The Ballston Wetland Park, which opened Tuesday, Sept. 26 with a ribbon cutting by County Board Chair Dorsey, expands control systems and capacity for what was known as Ballston Pond, originally built in 1980 to hold storm runoff from the newly built I-66. The tiny park is now cleared of sediment that had built up in the pond, and is capable of taking excess rainwater from 450 surrounding acres. The retrofitted wetland system improves stormwater flow and filtering, as well as capturing trash, while also serving as a wildlife refuge for some, if not all, urban critters.
Lubber Run flows through the wetland on its way to Four Mile Run. The park expands the county’s ability to meet state Chesapeake Bay Watershed regulations: native plants have replaced invasives, at least for a while, and there is a short metal walkway with signs indicating what might be seen in the park. Wildlife, including the beavers, were encouraged to leave the area when it was drained for the $4 million project. One wonders what became of the beavers.
Although the idea of a “pastoral commons within an urban village setting” sounds good, the park was a bit of a disappointment to one visitor who had hoped to see beavers, and get a little peace and quiet. It was 4 p.m. and the sun was reflecting off the water, making it almost impossible to see what was going on in the wetland, except for the sparkling plastic water bottles and trash that had accumulated, as designed, at the north end of the wetland. The overwhelming noise of Route 66 traffic thrashing its way west, even on a Sunday afternoon, detracted from the wetlands scene, a dab of impressionist green in an abstract cityscape of traffic. It didn’t help that a smoker left a pack of Kool cigarettes under one of the benches as they finished smoking, and another visitor tossed his plastic beverage cup right into the storm drain along the adjacent road. It would seem more people need to read the helpful advice on the newly installed visitor plaques: “Only rain goes in the storm drain.”
If you go, free parking does not exist along the park or nearby, it is best reached on foot or bike. See: https://www.arlingtonva.us/Government/Departments/Parks-Recreation/Locations/Parks/Ballston-Wetland-Park