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WFCCA Learns about Sully Woodlands

The Fairfax County Park Authority is developing a master plan for the 4,400 acres of parkland it owns in the Bull Run and Cub Run watersheds.

"So what we do has a big impact on land use and protection," said Park Authority Chairman Hal Strickland. "We're looking at recreation needs, but we also want to protect and preserve 90 percent [of this acreage]."

HE WAS addressing the Jan. 16 quarterly meeting of the West Fairfax County Citizens Association (WFCCA), along with Angie Allen, Park Authority project manager for the Sully Woodlands Master Plan.

Sully Woodlands encompasses some 2,150 acres of parkland in western Fairfax County, plus another 2,250 acres of existing parkland including the Cub Run Stream Valley and Ellanor C. Lawrence and Richard W. Jones parks. And the study area covers most of the Sully District and a bit of the Springfield District.

The Park Authority wants to create a system of park areas joined by green space and trails. But it'll also make sure the final result meshes with ongoing Cub Run and Bull Run watershed planning efforts to protect and restore the county's streams and watersheds.

Rodney Follin of Centreville's Newgate Forest community is a member of the Cub Run Watershed Citizens Advisory Committee, and he, too, addressed the WFCCA last Monday. He called the watershed a "community asset of tremendous value [that's suffered] environmental degradation caused by human activity."

AND, HE WARNED, "There's potential for more of it." So, mindful of that, the Sully Woodlands and watershed plans are both being created simultaneously. Since the Cub Run and Bull Run watersheds are in the Sully Woodlands study area, what happens to them also affects the Woodlands.

"[The Sully Woodlands] regional plan lays down the framework for what will happen out here," said Allen. "And there'll be collaboration with DPWES [the county Department of Public Works and Environmental Services] and the watershed plan."

Nearly 80 percent of Sully Woodlands is forested, and less than 10 percent of it is developed. The study area contains a globally rare, oak/hickory forest and provides a haven for a variety of wildlife, birds, hawks, owls, turkeys, mink and river otter. It also includes 27 parks — 13 of them developed — plus the Cub Run Rec Center, Sully Historic Site and various golf courses.

Allen said low-impact development will be encouraged and noted that a consultant did a land-use survey. Accordingly, she said, "We're developing use zones appropriate to the various areas."

That way, the Park Authority will have a better picture of which portions may be used for athletic fields, for example, and which sections would be best left alone. Said Allen: "Much of the land has important cultural and natural resources that need to be protected."

The Park Authority will also determine specific elements — such as pedestrian connections, wildlife corridors and vehicle access points — that will tie together the individual parks within Sully Woodlands. It intends to create a mix of pedestrian, bike and equestrian trails between the parks.

EVENTUALLY, a draft master plan will be developed, followed by a public hearing and a public-comment period. Next, the plan will be fine-tuned, based on citizen input, before going to the Park Authority Board for approval. Any homeowners, civic or other group that would like the Park Authority to present details of the Sully Woodlands Regional Management Plan in person should contact parkmail@fairfaxcounty.gov.

When completed, this land-management blueprint will outline guiding principles and development priorities for the next 10-15 years or more. For more information about the project, see www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/sullywoodlandsplanning.htm.