Dogue Creek Wildlife Corridor
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Roads and residential neighborhoods obstruct free movement of wildlife between natural areas. As a result, HMP is an isolated island of natural habitats. Even though HMP encompasses 1,564 acres and has the largest non-tidal wetland in Fairfax County, it is still not big enough to support viable populations of certain species that need large areas in which to thrive. These include: Spotted Turtles, River Otters and Beavers. Connectivity to other habitats is needed for the long-term survival of these species, and this is the role filled by the Dogue Creek Wildlife Corridor.
In 2013, the Fairfax County Park Authority invested $3 million in a Wetland Restoration Project at HMP. Some goals of the project include maximizing habitat diversity, managing the habitat for species of interest, and wildlife management. The Wetland Restoration Project is expected to result in more wildlife of interest to nature tourists at the Park. Today and continuing for many years into the future, this project will improve the natural habitat at HMP, attracting ever more species of conservation interest. The Wetland Restoration Project continues to receive awards, including a Gold Medal from Governor McAuliffe’s 2017 Environmental Excellence Award (see article on pg 1). HMP is increasingly recognized as a tourism hotspot in our area, attracting visitors not just from our region but also international visitors who meet with and seek to learn from the experiences of HMP Staff. Recent ads placed by Fairfax County in the magazine of the American Birding Association Birder’s Guide reference the important diversity of wildlife here in Fairfax County. The ad identifies HMP as the #1 location in Fairfax County for observing wildlife (www.fxva.com/birding). We need to protect this tourism asset, and this means protecting the Dogue Creek Wildlife Corridor. Any damage, or adverse impact to the Dogue Creek Wildlife Corridor would adversely impact Huntley Meadows Park and Fairfax County’s investment in the Park.
You may (or may not) know that the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is working on a project to widen US Route 1 (Richmond Highway) between Jeff Todd Way and Napper Road. This project includes an area of the Dogue Creek Wildlife Corridor. While the project is in the early design phase, it is an important time for us to submit public comments and shape this project’s design and implementation. The project description can be seen here: http://virginiadot.org/projects/northernvirginia/richmond_highway.asp. There is a public comment period open between now and May 18, 2017. Our recommendations for this project (and for other stream crossings too) include the following (1) close consultation with the impacted communities including FOHMP, the Mount Vernon Council of Citizens’ Associations, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and other Fairfax County and Virginia agencies (2) strong protection measures for any work in the area of Dogue Creek Wildlife Corridor so as to not disrupt the free movement of wildlife (3) a large under-the-road wildlife crossing at Dogue Creek. This should be an open design that provides clear lines of sight using pillars rather than walls with a tunnel, an option that has the effect of deterring wildlife (4) substantial space along both banks of Dogue Creek to allow larger animals easy and safe passage under the road, even during heavy rains (5) restoration of the tidal influence of Dogue Creek into Pole Road Park (this was likely to have been tidally influenced prior to original road building many years ago), and (6) climate change adaptations, including flood protection through a wider and taller under-the-road stream crossing that will also be able to handle increased intensity and frequency of precipitation events, decreasing the likelihood of flooding and in-corporating climate resilience into the project design.
We ask you, our Friends, to submit comments to VDOT that include some or all of these recommendations as indicated here: http://virginiadot.org/projects/northernvirginia/richmond_highway.asp. The public comment period will close on May 18, 2017. This project will impact the future of wildlife at HMP. I hope to see you at an upcoming meeting for this project as well as on the trails! Enjoy the warming days of spring!
I hope to see you on the trails,
President of Friends of Huntley Meadows Park