by Pat Jakopchek
ANC 3F07 commissioner
Soapstone Valley Trail isn’t just the namesake of one of our neighborhood’s newest attractions. In fact, every day, it and Melvin C Hazen Park offer countless members of our community (and their four-legged friends) an accessible escape to nature and wildlife.
Unfortunately, these local jewels face a number of threats to their well-being. Increased usage, waste and debris, and aging infrastructure have all taken the their toll on the parks. But, one of the biggest risks comes from almost entirely outside their borders.
Without a determined push from our community, stormwater runoff could shut down these trails completely. Rushing down from adjacent, upslope properties, stormwater erodes streambanks and damages trails. In many places, this erosion has changed the face of our parks.
That’s why ANC 3F’s Soapstone Valley & Melvin C. Hazen Parks and Trails Committee created a Stormwater Mitigation Subcommittee last year. With a mission to “minimize the effects of stormwater runoff” on our trails, committee members are working hard to address this important issue.
One of the group’s notable successes was its work with Hillwood Museum & Estate. In late 2015, members identified a runoff issue near the easternmost border of Soapstone coming from the museum’s property. After bringing the problem to Hillwood’s attention, they worked with staff to identify potential solutions to it.
Hillwood then installed filters to reduce sediment, and shrubs to prevent erosion. Biodegradable coconut netting was also used to protect the shrubs until they were more fully established. Thanks to the committee’s advocacy and Hillwood’s commitment to our community, this part of the trail is now more protected and in better condition.
The committee is also working to help neighborhood properties take advantage of DOEE’s Riversmart programs. In August, it helped arrange one such consultation for the Van Ness North building (3001 Veazey Terrace NW). Directly upslope from Soapstone, reducing runoff from this property could have an outsized impact on the park.
After receiving the Riversmart audit results, committee members worked with the building’s board and engaged an engineering firm to provide formal plans and cost estimates for enacting the report’s recommendations. Members are now assisting the building as it seeks funding for these projects and are hopeful that construction can begin later this year.
Looking ahead, the committee plans to build on its work engaging property owners throughout 2017. It is currently assisting some larger residences obtain stormwater audits of their own. Additionally, it is strategizing how to better promote the Riversmart Homes program to single-family property owners in our area – engaging even more ANC 3F residents on this important issue.
If you would like to lend a hand to our stormwater mitigation efforts, or learn about the other work being done to protect our community’s trails, please join us at the next meeting of the Soapstone Valley & Melvin C Hazen Parks and Trails Committee at 7 p.m. on Monday, February 13th at Forest Hills of DC (4901 Connecticut Ave NW).
The meeting is open to the public and all are encouraged to attend.