Located near the hustle and bustle of metropolitan Washington, D.C., Huntley Meadows Park is considered an oasis for residents and nature enthusiasts. Acquired by Fairfax County in 1975, the park is home to 1,424 acres of wetlands, forests, meadows, trails and boardwalks.
In the early 1990s, the wetland areas within the park began to change. Beavers that helped create and maintain the park’s wetlands for decades by damming feeder streams moved downstream. Excessive siltation from upstream development, drought, and the growing population of Canada Geese also altered the wetland and its hydrology.
According to Huntley Meadows Park Manager Kevin Munroe, the park’s freshwater marsh ecosystem and the biodiversity connected with it are very rare for an urban area. “If left alone, 5 to 10 years from now the wetlands will become wet meadow,” he said. “Maintaining a wetland in this environment requires a management plan.”
The Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA) engaged Burgess & Niple to design a plan for the renewal and management of the affected 60-acre central wetland complex that will help maintain this unique and valuable park resource.
Restoring a Habitat
Working closely with FCPA, B&N environmental, geotechnical, surveying and engineering experts conducted a series of studies to determine the best plan for the renewal and management of the wetland area. The data collected, along with existing data provided by FCPA, led to a natural, nonintrusive habitat management plan in keeping with the park’s origin.
The plan will provide a habitat for a variety of species that have drawn people to the park wetlands for decades, including crayfish, fish, birds and beavers. Selective silt removal, sedimentation management and the use of an earthen dam to help manage hydrology also are included in the habitat management plan.
A Park for the People
Known as the area’s premier wildlife-watching spot, the wetland restoration initiative has been actively monitored by the community and organizations dedicated to the protection of this wildlife sanctuary.
To address questions and concerns from the community, a series of public meetings on the initiative were held in the spring, summer and fall of 2007. Attendees toured the wetland with the Huntley Meadows staff, FCPA naturalists and the B&N team. As a result of the feedback received during the public meetings, modifications were made to the design plans.
The final wetland restoration designs will be presented in a public forum in the first part of 2008. Construction is expected to begin in summer of 2008. Dennis Thomas, PE, is B&N’s project manager.