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Wetlands Spared from Soccer Players

Kingstowne resident Kerry Pilz has a balcony that overlooks woods, trails and wildlife of an area that was a former gravel pit operation, now destined to become a park.

"There's deer in here, we have wonderful ducks and frogs. I really think they need more open space around here, that's one of the reasons I moved here," she said.

One aspect of the "wild life" she wasn't looking forward to with the warm weather was the all-terrain vehicles (ATV's), pickup trucks and motorcycles that use the trails around former gravel pits that have turned to ponds off Kingstowne Parkway.

"Once in a while you hear teenagers coming back here having a party," she said while walking one evening.

Originally the land was slated for athletic fields but recent changes in the federal wetlands act wouldn't allow development to fill in the lakes and swamps for soccer fields. Now the 76.9 acre space, deemed "Kingstowne Park," will remain untouched according to Jeff McKay, the chief of staff in Supervisor Dana Kauffman's (D-Lee) office.

"That is a wetland mitigation area," McKay said.

Administrative assistant Christine Tollefson concurred.

"They really have to leave it natural. It is the resource protection area, that's why there's no building there," she said.

PILZ NOTED THE DELAY in the progress on the land. She heard a rumor that the delay was due to some "quicksand" in the area.

"Now they appear to be doing something. I much prefer it to be natural," she said.

Her neighbor, Ember Seaman, also prefers the current situation.

"I would enjoy that better than soccer fields and all that," she said.

The soccer field proposal in 1985 called for two baseball/softball fields and four soccer/football fields, four tennis courts plus a practice court, three multi-use courts, a tot lot, and picnic area. This was part of a proffer arrangement with the Kingstowne Developers. In stepped the federal environmental protection agency with the wetlands protection act and plans for the area changed drastically.

"There were further wetlands identified in 1985. There's basically three main basins and two significant ponds the EPA has identified," McKay said.

The proffer deal is not erased though. The ball fields will be relocated to an area in Claremont and on the land that was slated for the Kingstowne Library sometime in the future.

ON THE OTHER SIDE of the land which backs up to Old Telegraph Road and Hayfield Secondary School, a few houses have backyards that run up to the water's edge. "Rick" who preferred not to use his last name, was a graduate of Hayfield in 1973 and has seen the evolution of the space which is right behind the school on the eastern side.

"It's pretty much the only wetlands around here. One year they had a big old hurricane and the water came up to the house. We still have a lot of people come down here and fish, there are still beavers too," he said.

McKay also noted the presence of animals in the area.

"One of the underlying reasons for the joining of the ponds was to provide the most natural atmosphere for animals," he said.

The land used to be owned by a gravel company. The upper part of the land, dominated by the condominiums of Kingstowne, used to be a sand mountain and conveyor belt mechanism for loading trucks. It was still operating in the early 1970s.

Right below that, now part of the parkland, is a mud flat that was once a swamp. There is currently a silt pond on the upper part that borders Kingstowne Parkway. A trail leads around that pond.

The lower part of the parcel is dominated by two ponds that were divided by a narrow strip of land. That strip has been removed in recent years and water flows between the two. A rip-rap portion of chicken wire enclosed rocks and cement waterfall leads from the ponds to a creek that eventually flows into Dogue Creek, the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay.

"IT WAS DESIGNED to accommodate a 100-year storm," McKay said. A 100-year storm is a geographic term for a storm so large it only comes once every 100 years. There are 12 storm water outlets around the park.

In the plan, a trail will go from one access on Kingstowne Parkway, around all the basins and ponds with two access routes leading to Old Telegraph Road. A picnic area will dominate the northwest corner of the land.

"Their goal was to definitely outline the pond areas," he said.

The time frame for the completion of the park is late April according to Halle Corp. senior project manager Rich Rounds.

"There's really not a whole lot left in there to do, all it is is a passive recreation area," he said.

The rip rap and spillway were constructed in March as well as the base for the trail along the Kingstowne condominiums and the north end trail which connects Kingstowne Parkway with Old Telegraph Road.