Nature Groups Say Bolling Brook Restoration Project May Inspire More Such Efforts

By Tara Bahrampour
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, June 14, 2009

When Dennis Liberson bought 119 acres in Delaplane in Fauquier County three years ago, he thought the segment of Bolling Brook that ran through the property looked nice. He didn't know that he would be spending a lot of his time and money transforming the creek into something new.

But last week, a rejuvenated segment of the creek was unveiled on his property, thanks to a combination of $1.7 million from the Nature Conservancy and more than $100,000 of Liberson's money.

The new version has been cleared of culverts and will soon have a bridge. It has rocks strategically placed to create places where the water can burble, allowing more oxygen to feed marine life. The Nature Conservancy will monitor it for the next 10 years.

Liberson, a retired corporate executive who lives in Great Falls, said he hopes the restoration, which runs 1.1 miles, will be the first in a series of restored waterways in the area, which flow via Goose Creek through Fauquier and Loudoun counties and into the Potomac and the Chesapeake Bay. Bolling Brook is a source of drinking water for Fairfax and some of Leesburg.

The goal of the restoration was to return the creek to the way it was before paved areas and other alterations began to contribute to flash floods and water wastage. "When you pave over all your surfaces, water doesn't run into the ground anymore; it runs into creeks and then into oceans, which are salty, and then it has to be desalinated," Liberson said.

"In northern Fauquier and western Loudoun, there's a lot of land, and we really have the opportunity to protect that watershed."

With a meandering path and a surface that is closer to ground level than the creek's last incarnation, and with 6.5 new acres of wetland, Liberson's project is an example of what environmental groups say they would like to see from every property owner, to bring the watershed closer to what it was before development.

Jon Schwedler, spokesman for the Nature Conservancy, said it was unusual for an individual developer to take on such a project.

"He called us up and said, 'I want to do something about this stream,' " Schwedler said, adding that the stream had a lot of erosion and steep banks.

Liberson's stretch of restored stream will eliminate 1,000 tons of sediment each year, Schwedler said.

"It does demonstrate what one person can do," Schwedler said. "He's kind of a pioneer."

Still, he said, until many more property owners do something similar, it will be hard to see an effect on the bay. "This is a drop in the bucket," Schwedler said, "but if everybody living by it put what he could into it, that would really make a difference for the bay."

Liberson said he is confident that the idea can catch on. In northern Fauquier, he said, there are many like-minded landowners, many of them equestrians, who welcome easements on their property to preserve it as open space.

"People there want to buy in a place where the neighbor won't sell to developers," he said, adding that he hopes his neighbors will consider similar creek restorations and come to have new appreciation, as he did, for the water running through their properties.

"I thought it was kind of cool that there was a stream on it, but I don't think I had any idea how nice it could be," Liberson said.

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