Letter: Natural Doesn’t Require Pristine


Letter: Natural Doesn’t Require Pristine

— I would like to present an alternate view to the claim by Mr. Spiegel that Westgrove Park does not represent a viable wildlife corridor to the Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve and the Potomac River. While I don’t claim to be an expert on wildlife corridors and connectivity, I have spent many hours in and around Dyke Marsh, leading bird walks, participating in Breeding Bird Surveys, canoeing and hiking. I got involved with Westgrove Park many years ago when a proposal was put forth to construct a soccer field on the site. So, if you will …

  1. Fort Hunt Road. – Yes, roads may be a barrier to some wildlife, but they are not impassable. Anyone who drives on Fort Hunt Road regularly basis has probably seen roadkill — more often a raccoon than the occasional fox. Many more make it across. Birds, insects, bats and seeds move easily across these human–made obstacles.
  2. The chain link fence surrounding Westgrove is far from impenetrable. A pedestrian gate on the Fort Hunt Road side makes entry simple. On the opposite side, it took me less than five minutes to find a “scrape”, a tunnel of sorts, under the fence — big enough to allow a fox or other animal to pass easily. (If there are no liability issues, I believe FCPA should consider removing this fence.)
  3. The “intervening “ lands of River Towers are largely lawns, gardens and trees.
  4. Once in the Big Gut of Dyke Marsh, it’s an easy stroll though a marshy area to the George Washington Memorial Parkway and the bike path. Another obstacle? Hardly. Anyone who has hiked or biked across the boardwalk south of Belleview Boulevard has probably seen the “tunnel” — (a.k.a. culverts) that carries water underneath the roadway. When the tide is right, not too high or low, I have canoed through this tunnel as cars passed overhead. At low tide, a fox or coyote may not even get their paws wet. The point being, it is a passageway (and they don’t even charge a toll!)

No one has ever argued that this area is pristine, but the potential exists for it to be returned to a more natural state and become a significant natural corridor in a heavily developed part of Fairfax County where only six percent of undeveloped land remains. Restoring Westgrove Park and allowing the two-acre grassy field to become a meadow presents a rare opportunity to create more natural connectivity that will enrich our surroundings and our lives.

I believe the world needs wild places — areas that are left undisturbed and are not subject to the desires of some who

say “It needs to be used.” It is being used! Just because much of that use goes unseen by our eyes does not mean it has no value and needs to be developed.

Westgrove Park is an opportunity for Fairfax County to provide over 20 acres of wild space that will connect the forested tract of Mount Vernon District Park with the Potomac River — which was recently given the dubious distinction of being named the nations’ “most endangered river.”

Rich Rieger