Wetlands Reconstruction Begins at Huntley Meadows
After more than 20 years of extensive monitoring, the time has arrived for restoration of the central wetland at Huntley Meadows Park. A reconstruction project to restore the wetland to its 1980s condition begins this spring.
"This project has been a long time coming, but its importance to the wetland is immeasurable," said Lee District Supervisor Jeff McKay. "This is an opportunity to lend nature a hand, and in doing so, ensure that generations to come will have the chance to know, understand and enjoy Huntley's Meadows Park and its wetlands treasure."
The project means there will be distracting construction equipment visible in parts of the park's natural areas over the next few months, however it also means the park will continue to have a functioning, healthy and diverse wetland capable of supporting locally rare plants and animals on a consistent, long-term basis.
The central wetland has been slowly filled with silt and debris over the past couple of decades, leading to a reduction of water depth and wildlife habitat. If left alone, the wetland would eventually transform into a forest or meadow. Following more than 60 public meetings and programs, the Fairfax County Park Authority has decided the park is much more valuable to its wildlife and to the park's 200,000 annual visitors with a restored, fully functioning wetland. This requires managing the fluctuating water levels. The $3 million reconstruction project, funded by park bonds and grants, makes this management and a restored wetland a reality.
An earthen berm will be constructed to hold water in the wetland, and a water control structure with pipes placed below normal pool level in the wetland to control water levels. The control structure pipes will be underwater except in periods of extreme drought. The berm will be about two feet high, sloped and covered with native plants so that it visually blends into the wetland. The project will give park staff the ability to expand the wetland's central pool from its current 23 acres to 46.
The project will impact park visitors through temporary trail closings and the sight of construction equipment and necessary tree clearing. The boardwalk and observation tower will remain open, but the Hike-Bike Trail off of South Kings Highway will be closed during the project. Construction is scheduled to begin in April and conclude in December. Some cleanup tasks may last until March 2014.
Information about the wetlands restoration project is available on the Huntley Meadows Park web site and by calling Huntley Meadows Park Manager Kevin Munroe or the park's Outreach and Volunteer Coordinator, Kathleen Lowe, at 703-768-2525. There also will be monthly public information programs on the project.