Upcoming task force will study how to preserve ‘Tysons Last Forest’

Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn tours Tysons Forest with community members (courtesy Hunter Mill District Office)

With development starting to pick up in the Spring Hill area, the need to protect some of the last remaining natural green space in Tysons has taken on a new level of urgency.

Acknowledging the potential threat, Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn — who represents Tysons west of Route 7 and north of Route 123 — will create a community task force to determine the best way to preserve Old Courthouse Spring Branch Stream Valley, also known as Tysons Forest.

“The Task Force will provide a forum for discussion and recommended action to maximize the ecological benefits of this green corridor while maintaining appropriate access by us humans,” Alcorn said in an announcement at yesterday’s Fairfax County Board of Supervisors meeting.

Encompassing over 40 acres of wooded land, Tysons Forest extends from the Ash Grove historic site down to the Tysons Towers apartments. It includes Raglan Road Park (8590 Raglan Road) as well as the stream valley park.

The area was dubbed “Tysons Last Forest” by residents who banded together in 2013 to halt plans for a road through Old Courthouse Spring Branch Stream Valley Park.

The county’s Tysons Comprehensive Plan emphasizes that the Old Courthouse Spring Branch and Scotts Run stream valleys “should not only be protected from development and infrastructure impacts, but be restored and enhanced.”

However, the plan also envisions “substantial redevelopment” for Tysons West to transform an area currently dominated by auto dealerships and offices into a mixed-use, transit-oriented district with “significant office, residential and retail components, as well as arts and entertainment uses.”

While that development mostly hasn’t emerged yet, the parkland is already close enough to human activities that a potential deer hunt last year was deemed too risky.

The plan proposes developing “multi-use trail and other passive recreational facilities” at Old Courthouse Spring Branch park, while considering athletic fields or other “local-serving recreational uses” at Raglan Road Park.

No changes to that plan will come from the new task force, which isn’t intended to address development in the area, Alcorn told FFXnow.

“Rather it is a task force of representative property owners along the stream valley to discuss management and ecological enhancement of this green corridor that forms the border of Tysons,” he said. “Some of the area has already completed stream restoration but there is as of yet no coordinated plan for the stream valley that lies between the Dulles Toll Road and Gosnell Road.”

According to Alcorn, the task force will be community-led and include representatives of property owners and other “community partners.” He said the other county supervisors and their staffs are also welcome to participate.

The group will convene this fall and is expected to wrap up its work in early 2024.

“It’s actually going to be a fun exercise to see how those ecological assets could be built upon and used for the broader community,” Alcorn said.

Alcorn’s full announcement is below:

As the Board is aware, Tysons is planned as Fairfax County’s urban center. Immediately to the west of existing and planned development in the Hunter Mill portion of Tysons is a stream valley that includes Old Courthouse Spring Branch. Also included in this stream valley is Raglan Road Park and other Fairfax County Park Authority property which contain more than 40 acres of forested land. This green corridor is of great value to nearby residents, local businesses, visitors to the area, and the numerous flora and fauna that make this stream valley their home.

Unlike many areas of Fairfax County, land along the stream valley is owned by a variety of property owners including but not limited to the Park Authority. For the Board’s awareness, I am creating a community-led Task Force with representatives of property owners and other community partners to develop high-level strategies for the preservation and enhancement of the stream valley. The Task Force will provide a forum for discussion and recommended action to maximize the ecological benefits of this green corridor while maintaining appropriate access by us humans. I appreciate the Park Authority’s active interest and participation in this effort and look forward to sharing the task force findings and recommendations as this important community work moves forward.

Read more on FFXnow…

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