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Saturday, December 28, 2013

Small environmental group focusing on stream conservation makes a big splash

Wakefield Run before the restoration project started.
Friends of Accotink Creek (FAC) has been named 2013 “Cooperator of the Year” by the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District (NVSWCD).

FAC is an all-volunteer organization committed to protecting and restoring water quality in a major waterway that flows through the Annandale area and drains into the Potomac River. Also during the past year, FAC has established research relationships with George Mason University.

The NVSWCD award salutes FAC’s outreach efforts, especially surrounding Fairfax County’s restoration of Wakefield Run, the heavily impaired creek that springs up behind Braddock Elementary School, flows under the beltway, and through Wakefield Park before emptying into Accotink Stream.

Wakefield Run, like countless steams throughout the watershed, carries rain-driven pollution, plastics, and silt from heavily paved land ultimately to the Chesapeake Bay, where the pollutants kill aquatic life.

In 2012, the friends group served as judges for a contest sponsored by NVSWCD and the Fairfax County Park Authority to help the Annandale community name the quarter-mile-long waterway, now known as Wakefield Run.

This year, FAC worked again with the Park Authority, NVSWCD, and the Fairfax County Department of Public Works and Environmental Services to plan the $440,000 Wakefield Run Stream Restoration Project. The stream is being redesigned to slow the rain water it carries, enabling the water to soak into the stream bed rather than scour soil from the stream banks.

In advance of the restoration project, FAC coordinated with Fairfax County master naturalists and other volunteers to rescue native plants. They will be replanted along Wakefield Run after the restoration project is completed.

Through the year, the Friends group organizes and promotes clean-ups along the 23-mile-long Accotink Stream; coordinates projects to remove invasive species; facilitates student, scout, and neighborhood projects; advocates for sensible water policy; and discusses natural resources issues with civic, service, and social groups.

Philip Latasa, first conservator of FAC, emphasizes the urgency and scale of the public environmental responsibility required to tackle systemic environmental problems. “The time is now to create a public ethic of understanding and caring about watershed issues—to approach the solution to this issue as an ‘Apollo Project on the Accotink’ and for all of us to sign up as astronauts or as mission control, creating opportunities for progress.”

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