Over the last 300 years, Prince William County has damaged its streams and polluted its waters. We have removed the natural forest cover, used creeks as sewers for sewage wastes, and piped excessive runoff from our roads directly into our waterways.
Not surprisingly, many of our lakes and streams are classified as “impaired” by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.
The Clean Water Act requires us to restore our natural streams to “fishable and swimmable” status. If we clean up the local waterways, then Prince William also will do its part to restore the Chesapeake Bay. After all, polluted water from Prince William flows downstream via the Potomac River to the bay. The solution to Save the Bay is for every jurisdiction upstream, even in West Virginia and New York, to clean up their local waterways.
The legal deadline to restore the health of the Chesapeake Bay is now the year 2025, so we have about a dozen years to finish the job that we started when Virginia signed the Chesapeake Bay Agreement in 1983. Read more…
by Terry Reardon
Last Sunday (3/25), the Prince William Conservation Alliance’s first session of the Stream Stewards program kicked off with an eye-opening tour of two badly damaged streams, one in Hylbrook Park and the other half a mile away off Route 1 (view photos here). Both streams are high priority restoration candidates that illustrate the opportunities and challenges for Prince William County to protect local water quality and help save the Chesapeake Bay.
After remarks by County Supervisor Mike May about the challenges the county faces in restoring already damaged water resources and working to prevent future damage, County Environmental Engineer Clay Morris began by pointing out the Hylbrook Park stream’s precarious location in a heavily developed section of Woodbridge.
Morris pointed out several factors that would hinder the restoration of the stream that may not be immediately obvious to the lay conservationist. For example, there is only a narrow strip of ground on either side of the stream in which to work, leaving no space for the necessary easements, or an area for staging the restoration work. Most importantly, there is no room for the engineering of the stream bed to allow it to properly channel the large volume of water that rushes between its banks during a storm. Read more…
- The FWS Compatibility Determination resolves the key debate: opening the refuge to public access will not harm the wildlife resources. Featherstone NWR is not so sensitive that the land and water must be left undisturbed in order to protect its natural assets.
- That Compatibility Determination is consistent with the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, which established 1) wildlife-dependent recreational uses involving hunting, fishing, wildlife observation and photography, and environmental education and interpretation, when determined to be compatible, are legitimate and appropriate public uses of the Refuge System and 2) these compatible wildlife-dependent recreational uses are the priority general public uses of the Refuge System.
Would opening the refuge impact wetlands and wildlife?
- Trespassers already damage Featherstone NWR. FWS can’t patrol the site all the time, so people ride motorcycles and ATV’s without getting caught. If the public was allowed to use the site, then local residents and others using the trails legitimately will provide more “eyes and ears” to protect the refuge, report violators, and reduce the current damage.
- Opening this site to wildlife-dependent public uses would also help generate, as it has at the other Northern Virginia Refuges, a sense of community stewardship, enhancing efforts to protect the quality of natural areas.
- FWS knows how to locate trails and manage recreational use by individuals and groups. They demonstrated that capacity when FWS opened Occoquan Bay NWR to public use, just 5 weeks after acquiring the land from the Army in 1998. Read more…
Guest post by Neil Nelson
A significant amount of trail development and maintenance was accomplished at James Long Park recently. Park Authority staff partnered with volunteers from the Prince William Trails & Stream Coalition, and the Nokesville Horse Society, to improve existing trails and clear new trails. Staff and volunteers made several visits to the park to layout and mark the new trail routes, and then clear the pathway. Existing trails also received attention. These are multi-purpose trails, intended for hikers, bikers, equestrians and nature watchers. Some logs were left in the trail path as jumps for equestrians, adding interest and a challenge to the ride (although a cut-out or cleared space is also available for hikers and bikers). The work resulted in an extensive network of trails in James Long Regional Park. Click here for a map of the park and its trails.