Environment and Parks Committee News

Committee Chairs

  • Winnie Frost
  • Suzanne Black

Committee Role

The EP committee promotes programs and actions designed to protect the natural and historic resources of our community, and  to articulate GFCA's objectives for the natural environment of Great Falls and the enjoyment thereof by its citizens.
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  • 07 Apr 2019 10:37 AM | Pam Grosvenor

    The following is the presentation made by Matt Meyers, Branch Chief, Watershed Projects Implementation Branch, Fairfax County, at the December 2018 committee meeting: GFCA - Great Falls Citizen Association - 20181203 FINAL enail.pdf

  • 14 Feb 2018 10:59 AM | Anonymous

    The following article was published in the Great Falls Connection Feb 13, 2018:


    Story by Andrea Worker

    Cooperation, Questions and Concerns in Great Falls

    Environment and Parks Committee reacts to County’s plans for local watershed improvements.

    “Don’t get me wrong,” cautioned William Denk, co-chair of the Great Falls Citizens Association Environment and Parks Committee. “I appreciate thepartnership we have with the county, they have demonstrated a lot ofcooperation with our citizens, but we still have questions and concerns.”Denk was describing his “take-aways” from the group’s February meeting.

    Matthew Meyers, Chief, Watershed Project Implementation Branch/StormWater Planning Division for Fairfax County’s Department of Public Worksand Environmental Services and Jonathan Witt, an ecologist with the Watershed Assessment Branch accepted an invitation to speak at the meeting and bring the committee up to speed on watershed projects throughout the county. Denk noted that Meyers, and other county staff have met with the group on several occasions and have been accessible for questions and comments.

    Despite the kudos for county personnel, however, Denk, and other members of the committee are not satisfied with the current state of affairs. “it seems like they are saying that we are just not losing ground as fast as we used to,” remarked Denk when considering the presentation made by Meyers.

    Meyers provided an update on storm water management and watershed improvement activity throughout the region, but the two projects that raised the most concern among the attendees were the plans for Lake Werowance and for stream management along the Route 7 widening undertaking – plans that directly affect the residents of Great Falls.

    “WHERE THE LAKE ONCE WAS” is how Meyers says many locals now refer to Lake Werowance. Major storms some five years ago effectively destroyed the dam that had turned the private lake into a Watershed Improvement reservoir to address flooding to roads like Walker Road, Murphy Drive and Manning Street that border it and to improve water quality as it flows toward the Potomac. Already affected by years of sediment build-up, once the dam went, so did Lake Werowance, spilling away from its enclosure, and leaving the area mostly dry.

    There’s little disagreement between county personnel and Great Falls residents that the “Once Was” lake needs attention. “It’s good to hear that there is a planning process underway,” said committee member Eric Knudsen, as Meyers discussed the awarding of a study contract for the project, but there was plenty of opposition to the solution that Meyers and the county are proposing.

    “They don’t seem to be exploring the options,” said Knudsen.

    Jerry Peters is also a member of the Environment and Parks Committee. Peters has a Masters Degree in Environmental Science and Engineering and a background that includes environmental consulting. He commented that “it seems they [the county] came to a conclusion on how to proceed with this significant project without much public involvement and without doing any comparisons between the stream project they are suggesting, versus rebuilding the dam and restoring the lake, which is what many of us in Great Falls would like to see happen.” Peters believes that the more cost-effective option in the long run would be to revive the lake.

    “I don’t have the answers,” said Denk, who knows people who once swam in the lake in years gone by, but he does think that a solid cost estimate for both, and perhaps other, options, should be developed and made known before more public funds are spent. “They are talking $500k just for the first study. Let’s make sure we are using the money wisely, now and going forward.”

    DURING THE MEETING, Meyers and Witt both presented reasons why rebuilding the lake might not be the answer, including costs associated with maintaining it after restoration. The expense of periodic dredging and other maintenance needs were a few of the considerations that have the county looking at the stream restoration alternative, but Great Falls resident Glen Sjoblom responded, “You’re not answering our questions. You haven’t given us an estimate of rebuilding the dam or on the maintenance.” Sjoblom wonders why “so much dredging” is needed when the lake existed for years without such major interference. He also questioned the expense of supporting materials compared to the cost of the initial dredging and restoration of the lake to its original state.

    More concerns were raised about the plan to have the stream modification along Route 7 be a “straight-shot channel” versus a more natural, meandering configuration, which the attendees noted that even Meyers said is the preferred outline to best control water flow.

    Bill Canis pulled no punches in his comments. He acknowledged that the project is really under the control of the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), and referenced another meeting during which he says VDOT employees expressed pleasure in being able to circumvent certain environmental regulations and recommendations because of having started the project before new rules went into effect. “It’s appalling to hear State officials say this. It’s beyond the pale. I hope that the county will stand up for us.”

    After the Lake Werowance and Route 7 projects, the topics that garnered the most commentary were the budgeting and funding processes and the methods employed to prioritize projects for consideration.

    “It was helpful to see how the funds are divided,” said Peters, referring to a pie chart that Meyers presented that breaks down how monies are allocated, and “it seems reasonable.” Less pleasing was the news that the funds that developers contribute to offset the environmental impact of their projects are not required to be utilized where the project is located. Denk and others questioned the equality of that equation.

    When Denk reports back to the Great Falls Citizens Association on the results of the meeting, he plans to tell them that the good news is there is still positive dialogue between the residents’ representatives and the county personnel. Meyers and Witt both agreed that the committee’s concerns and suggestions would be reviewed and considered and answered.

    Denk will also report that the community must continue to be involved in order to protect the welfare of its citizens. He hopes to see more of his friends and neighbors at meetings like this one, keeping themselves informed and insuring that the residents’ voices are heard.

    INFORMATION about all of the watershed and stormwater management projects is available on the county’s website at www.fairfaxcounty.gov. The Great Falls Citizens Association website is www.gfca.org, for more information and to learn how to get involved.

  • 16 Jan 2018 12:04 PM | Anonymous

    The Park Authority has edited the Draft Turner Farm Park Master Plan Revision based on public comments received following the Public Comment Meeting on October 30, 2017 at the Great Falls Grange, for which the public comment period closed on November 30, 2017.

    The Park Authority Board will vote on the revised draft master plan on January 24, 2018. The revised draft master plan is available in the Planning and Development Committee Package. For more information about the Park Authority Board meeting, visit www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/board/meetings.

  • 25 Sep 2017 7:46 AM | Anonymous

    For several years, GFCA has successfully opposed the use of tire crumb rubber as a construction material for playing fields in Great Falls due to continued unresolved safety concerns about the material.  This year, GFCA called for a Fairfax County-wide moratorium on the use of tire crumb rubber due to its potential risk to public safety. 

    Other communities are taking this action.  Montgomery County has banned tire crumb since 2015, and only allows plant-based materials in its artificial fields.16 DC schools recently failed safety tests, and the DC government has imposed a moratorium on the use of tire crumb rubber for playing fields and is exploring alternatives. 

    For news coverage on this development, please go to:

  • 08 Sep 2017 7:12 PM | Pam Grosvenor

    The Fairfax County Deer Management Archery Program begins this Saturday, September 9, 2017 and runs through Saturday, February 24, 2018.

    Under the oversight of the Fairfax County Police Department, in collaboration with the Fairfax County Park Authority and NOVA Parks, the archery program is conducted in parks and other locations throughout Fairfax County.

    Deer Management Notice

    These signs are posted in archery program areas.

    For more information about the Fairfax County Deer Management Program see: http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/living/wildlife/deer-management/

  • 02 Sep 2016 3:29 PM | Anonymous

    GFCA is partnering with an organization called ReLeaf to provide seedling trees to individual homeowners in Great Falls – at no cost to the homeowner. ReLeaf is a private non-profit organization of volunteers formed in 1992 to plant and protect trees in and around Fairfax County, preserve native habitat and educate the public about the benefits of trees. ReLeaf has supplied and planted thousands of trees throughout the County.

    This GFCA program is for individual Great Falls homeowners only, and you do not have to be a member of GFCA (although membership is appreciated to support programs like this!). While the trees are free-of-charge, homeowners must commit to plant all the trees ordered and then maintain them - especially during their first year or two. Seedlings of the following species will be available: Silky Dogwood, Elderberry, Red Chokeberry, Willow Oak, Northern Red Oak, White Oak, and Loblolly Pine.

    You can easily order your seedlings on the GFCA website by clicking here.
    You can also pick up a printed order form at the Great Falls Library from September 12 -23rd.

    Trees ordered will be available for pickup at the library on Saturday Oct. 29 and 30. Orders must be placed by Sept. 23. Directions for planting (directly into the ground) and protection collars will be provided at time of pickup.

  • 25 Jun 2016 10:27 AM | Anonymous

    Interest in and use of the Turner Farm Park has increased in recent years along with concerns about how to manage the increased activity.  The equestrian facilities are popular for daily riding as well as for the site for several horse shows.   A new tot lot and picnic pavilion have been constructed. The astronomical Analemma Society, working with Fairfax County, is nearing completion of a new roll-top observatory building.  All of these expanding uses are raising concerns about traffic, parking and maintenance of the park.

    In addition, the county recently purchased the old Turner Farm house to be integrated into the Park, and is actively working to create a Resident Curator Program into which the house would be placed and offered for lease for some as-yet undefined use. Interest has also been raised in adding trails to the perimeter of the park which were called for in the original Turner Farm conceptual design plans.

    To address these concerns and learn what the county is proposing, GFCA asked the Fairfax County Park Authority to host a community meeting on Turner Farm Park.  That meeting took place on June 23 and was well attended.  Supervisor John Foust made welcoming remarks and remained for the entire meeting to listen to the park authority presentations as well as Q&A from citizens. 

    The lead off speaker was Dave Bowden, Director of the Park Planning and Development Division of FCPA and with whom GFCA Board has met in the past to discuss Turner Farm.  Dave reviewed the Conceptual Plan written in 2000 and discussed the proposed additional parking lot and ongoing construction of the new roll top building.  Other FCPA speakers reviewed the Resident Curator Program and partnerships with Turner Farm Events and the Analemma Society.  The presentations are posted at http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/turnerfarm

    GFCA’s Environment, Parks and Trails Committee has established a Turner Farm task force which will meet soon to review the outcome of this meeting and to discuss next steps.  Please contact Jean Reimers or Bill Dent, Co-Chairs of the EPT, if you wish to join the task force or would like additional information.

  • 05 May 2016 9:21 AM | Anonymous

    During the day on May 9, the planet Mercury will pass across the face of the sun. The planet will be visible in telescopes properly equipped for solar observing as a small black dot moving across the sun. 

    The transit will begin at 7:12 AM ET and last until 2:42 PM. Transits of Mercury are not as rare as Venus, but they are infrequent; the last was in 2006 and the next will occur in November, 2019.  Virginia will be one of the places in a limited part of the Earth that will be able to view the entire transit.

    Observatory Park at The Turner Farm in Great Falls will be open for the transit from 7 am to 3 pm. We will have telescopes with solar filters to observe the sun and the transit. This is sponsored by the Analemma Society.

    Please stop by to observe part of the transit and any visible sunspots.

  • 28 Apr 2016 1:59 PM | Anonymous

    On April 12th GFCA's newly formed Storm Water Task Force (SWTF) sponsored a Town Hall meeting attracting over 60 residents of Great Falls.  The event was attended by Drainesville Supervisor John Foust, Ben Wiles from his staff, Planning Commissioner Ulfelder, presenters John Matusik, Jonathan Will and Matthew Meyers from the Department of Public Works and Environmental Services, and Laura Grapes of the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District.  The meeting was introduced by Bill Canis of the GFCA’s Committee on Environment (EPT), Supervisor Foust and Timothy Quick of the SWTF.

    The speakers provided information about storm water management including the State and County codes relating to monitoring and managing soil and water activities, and the current state of the Fairfax County storm water management programs and their planned projects to monitor and remediate our deteriorating water-ways and stream valleys.  In addition, state programs that support local education and storm water management initiatives were presented.  For more detailed information, presentation materials will be made available on the GFCA website (www.gfca.org).

    Many residents spoke up about their own experiences with storm water, and asked questions of the speakers. Residents gave examples of property, ponds and local bridges being washed away by storm water, as well as examples of deterioration of local roadways.  From the questions, presentations and discussions, it is evident that the impact of storm water in Great Falls is significant, and is broadening and increasing in frequency and severity as development continues.  The SWTF was created to address this is through community involvement, in the form of education and advocacy.

    SWTF will sponsor events to inform, educate and support Great Falls citizens, on erosion and storm water management.  In addition, SWTF will be investigating all the major streams in the Great Falls area; if residents have an erosion issue they would like to highlight, they should contact SWTF.  SWTF will publish its calendar of events on the GFCA site in the next few weeks.  These events will provide a variety of opportunities for the citizens of Great Falls to get involved and receive assistance managing storm water damage on their property and in the community.  If you would like to participate in the SWTF, or have questions, please contact us at StormWater@gfca.org

  • 10 Apr 2016 3:23 PM | Anonymous

    The annual GF stream clean up was held on April 9 along Difficult Run.  EPT recruited  a dozen youth and adult volunteers for this community service project that is part of the larger Potomac Watershed clean up sponsored by the Alice Ferguson Foundation.  The picture demonstrates the amount of trash just two volunteers picked up in three hours!

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