.

    Now that we can see clearly the ecological disaster WSSI has created in Snakeden, what is the reason for continuing it in Glade or Colvin Mill Run??

  5. To Anonymous #3

    Only this summer and fall could the true extent of the devastation be truly appreciated.

    If you actually go to the bottom of Soapstone near the 7-11, you will be shock at the huge trees that have been cut down and sold for lumber.

    You would also be struck by the two 60' wide swaths through climax woodland that have change this ecosystem for decades to come.

    Other wetland experts who have heard about this plan (and aren't making a profit selling of the mitigation bank credits) are shocked that this is being allowed to happen.

  6. The stream remediation is good for Reston citizens in general. Summer foliage and one or two years, and few of the 1/10% of the Reston population doing the complaining will even remember the work was done. Even the 'undisturbed' 150,000 trees will applaud (if they could) with the decreased crowding and increased sunlight. The sky is not falling...

  7. Stix

    The trees remove will take decades to regrow not a summer or two.

    Have you seen this mess?

    There was no overcrowding or need for thinning of the pre-existing woodland which doesn't result in clear cutting 2 60' wide swaths through Snakeden valley which wasn't very wide to begin with.

    Reston's woodland already had a high proportion of forest edge to climax acreage. That proportion did not need to be increased.

    I'm confident that the majority of Restonians would not support this program once they see the devastation wreck in pursuit of profit for one man.

  8. Making sausage is not pretty but tastes good when done. Likewise meadow-like areas with native plants and flowers replacing 15% of the natural area trees (many scrawny and grasping for light) will be worth the tons of earth washed away each year and the erosion of paths and utilities we have now.

    And speaking only of trees, the actual number trees 'disturbed' is probably less than 1% of Reston's total tree population.. be assured, we will retain the “Tree City” designation…

  9. Clearly, Stix hasn't been to the site on either side of the bottom of Soapstone. Otherwise he'd have seen one lumber truck after another taking hundreds if not thousands of native trees 6, 8 and 10 feet in diameter and larger. Not the scrawny saplings he imagines.

    No meadows have been created but rather ATV raceways.

    This project is a mistake.

  10. Please pay no attention to Stix. He is a developer lap dog--if not explicitly a developer--who has taken similar positions on other development-related issues in Fairfax County.

  11. The mulch business is booming!  I live on old Reston Ave.  Keep the scrub and brush coming.-Dave

  12. Wow, there sure are a lot of negative comments from people that don't have the nerve to post their names, only Mr and Mrs Anonymous. Probably the same folks that attack people at RA meetings, spread lies to every newspaper that will listen, and waste the valuable time of the RA board with their not in my backyard (NIMBY) issue. You knew what was going on, you had ample time to voice your complaints, and choose not to complain until it was in your sight picture. Suck it up people, let's save the entire watershed and not worry about your couple of years of waiting for the forest to reclaim itself!


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