Stopping Encroachment Means Being A Good Park Neighbor
The phone rings often in the busy Resource Management Division and Park Operations offices of the Park Authority. On some days, it seems like one call after another involves encroachment.
"No, Mr. Breen, you can't keep your children's swing set on park land. You'll have to move it out of there."
Placing personal property on parkland - That's encroachment.
"I see. Your neighbors are dumping their grass clippings on park land. Thank you. We'll check into it."
Dumping your own yard debris on parkland - That's encroachment.
"Yes, ma'am. I understand it looks like scrubby underbrush. But it's actually a habitat for both plants and smaller animals, so destroying it to make it look like your yard cannot and should not be done."
Destroying parkland to expand your yard area - That's encroachment.
Removing trees and vegetation on parkland is encroachment
The Fairfax County Park Authority was established in 1950. As the county has grown over the years, so has the Park Authority, which now holds over 23,300 acres of land throughout the county. It is our mission and responsibility to provide recreational opportunities as well as to preserve and protect the natural and cultural resources on parkland for the enjoyment of all the citizens of Fairfax County.
Approximately two thirds of our land holdings are undeveloped natural meadows and woodlands which we maintain in a natural state. Natural vegetation cleans the air, supports wildlife, protects the water quality of the streams, and provides a cooling effect to help offset the heat generated from traffic and developments of urban center. Preservation of these natural areas is an important priority and vital for air quality.
Much of this undeveloped parkland has been incorporated into stream valley parks. Stream valleys are the park system’s connective web, providing wildlife habitat and travel corridors, linear green space, trail opportunities and watershed protection. Each stream valley serves its watershed as a drainage route, leading to the Potomac River and ultimately to the Chesapeake Bay.
As the largest land owner in the county it is especially important that we protect and preserve the land, both for the benefit and enjoyment of all county residents and the protection of our watersheds.
With so many communities in the county bordering on parkland it is not surprising to learn that park neighbors occasionally enter into activities that go beyond their property lines. Encroachments are illegal, are punishable by law, and can take many forms:
- Dumping yard waste and debris
- Removing trees and other vegetation
- Extending yards onto parkland
- Storing equipment and materials
- Erecting fences and structures
Illegal dumping on parkland is encroachment
Encroachments create adverse impacts on park resources. Piles of yard waste attract rodents and snakes and may introduce invasive, destructive plants into natural areas. Removal of trees and other foliage decreases the vegetative cover that helps filter pollutants from the air and modify temperatures. Removal of natural ground vegetation encourages erosion and allows surface run-off to contaminate water sources. Digging and removal of artifacts on undeveloped land destroys the integrity of archaeological and historic sites. Extending yards, storing material and equipment, and erecting private fences or other structures on parkland effectively limits access to acres of public land by the citizens whom we serve.
- If you don't own the land, then don't put anything on it. It's that simple. If you see a neighbor encroaching on parkland, consider talking to them about it (or giving them this article), or call the Park Authority at 703-324-8594.
- Don't mow past your property line. High grass and other vegetation buffer streams and provide animal habitats. A buffer slows down the flow of stormwater runoff which prevents erosion. A buffer also traps many pollutants which otherwise end up in the stream.
- If poison ivy is growing on the park side of your property line, please leave it alone. Poison ivy, a native plant, is a wonderful food supply for birds and other wildlife.
- Don't dump grass clippings and other yard debris on parkland. Phosphorous, nitrogen, and potassium-found in fertilizer, sewage, detergents, and animal wastes-are not harmful to the environment in low doses. However, when these excess nutrients are washed into a stream, they can cause an overgrowth of algae, which depletes oxygen in the water and affects the health of other aquatic plants and animals.
If you have one of Fairfax County's parks for a neighbor, then be a good neighbor back. Treat your park neighbor like the treasure it is, so it will be sustainable for generations.
Construction of a pool deck and landscaping on parkland.
Often a property owner will purchase a home next to parkland only to discover years later that there was a pre-existing encroachment condition that was not disclosed at the time of sale. Please contact us so that we can work with you to correct it. Park Authority staff must work within policy guidelines when addressing encroachments on parkland; however, we will provide information and assistance to help resolve the issue and prevent potential difficulties in selling your property at a later date.