Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Preserve City’s Natural Heritage

Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Preserve City’s Natural Heritage

I’ll bet most residents of Alexandria have never heard of Strawberry Run or know that its upper reaches were once forested, and fed by small springs that issue out of the sediments of the Coastal Plain laid down over millions of years by an ancestral Potomac River. They probably don’t know that there is a three-acre, forested property in this small tributary of Hunting Creek that still retains many of the natural ecological and geological characteristics that were once common throughout Alexandria below the Fall Line.

Today, a developer wants to construct as many as four large homes connected by a road that will all but destroy the natural habitat of this small but now all too rare forested landscape. The small parcel in question is located behind Temple Beth El off Seminary Road.

The story of this property has been repeated over and over again until there is very little of this sort of habitat left in Alexandria. The city’s desire for tax dollars has also meant that Alexandria has far too little active open space for a city of our density, despite being an “eco-city.”

When it comes to things like terrace seeps and trees, and the wetlands, birds, and native plants they sustain, the cost of preservation is seen as too high and not worthy of the effort. And citizens feel that their concerns are ignored by planners and elected officials for the most part — as appears to be the case here.

There are no large natural parcels of land left to set aside, and what has been preserved is not adequate for a city of our size and wealth. Six-acre Monticello Park is a haven for hungry, migrating neo-tropical songbirds each spring. Winkler, close to the Fall Line, is much smaller than it should be.

The response to development has always been: “it’s too costly to save land.” If we let that always be the response, then we will have failed as a city to preserve our natural heritage.

Andrew Macdonald

Former Vice Mayor