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Another Win for Nature

Easement extends "no-build' area along creek.

A sign attached to a tree on the Little Hunting Creek side of Thomas J. Stockton Parkway in Mount Vernon District reads: "There will never be a house here."

Last Friday morning, in a drizzling rain, the husband and wife team of Paul Siegel and Betsy Martin made that declaration a legal fact when they donated a conservation easement on the one-third acre plot across from their home to The Northern Virginia Conservation Trust. It will now be guaranteed perpetual open space.

"This land has now had all its building rights protected," Siegel said as Betsy Martin, Gerald Hyland, Mount Vernon district supervisor, and he signed the easement document. This plot, known as an outlot from the homes across the parkway, adds to the two acres already under the Trust's easements along that stretch of Little Hunting Creek.

"This is a major viewshed along Little Hunting Creek. We hope to make this area something like a park," said T. Whit Field, land protection director of the Trust. He was joined in the ceremony by the Trust's president, Paul Gilbert.

"The mission of the Trust is to protect land along streams and rivers. We now have easements on approximately five miles of land along Virginia's streams and creeks," Gilbert said. This parcel marks the Trust's 61st easement for a total of 1,300 acres in Northern Virginia.

"What we've done here today is protect this site from ever being built on. This is very desirable land and its being maintained as open space is essential to preserving the area's beauty," Hyland said.

LONG-ESTABLISHED HOMES along the parkway each have a plot of land on the creek side of the road which was always thought to be unbuildable due to geological factors, according to Siegel. Recently, however, a new home was constructed on the creek side which sent a warning signal to residents who wished to maintain the area's bucolic atmosphere, he said.

Last Friday's easement marked the second property to be protected by the Trust along Little Hunting Creek. "This is a great continuation of efforts by individuals in the Little Hunting Creek watershed to help restore the health of this water-body by keeping it in a natural state, free from development," said Field.

Martin and Siegel have been active in efforts to restore and preserve Little Hunting Creek. As founders of Friends of Little Hunting Creek, they conduct periodic cleanups and serves as advocates for creek preservation. They have also assisted county efforts to develop a plan to improve the water quality of the watershed, according to the Trust.

"It amazes us that this creek, with all its birds and wildlife, still exists in a relatively wild state in the middle of urban Fairfax County. We want to be sure our little piece of the creekside habitat is protected from development forever. We hope our neighbors join us, and take steps to protect their parcels," said Martin and Siegel.