Encroachment on Parkland
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
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.
Protecting Our Resources
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.
Encroachment Prevention Guidelines
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.
- 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.
How You Can Help
Together we can reduce the incidence and impact of encroachments on parkland. Although Park Authority staff routinely checks for encroachment violations, t is simply not possible to monitor all Park Authority property on a daily basis. We rely on neighbors like you to help us in our mission to preserve and protect natural and cultural resources by looking out for and reporting suspected cases of encroachment. If you observe an encroachment in progress or are aware of an existing encroachment condition, please contact us.
If you suspect that an encroachment has occurred or is in progress, or if you see a hazardous condition on parkland, please contact the Park Operations Division at 703-324-8594 or
- Please provide as much of the following information as possible:
- Address or tax map number for the property
- Photos or maps to show the location of the encroachment/condition
- Nature of the problem
- Is this a new or recurring problem? If recurring, when was it first observed?
- Any other relevant details or information