Residents in the Dranesville neighborhood of McLean Hunt Estates last week gained the support of the McLean Citizens Association in an attempt to thwart the Fairfax County School Board's plans to fill and grade a 24-acre area intended for two soccer fields behind the future Spring Hill Recreation Center.
Members of the McLean umbrella group that represents 30 civic associations expect to meet with Dranesville district supervisor Nancy K. Falck and other county officials to discuss the possible damage to Bull Neck Run stream, which runs through the proposed fill site.
The group will ask Falck to withhold approval of the plan for at least 60 days until residents and county officials can assess what effect the fill and grading would have on the water system and future soil erosion.
The site between Spring Hill and Lewinsville roads is a pastoral scene of rolling land, old farm buildings, a corn field and 100-foot poplar trees bordered on two sides by houses costing an average of $250,000. Most of these residents oppose the site plan because they say it will cover up Bull Neck Run and scare away wildlife.
The 24-acre area would be filled to the average depth of 12 feet with about 387,000 cubic yards of earth from several excavation sites in Tysons Corner, according to Edward R. Moore, director of site acquisition and development for the School Board. The earth would fill in the part of Bull Neck Run stream on the school property and water would be conducted by storm drains to the stream further north. The fill would be 50 feet deep on top of the stream. The trees along the stream would be cut down.
Efforts to stop the landfilling are being spearheaded by Gary Edwards, president of the McLean Hunt Estates Civic Association that represents a subdivision of 60 families. Edwards, whose property abuts the site, said that filling in the stream valley would damage Bull Neck Run and endanger the drinking water of the nearby Spring Hill Farm, a 200-year-old, 26-acre farm located on the north border of the fill site.
The farm's owner, Peter Andrews, said that covering up Bull Neck Run could affect a number of natural springs on his land. He is also concerned about his own well water that is supplied by the Bull Neck Run watershed. Andrews said that covering part of the watercourse would upset the whole downstream section of Bull Neck Run on his property.
"There's springs all over the place. Anything that disturbs the source of the stream endangers the whole thing. I don't like anybody fooling around with the stream at all," Andrews said.
Edwards and nine other nearby property owners wrote Falck and other county officials that according to Fairfax County's comprehensive plan for land development, Bull Neck Run stream valley and its watershed should be preserved and protected. The plan also calls for protecting the wildlife in the Bull Neck Run area "from the harmful effects of urbanization."
Edwards said he does not oppose the soccer fields and, in fact, has two children who play in the McLean Youth Soccer league. But he contends that the county should have weighed the cost of losing the present soccer fields against damage to the environment.
He said the possibility of losing the rustic view was a minor issue.
"The world doesn't care what Gary Edwards sees from his back yard . . . It's not that what they're proposing is so horrible. It's just that what's there is worth saving."
The School Board last month proposed to fill and level off the area between Spring Hill and Winter Hunt roads, which was part of the 60-acre Spring Hill school site at Spring Hill and Lewinsville roads. The county never built the school because of declining enrollment, but decided last September to build the recreation center on the south half of the site.
Two new soccer fields would be laid on top of the fill site, but county officials are not sure what would be done with the remaining 12 to 14 acres. Falck said the county's vocational education department is interested in the site for student-built houses, some of which are already in the neighborhood.
The School Board's Moore said that by filling and leveling the area and installing a storm drainage system less erosion would result than is occurring at present.
"Those plans have all been reviewed by the county," Moore said. "The potential damage to the watershed would be greatly reduced, not greatly increased. You'll totally eliminate the potential for future erosion."
Supervisor Falck, aware of the nearby residents' opposition to the plan, said she wants to meet with the concerned neighbors and appropriate county staff. She has asked the School Board staff to review the fill and grading plan again.
"If the grading is wrong, then it will have to be changed," Falck said.