July 29, 2021

Don't Pave this Paradise.

Pileated Woodpeckers, Sylvia Hunt/Audubon Photography Awards

From the Washington Post, July 27, 2021, Letters to the Editor:

Opinion: Before Fairfax paves Justice Park, it ought to know what it would lose

The July 23 Metro article “Fairfax high school’s parking expansion idea draws anger from neighbors” included several perspectives but scrimped on the value of Justice Park’s natural resources, especially the park’s woodland.  

In most land-use decisions in Fairfax County, the question of “What is there?” rarely gets asked. A brief, informal survey by volunteers from the Audubon Society of Northern Virginia in early June identified 30 species of birds at Justice Park, even though spring migration was over. A thorough bird survey would require observations in all seasons. A comprehensive biological assessment, including plants, insects, reptiles and amphibians, could inform decision-making even more. It could help preserve what’s there and enhance the park’s biodiversity, for example, by guiding removal of invasive plants and addition of plants that support wildlife. Maintaining and restoring natural resources would create a more ecologically healthy environment and an outstanding outdoor classroom. 

Reducing park acreage contradicts the goal of remedying park deficits in underserved areas such as Bailey’s Crossroads. Green space and natural resources bolster our physical and emotional well-being. Northern Virginia localities have a long history of shaving off chunks of natural areas, a few acres here and another few acres there, death by a thousand cuts. Those decisions rarely consider the cumulative losses that occur over time — not just losses in actual parkland, but losses in the ecological services that nature provides.  

By all means, Fairfax County should provide quality educational facilities, but the county also must protect and restore its natural resources, goals generalized in many county pronouncements, including its environmental vision and comprehensive plan. 

Connie M. Ericson, Reston 

The writer is advocacy chair for the Audubon Society of Northern Virginia.


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