Tysons Forest task force recommends steps for preserving 65 acres of woods

Volunteers recently assembled at Tysons Forest for an Earth Day nature walk and litter cleanup (via Fairfax County Department of Cable and Consumer Services)

The continued development of Tysons doesn’t have to come at the expense of its remaining natural green space, argues a recent report on ways to preserve 65 acres of forest in the urban center.

A community task force has recommended two dozen actions that could help preserve and even enhance wooded areas collectively known as Tysons Forest, including tree plantings and clean-up efforts. Dated March 24, the report was formally accepted by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on April 16.

“Usually, task forces are not looking at preserving natural areas like this and enhancing them, but it was a really wonderful and very positive community-led effort,” Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn said at the board meeting.

Alcorn assembled the Tysons Forest Community Task Force last September to craft a plan for protecting the woods along Tysons’ southwestern edge. Spanning the Dulles Toll Road to Gosnell Road, the expanse includes the 33-acre Old Courthouse Spring Branch Stream Valley, the Ash Grove Historic Site and Raglan Road and Freedom Hill parks.

Chaired by resident Jack Russell, the task force counted residents, local building owners, office tenants, Fairfax County Park Authority staff and other county representatives, and conservation experts among its 23 members.

After meeting throughout the fall and winter, the group solidified recommendations that it hopes will enable humans and wildlife to coexist, while making Tysons Forest “sustainable and emerald green forever.”

Leading the proposals is the need for the county to officially recognize the stream valley corridor as Tysons Forest, including by adding wayfinding signage, and incorporate a pledge to protect the habitat in its Tysons Comprehensive Plan.

The task force also highlighted the importance of replenishing the area’s tree canopy, which it reported has declined by approximately 20-25% in the past five years. In addition to planting 200 wire-guarded trees and seedlings annually, the report suggests cutting down on the amount of invasive plants by at least 50% by 2028 and conducting counts of birds, bees and other wildlife to measure the area’s biodiversity.

Other notable recommendations include:

  • Revive the Ashgrove Trail extension project and evaluate options for connecting it to the Vesper Trail south of Spring Hill Road
  • Expand Tysons Forest by securing proffer contributions from developers and encouraging property owners to adopt ecologically friendly practices
  • Maintain a safe and clean forest by requiring developers to mitigate run-off into streams, adding trash cans along walking trails and conducting regular trash cleanups
  • Enlist local students as “green champions” by offering volunteer opportunities and including youth on future task force teams
  • Create a website and events calendar for Tysons Forest

Task force members have already started to implement some of the recommendations, according to Alcorn’s unanimously approved board matter. Planning is underway to install a wildlife learning trail along a commercial property and restore one acre of a park authority-owned site with native plants.

Tysons Forest was also the site of a recent Earth Day litter pick-up walk.

“I’m hopeful that this will be the first of many such initiatives that are collaborations across public-sector property owners, private-sector property owners and folks that care about the community and care about the environment,” Alcorn said in a county-produced video about the event.

Going forward, the task force proposed creating a work team to oversee the report’s implementation. That could eventually evolve into a permanent Friends of Tysons Forest organization.

Expressing particular enthusiasm for the “green champions” idea, Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik lauded the task force’s work as “a really good model” that the county could potentially replicate for other forests.

Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw noted that more preservation efforts will be needed for the county to meet its goal of covering 60% of its land area with tree cover, as stated by the Community-wide Energy and Climate Action Plan (CECAP) adopted in 2021.

“This kind of effort is really key, and I do think this can be a model,” Walkinshaw said. “Maybe we look at a slightly streamlined version of this that we can apply to other forests around the county, especially in developed, urbanizing areas. That’s really where the rubber is going to meet the road, or the trees are going to meet the road, for us in terms of meeting our goals.”

Read more on FFXnow…

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