Reston resident Bruce Bentley’s back-porch view has changed over the last year.
The wooded area behind Bentley’s townhouse in Reston’s Birchfield Woods Cluster has diminished because of flooding caused by heavy rains this year, he said.
“You could barely see the soccer field through the trees, but we’ve lost a lot of those trees now,” he said. “That water has backed up so much ... I don’t think any of those trees will survive.”
The Birchfield Woods Cluster sits near Autumnwood Park, which includes a soccer field and a drainage pond located off to one side of the field. Residents have kept a count of trees lost around the field since the water levels rose in the area, and estimate more than 50 trees have died as a result.
While aesthetically unpleasing, the saturation of Autumnwood Park has caused other concerns, including an increase in mosquitoes this spring.
“We just want our soccer field dry and not have a bunch of mosquitoes,” said Birchfield Woods resident Bobby Fagel, whose townhouse is near the field and drainage ditch.
Reston Association staff said the property is owned by the association, but the stormwater detention area is run by Fairfax County. Previously, the soccer field had goal posts on it. However, the posts were removed because the county does not allow structures within the stormwater detention area, said Reston Association Deputy Director of Maintenance Brian Murphy.
While the extra soccer field is a nice thing to have, county staff said the real purpose of the field and drainage pond is to prevent flooding elsewhere.
“The soccer field is a storm water easement. We convey the water through there, across the field,” said Irene Haske, spokeswoman for the Fairfax County Office of Stormwater, Wastewater and Urban Forestry Management. “The whole area is a storm water easement. ... Because of its location, that is the area we use to prevent flooding in other areas.”
The drainage area for the stormwater facility serves 83.9 acres around it. There are about 1,500 similar facilities around Fairfax County, Haske said. County staff have visited the site several times this week to pump water out of the drainage pond and assess the problems neighbors have complained about, Haske said.
“We are aware that it’s a problem and the engineers were looking for a better solution,” she said. “We do have a plan for a man-made wet pond, which will be able to absorb more water. ... It will be much prettier.”
The county is working with the Reston Association on plans for a wet pond. If everything goes well, construction on the pond could begin late winter/early spring of next year.
Neighbors said they would like to see the county pump out the water within the drainage pond and come up with a more permanent solution that would allow for continuous use of the soccer field.
“With the amount of taxes we pay, I don’t think we should have our soccer field flooded twice a year,” said Fagel. “When it rains a lot, that little lake fills up. When we get a lot of rain, that soccer field gets filled up.”
When neighborhood children and adult sports leagues are not using the soccer field, neighbors said it is used as a common area where residents go for walks.
“I don’t know what [the sports teams] are going to do, because this time of year they typically have all kinds of recreational activities going on there,” Bentley said. “I’m down on that field three or four times a day because I’ve got dogs that need the exercise.”
Reston Association Board of Directors member Mike Collins (North Point), who represents the Birchfield Woods cluster, said he had not heard from neighbors about concerns over the stormwater easement. He added that he would work with neighbors to try to set up an information meeting with county and Reston Association representatives to try to get more information about issues in that area.