ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Bulldozers will soon roll into one of Northern Virginia’s largest nature preserves.
The Fairfax County Parks Authority has outlined a $3 million restoration project for Huntley Meadows State Park near Route 1. The 1,554-acre park includes 50 acres of wetlands that are threatened by native populations of beavers and invasive plant and wildlife species including the snakehead fish.
“We’ve broken nature by piling all that silt into the wetlands from construction projects,” says Park Manager Kevin Monroe. “So now that we’ve broken it, it’s our responsibility to fix it.”
The extensive project, which should bring bulldozers to the popular park before the end of the month, will include a management system to prevent large fluctuations of water caused by beaver dams.
The park is surrounded by a suburban development which over the years has poured tons of silt into the water leaving it too shallow at times for native plants and wildlife to survive.
The park was sold to Fairfax County in 1975 by the federal government. It had previously served as a Navy Radar site during the Cold War and had dried up during that time.
Since then there has been an effort to restore the natural balance of the wetlands, accompanied by much debate on just how to do that.
Currently the park is home to many species of birds and plants, but the marshland has not balanced out.
The issue has been complicated by beavers building dams that often raise the water level higher than it should be at times and in the wrong place.
Construction should take about a year, but it could take years before the marshland returns to its natural balance.
The park will remain open throughout the construction.