Fairfax City turtles will get new homes ahead of Ashby Pond construction

Turtles in a popular City of Fairfax pond will be safely relocated in the next few days and weeks, ahead of a monthslong dredging and construction project at Ashby Pond.

“The community was very concerned about the ecological impacts that the construction activities would have on the pond,” said Satoshi Eto, public works program manager for Fairfax.

Located in the Little River Hills subdivision, off Main Street, Ashby Pond is a stormwater detention pond, which helps capture sediment, trash and pollution before water leaves the pond.

“As sediment accumulates in the pond, the waters get shallower and shallower,” said Eto. “Over time, some of the accumulated sediment started to be seen over the water line, and plants started to grow, so it was very apparent the sediment level was reaching the point that it needed to be dredged.”

Construction will begin in the fall on an approximately yearlong project to increase the pond’s capabilities of removing pollutants, as part of the city’s Chesapeake Bay reduction targets, Eto said.

“One of the first things that will need to be done to work on the pond is to dewater it,” said Eto. “We’ll dam up the areas where water comes into it, and pump that around the pond — and we’ll drain down the pond so that the accumulated sediment can start to be removed.”

But what about the turtles during the months of construction?

“The turtles are one of the big features of Ashby Pond,” said Eto. “People really enjoy going to the pond to see them.”

Fairfax City has contracted with Dr. Todd Rimkus from Marymount University to relocate the turtles before the dredging and retrofit project begins this fall.

Eto said turtles from Ashby Pond will be removed in July, and “relocated to other ponds that currently do not have a turtle population.”

Eto said Rimkus, who runs a nonprofit he established for turtle preservation, “has been doing test captures to determine what species are in the pond, and has selected three locations in Manassas that will be suitable habitats for these turtles.”

The capture process will begin shortly after July 4, and run through the end of the month.

“The capture will involve traps that are set along the perimeter of the pond,” said Eto. “And, they’ll be baited with chicken.”

Traps will be checked daily by Eto and his assistants who obtained a permit through Virginia’s Department of Natural Resources to capture and relocate the turtles. Volunteers have been recruited to help moving the containers into vehicles that will transport the turtles to Manassas that day.

“If any members of the public are interested in seeing how the turtles are captured and relocated, they’re welcome to join us anytime between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., in July,” said Eto.

Eventually, after the construction project, inflow channels where water comes in will be reopened, and the pond will be filled with water, naturally. And, Eto said new turtles will inhabit Ashby Pond.

“We don’t intend to move the turtles from ponds of Manassas back to Ashby, but the natural process of migration will bring these creatures back into the pond over time,” Eto said.

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Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

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