Hidden Pond Nature Center was a second home to Springfield resident Elizabeth Hiller, who planned on having her wedding there even before she had a potential groom in mind. Last June, she got engaged, convinced her fiance Carl Settlemyer that the park was the place, and put the wheels in motion, not even letting Hurricane Isabel get in the way.
A large cherry tree fell right behind the amphitheater where she planned to have the ceremony, but it fell in a way that concealed a new bike trail project, leaving the amphitheater unscathed.
"The tree came crashing down and filled a spot," she said.
Rain or shine, Hiller is still going to pack her guests into the amphitheater on Oct. 12, exchange vows, and have the first wedding that anyone can remember at Hidden Pond.
"Immediately after he proposed, I knew where we can get married," Hiller said. "I think he's excited that I feel so connected to that place."
Jack Hiller, father of the bride, went down with some relatives to Hidden Pond a week after the storm to scope out the damage.
"She selected this park because she played at this park," he said. "They've got friends that will help clean it up."
Jim Pomeroy, park manager, couldn't remember any weddings at the park in the years that he's been there. After Isabel, it was the least of his concerns, though. The trail construction that runs behind the amphitheater is going to be a bike trail, connecting the Orange Hunt Estates neighborhood on the west side of the park with Hidden Pond, and potentially with the network of bike trails in the county.
"It will be great for our walk-in visitation," Pomeroy said.
Richard Frauhauf, Fairfax County Park Authority project manager, is keeping a close eye on the developments with the trail. Weather played a big role in the delays, and he now puts completion around Nov. 1.
"We've given the contractor an additional 51 days," Frauhauf said.
The 1,800-foot trail includes a 60-foot bridge that was built by a company in Minnesota. At Hidden Pond, the contractor will build the bridge abutments and put the bridge in place in mid-October, according to Frauhauf. Total price tag for the trail is approximately $190,000, which Pomeroy said was paid for in part by bond money and part by state funds.
THE PARK was hit hard by Isabel, though, canceling the 13th annual "Slug Fest" and delaying the park's 25th anniversary celebration indefinitely. Physically, the storm downed a few trees, causing a log jam in Pohick Creek, which runs through the park, rerouting it at one point. It will take a lot of work to clear the walking trail, but Pomeroy looks at it as nature taking it's course.
"The storms of the last couple of weeks made a mess of the trails," he said. "It's nature’s way. It's a flood plain, and throughout the years the stream’s meandered."
The quarter-mile bike trail was scheduled to be completed by August. It will be a paved trail that includes a bridge and acts as a commuting link between neighborhoods to the west of the park to trails in the park and even Rolling Road. From there, cyclists will be able to access the trail along the Fairfax County Parkway.
Several Boy Scouts completed Eagle Scout projects at the park, including creating the amphitheater and building a bridge upstream from the pond, a community garden area and a rainwater run-off ditch from the parking lot. A Girl Scout project made a storm-water retention garden. Pomeroy hopes that some Scouts will decide to take on stream and trail cleanup as another project.
"Generally, I have Boy Scouts calling me," he said.
An outdoor wedding in the fall is a risk, Hiller realized. In case of a downpour, the wedding party can duck under a roofed area overlooking the pond.
"There's no rain contingency plan," Hiller said. "I told the guests to be prepared with their umbrellas. It's actually supposed to be good luck for the bride if it rains."