Master Plan
Lake Accotink Park

Fairfax County Dredging Project Website

WJLA TV Report, May 16 & 21, 2022:

Washington ABC affiliate WJLA carried a report examining the dredging issues.
Report text & video link

Public Meeting February 10, 2022:

The public meeting confirmed that the options for dewatering sediment from the Lake Accotink dredging have dwindled down to two sites:

  • Beside the Wakefield Park maintenance yard, which would involve clearing seven to ten acres of forest and running a 1.5 mile industrial pipeline through the streamside woods to the lake.
  • In the industrial park next to the lake, which would put heavy truck traffic on Highland Street through a residential area.
Frustrated citizens at the meeting offered additional options to escape this dilemma. Those options will need to be considered, but are likely to have their own limitations.

The comments submitted by the Friends of Accotink Creek begin with a summary of the muddle we find ourselves in:
"Please circle your selection:
A. Lake Accotink is a beloved aesthetic and recreational amenity for surrounding neighborhoods
B. Lake Accotink is an invaluable sediment control resource.
C. Lake Accotink replaces some of the wetlands we have lost so much of in other areas.
D. Lake Accotink is an unwelcome barrier to the natural movement of aquatic wildlife.
E. Lake Accotink is an unending, expensive, divisive, and insoluble maintenance headache.


Public Meeting Preview, January 28, 2022

After the years of considering different bad options for the future of Lake Accotink, it has come down to two unpalatable choices for a dredge spoils dewatering site:

  • Spare the trees? - A location in the industrial park
    - or -
  • Spare the people? - A 1.5 mile pipeline and 6 acres of woods cleared
The industrial park option on Southern Drive has less environmental impact, but puts increased truck traffic on residential streets. The Wakefield Park option sacrifices 6 acres of woods and puts a 1.5 mile pipeline through the woods along Accotink Creek. It takes little guessing to imagine which interest will prevail.

The February 10, 2022, public meeting is likely to be quite contentious as neighbors protest increased truck traffic on residential streets.

The option for a smaller but cuter lake we thought was discarded may yet be reconsidered, due to the astronomical financial cost of dredging.

The last two desperate options - Wakefield Park vs. Industrial Park - People vs. Trees?
Trees have no tongues and no votes.

Lake Accotink Dredging Meetings, July 29 & August 5, 2021

About 30 members of the public were present at the July 29th in-person meeting and about 125 at the August 5 online meeting. Supervisor Walkinshaw attended, as well as former Supervisor Cook.

The meeting presentation was a synopsis of the contractor’s report (178 pages), followed by question and answer.

The options for a dewatering site have dwindled to:

  • Wakefield Park by the maintenance yard, sacrificing up to six acres of forest
  • Wakefield Park by the power station, sacrificing up to six acres of wetlands
  • Lake Accotink Park at the 1980’s dredge disposal site, called Upper Settling Basin, again, six acres, but a marginal area that has never recovered
  • Lake Accotink Park on an island (with option to expand to a peninsula), with a smaller footprint of 3 acres, due to drier dredge material
The Wakefield Park sites would involve pipeline options:
  • Along the CCT, underground
  • Along Flag Run to either Port Royal Road or 495, not clear if all would be underground

The Upper Settling Basin pipeline would follow a long stretch of the main trail, to avoid abrupt elevation change.

There were surprisingly few public comments. None of the comments by other attendees evidenced much emotion or hostility or advocacy for particular options. A few agreed with our general point of minimizing environmental impact, especially as regarded Wakefield Park. No one advocated for any site other than the island.

Other noteworthy points:

  • Actual dredging should begin in fall 2023 and end in 2026.
  • The estimate of material to be dredged has grown from 350K to 500K cubic yards
  • The future frequency of repeat dredging is still up in the air.
  • Fish/eel passage solutions will not be incorporated in the dredge project.
  • More than one dewatering site is not out of the question.
  • The County had earlier secured Commonwealth of Virginia loan commitments of up to $30 million. Due to rising cost estimates, the Board of Supervisors authorized an application for an additional $30 million from the same source.

Statement made at the in-person meeting, speaking on behalf of FACC:

It is our sincere belief that, had this information been available during earlier public discussions of the future of Lake Accotink, the decision could well have taken a different course. The costs of all of these options are high in negative environmental, recreational, and community impacts.

The existing island with rotation of truck traffic along different routes is not a good option, but may be the least bad. Yes, the nuisance impact would fall on park users and neighbors, but they are also the most direct beneficiaries of dredging to maintain the full lake.

We suggest that planning begin now for a longer term future – that of incorporating the dredge spoils to construct the berm that will enable us to reconnect Accotink Creek and to have a smaller, deeper, cleaner, and even cuter Lake Accotink.

Further, we citizens of Fairfax County must focus on eliminating the sediment at its source, which is excessive stormwater runoff from our roads, roofs, and parking areas.

★ ★ Submit your comments on the dredge, pipeline, and dewatering plans HERE (scroll down) ★ ★

The existing island option is the least environmentally distasteful among all the bad options.

Lake Accotink Dredging Meeting, December 10, 2020, online

The public meeting offered little that was not known, but did advise that on-the-ground studies are underway in preparation for the dredge. Unfortunately, all options seem to have narrowed to the certainty of a pipeline from the lake to a sediment dewatering site north of Braddock Road. Options for locating the dewatering facility are very limited and there seems little hope that the site selected will not choose the path of least resistance by sacrificing several acres of trees in Wakefield Park.

★ ★ Submit your comments on the dredge, pipeline, and dewatering plans HERE (scroll down) ★ ★

Pipeline Route Walk March 14, 2020

Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw, his staff, our new park manager, Dan Grulke, Park Authority staff, Stormwater Planning Division, neighbors of Lake Accotink, and members of FLAP, Save Lake Accotink, and Friends of Accotink Creek met to walk the route of the proposed dredge spoils pipeline. Many thanks to all who turned out and to the Community of Christ for permission to use their property as our starting point.

After months of public discussion culminating in a commitment to preserve the full lake, an added cost has become apparent - a dredge spoils pipeline proposed to run from Lake Accotink Park to Wakefield Park - plus 5 acres of cleared woods in Wakefield Park for dewatering. This industrialization of our parks is not what the neighbors expected as the price to keep the full lake.

To better understand the costs vs. the benefits, the gathering walked along the Cross County Trail, observing the forests and habitat, stopping here and there for closer looks, from the upper end of Lake Accotink to the baseball diamonds area in Wakefield Park.

Along the way, the narrators pointed out the proposed pipeline route is entirely in floodplain wetlands dotted with short-term pools supporting amphibian reproduction. As we heard the calls of pickerel and wood frogs spotted wood ducks and mallards on one such pool, likely preparing to nest nearby. .

The discussions covered various concerns about the pipeline, such as the eyesore it would be, the difficulty of threading the narrow points of the corridor between creek, homes, and historic sites, the damage pipeline equipment would cause, the negative interactions of pipeline and floodwaters, the obstacle the pipeline would pose to movement of wildlife, etc.

The group pondered alternatives to yet one more tree removal project in our parks, such as dewatering the sediment on barges in the lake, running the pipeline along the railroad to a dewatering area in one of the industrial parks, or even reconsidering the option of a smaller lake.

The group learned as well that Fairfax County is now engaging a contractor to develop more concrete plans and that further public input will be needed when those plans are on the table.

Cars had been staged at the end point of the walk to ferry participants back, but almost all preferred to spend still more time in Nature on this mild late winter day, and chose to return on foot.

Everyone who was there is now aware firsthand of the impacts and the need to think about them. The turnout demonstrated to the county side that there is a level of citizen concern.

At the end of the trail

Supporting handout package provided to participants: Annandale Blog article
Master Plan Meeting September 19, 2019, at Cardinal Forest Elementary

After a lengthy pause for study and planning, the plan to preserve Lake Accotink was presented, amid much enthusiasm from public servants and the public. The sour note is the proposed permanent pipeline from the Lake to a dewatering site in Wakefield Park, an eyesore and a graffiti magnet that will sacrifice trees and habitat in the name of what?
Fuller Version of Meeting Memo
Link to Meeting Presentation Slideshow
Public Statements at Meeting by Friends of Accotink Creek
Comments by Friends of Accotink Creek to Board of Supervisors

DPWES Briefing, March 4, 2019
The Fairfax County Department of Public Works and Environmental Services held a briefing for representatives of Save Lake Accotink, Friends of Lake Accotink Park, and Friends of Accotink Creek to discuss the results of studies done on the future of the lake subsequent to the 2018 public meetings.

Some highlights of the briefing were:

  • DPWES and others will conduct fish population studies, to evaluate fish passage options
  • The recommended dewatering location is north of Braddock Road in Wakefield Park.
  • This will require tree loss both for the site and for a pipeline alongside the Cross County Trail.
  • Revised cost estimates may lead supervisors to ask the public to reconsider the lake's future.
  • Public meetings should resume by mid-2019.
Fuller version of briefing summary, plus links to presentations
Save Lake Accotink Petition Presented to Board of Supervisors, June 5, 2018:
Supervisor Cook presented the Save Lake Accotink petition with over 4000 signatures to the Board of Supervisors on June 5th. Five supervisors spoke favorably. Link to video (17 minutes)

The next step for the lake will be county staff recommendations on a bond issue to go before the voters in November, 2019. REMEMBER IN NOVEMBER -

Now that the future of the lake seems clear, we may expect the Master Plan to continue forward with public meetings to consider other aspects of planning. We must continue to advocate for nature and habitat over active recreation and asphalt. We must keep fish and eel passage on the table.

Annandale Blog Article, May 29, 2018:
Describing the efforts of Save Lake Accotink to petition for preservation of the lake. ARTICLE
Monthly Town Hall Meeting of Friends of Accotink Creek, May 15, 2018:
The meeting of the Friends of Accotink Creek endorsed:
  • Retention of the existing Lake Accotink dam with addition of a sediment forebay
  • Inclusion of passages for fish and eels in plans for the future of the dam
We changed changed from our neutral position on the dam to favoring the dam with forebay, not as the best solution, but as the least bad option at present. The sediment is the overwhelming environmental issue for Accotink Creek. Loss of the sediment capture the dam provides would not benefit the creek, in our best judgement. Advocating for a fishway is an alternative opportunity to restore some measure of ability for fish migration. Our comments to the Park Authority and supervisors setting out the new position are HERE.

Master Plan Meeting April 30, 2018, at Lake Braddock Secondary

Supervisors Cook, McKay, Gross, and Herrity were in attendance. Supervisor Cook acted as the "master of ceremonies". He and Supervisor McKay fielded most of the questions, with some input as well from Supervisor Gross.

Supervisor Cook estimated the crowd at over 300. The sentiment (not sediment) of the audience was preponderantly in favor of retaining the lake and each speaker in favor of the lake received enthusiastic applause.

Supervisor Cook noted some new citizen suggestions that are now being officially studied on the Park Authority side:

  • Proposals to locate forebays upstream at Braddock Road
  • Proposals to pipe sediment to Braddock Road for dewatering
  • Proposals to transport sediment by rail.
Supervisor McKay explained how he had used recent budget hearings to impress upon his fellow supervisors the need to address Lake Accotink's future as an "environmental emergency". The county budget that was passed this month includes instructions to the county executive to develop funding plans for all lake options. Recommendations from the Park Authority are expected in early fall.

On the topic of the upstream forebay, Supervisor Cook noted some challenges, including that of capturing the flow from the Long Branch tributary. He invited citizens with ideas to submit sketches of possible solutions.

The Park Authority handout available at the meeting makes a depressing statement that "The solution would be to improve the stream channels..." which was echoed in comments by Supervisors Cook and McKay. [This means lining our streams with stone, rather akin to "fixing" an ailing leg with a prosthetic limb.] There was no reference to healing the cause of the erosion, ever-expanding paved surfaces without adequate stormwater controls. Supervisor McKay did at least mention that the stormwater tax is used to fund projects other than stream restorations to address the sediment.

Also depressing was Supervisor Cook's comment that there is "not a square inch of natural area left in Fairfax County". This is a notion we have heard with some frequency from Supervisor Cook. More encouraging was Supervisor Cook's statement, "I don't think making money is really the goal" of Lake Accotink Park.

Supervisor Cook extended an offer to speak to any community or organization wishing to have a meeting on the topic of Lake Accotink. Speakers from Save Lake Accotink made the same offer.

Supervisor Cook mentioned that the county is catching up to the consideration of downstream costs. He observed that without the dam, Fairfax County would likely be obligated to collect an equivalent amount of sediment at twice the cost. Speakers from Save Lake Accotink echoed this and pointed out it would apply specifically to the proposals for a smaller lake or no lake.

Supervisor McKay marveled that Lake Accotink has received more commentary and more review than any project in recent Park Authority history.

Supervisor Cook expressed admiration and appreciation for the efforts of Save Lake Accotink. He plans to present their petition signatures to the June 19 Board of Supervisors meeting. [Plan now to be there with your SLA t-shirt or sign!]

When the subject of a possible special tax district to support Lake Accotink was broached, both Supervisor Cook and Supervisor McKay were quick to give their thumbs down, to enthusiastically affirming audience applause.

Supervisor Gross, noting that she had just returned today from a stormwater planning meeting in Richmond, discussed the effect we might expect climate change to have, in terms of more intense rainstorms. Referring to Lake Accotink, she said "I look at this as a great big BMP [BMP = Best Management Practice, in this case for stormwater]

Su Jewell, our friend from Friends of Lake Accotink Park, spoke on the environmental benefits of stream reconnection, noting that she works in the very office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that deals with migratory fish passage.

Our own Kris Unger lamented the impediments to letting the beavers solve the sediment problem in our suburban environment. He praised Save Lake Accotink for its success and thanked the audience for the concern they had shown by attending. Kris urged all to "Get involved and stay involved".

The train surely seems to be gaining steam in the direction of keeping the dam. As things proceed, we will need to more vocally advocate for a fishway as a consolation prize for fish and other wildlife that will benefit from stream reconnection.

Media coverage in the Connection Newspapers was good, although there was some misunderstanding of the concept of forebays. Also pre-meeting coverage in The Patch

★ Neighbors are swiftly building momentum in favor of preserving the lake. ★
★ And have generated a petition HERE
★ Find them at and on Facebook

At the Fairfax County Park Authority Master Plan webpage for Lake Accotink Park, you may read background information, review documents, and sign up for email notifications.

Submit your written comments by e-mail at .

Lake Accotink Park's website

Find an enlightening correspondence that illuminates how environmental recovery plans affect the future of the lake HERE
- April 12, 2018
Bay Journal Articles, April 27, May 25, & July 9, 2018:
These articles in the Bay Journal describe a larger version of the Lake Accotink situation, explaining how the filling-in of the Conowingo dam has sent sediment downstream, mandating alternate control measures.

"For many years, the dam, which was completed in 1928, actually improved water quality in the lower Susquehanna and the Upper Bay by trapping sediment and accompanying nutrients from farm runoff, wastewater and urban stormwater. But over the decades, the reservoir filled with sediment, and the dam is no longer acting as a trap. Because of that lost trapping capacity, studies show the Upper Bay can’t achieve sufficient dissolved oxygen levels in its deep waters to sustain fish without additional nutrient pollution reductions of about 5 percent." ARTICLE 1 / ARTICLE 2 / ARTICLE 3

Find an examination of obstacles to fish migration on Accotink Creek HERE
- May 2, 2018
Master Plan Meeting February 13, 2018, at Lake Braddock Secondary
Supervisors Jeff McKay and John Cook co-hosted this meeting and together fielded questions. Community engagement with the future of Lake Accotink was evident with a crowd of about 200 in attendance. Opinions generally ran in favor of retaining the lake for a variety of motivations running from emotional attachment to environmental to financial. Options seem to be narrowing down to two:
  • Dredging of the lake combined with a new sediment-capture forebay (Option C)
  • Breaching the dam to reconnect the stream while sculpting a smaller lake (Option F)
  • A variation of Option C that would move the forebay to near Braddock Road was also given consideration
The Supervisors emphasized the financial hurdle to Option C (at about $43 million). This would require a county-wide vote on a bond issue which would need a substanial show of community support before the Board of Supervisors would submit the proposal to voters. Supervisor Cook pointed out that swift action would be needed to get the bond issue on the 2019 ballot, the 2020 ballot already being crowded with other bond issues, and later years perhaps being too late for the lake.

Nonetheless, both supervisors expressed determination to make the funding happen if community support is there. Supervisor McKay made his commitment clear by stating, "If we decide to save this lake, I will kill myself to get the money."

One speaker brought up the issue of the current Accotink Creek TMDL, which may mandate that the sediment-capture function of the lake must be retained.

The meeting received media attention in the Annandale Blog and on WJLA Channel 7

Submit your written comments by e-mail at and complete the Park Authority lake options survey HERE by May 28, 2018.

Read FACC's comments to the Park Authority and Supervisors HERE

★ Neighbors are swiftly building momentum in favor of preserving the lake. ★
★ And have generated a petition HERE
★ Find them at and on Facebook

Master Plan Meeting January 22, 2018, at North Springfield Elementary

It was a full house for a meeting to inform the public about options for the future of the lake. A slide lecture, display stations, and Q&A laid out the financial and sedimentation issues that make maintaining the lake a challenge. A secondary topic was the concept of connecting the upper and lower parking areas, either for the public or for emergency vehicles only. Supervisors Bulova and Cook were present.

The continued filling in of the lake with sediment requires periodic dredging at significant county expense. The dam itself requires ongoing maintenance expense for continued function and safety.

Despite the significant sediment capture, the county cannot obtain MS4 points (for stormwater discharge permits) for Lake Accotink because it does not meet certain technical requirements.

None of the options is ideal. Retaining the lake is a substantial financial cost to taxpayers and leaves a barrier to wildlife movement. Breaching the dam would reconnect the stream for wildlife movement, but would sacrifice the wetlands at the head of the lake and probably cause the extinction of the last population of freshwater mussels in Accotink Creek - in addition to losing the community value of the lake.

The same options for the lake's future laid out at the May 16, 2016, meeting were still on the table tonight, minus one. The option for artificial "beaver dams" had been dropped from consideration. Otherwise the options were:

  • Do nothing and watch the lake fill with sediment.
  • Continue periodic full-lake dredging
  • Install a sediment forebay at the head of the lake, with annual dredging
  • Breach the dam and reconnect the stream channel
  • Breach the dam, reconnect the stream channel, and sculpt a smaller lake on the north shore
An additional outside-the-box option suggested by a member of the public was to install a forebay far upstream, under the power lines at Braddock Road. This is an option worth exploring and offers these possibilities:
  • Avoid the issue of neighborhood truck traffic during dredging
  • Avoid a new truck road through forested areas
  • Reduce sediment buildup in the lake
  • Avoid wetland destruction
  • Might be eligible for MS4 points
  • Could take the place of stormwater ponds proposed for the Braddock Road widening project
  • Graphic Concept of This Proposal
Options for methods to breach the dam were also outlined. All options would open a gap in the spillway while leaving in place a portion of the concrete and all of the earthen part of the dam. Disappointingly, there seems to be no possibility of using explosives. ☹

Attendees were asked to vote by paper ballots on their preferred options for the lake and connectivity.

Review the Park Authority meeting summary & presentation.
Review the Lake Sustainabilty Study.
Informative comments in Supervisor Cook's Newsletter

Submit your written comments by e-mail at .

Master Plan meeting April 24, 2017 at Cardinal Forest Elementary:

The Park Authority scheduled this public meeting at our request, on the topic of natural resources, and combined it with the request of Friends of Lake Accotink Park for a meeting on the topic of historic resources. Both Friends of Accotink Creek and Friends of Lake Accotink Park had tables at the meeting.

The format combined separate staff presentations on natural resources and historic resources with display tables covering each aspect of resource conservation. Public attendance was only in the neighborhood of 25 persons, roughly equal to the number of staff persons there from different agencies. Supervisor John Cook spoke of the park as a place we all want to preserve, describing it as one of our last places "where you can step off the road and not know you're in Fairfax County".

We learned that staff has been conducting biological surveys and that resource protection zones will be defined. These zones will direct development away from sensitive areas and form the basis for future enhhancement and restoration. A natural vegetation community classification has identified 15 habitat types in the park. Earlier studies of habitat areas and species lists are available in the 1992 General Management Plan.

The draft Master Plan is expected to be ready for public review in late 2017.

The May 16, 2016 public meeting focused on lake sustainability and the chronic siltation issue: Media coverage in the Fairfax Times
On March 14, 2016, the long-delayed Master Plan for Lake Accotink Park began with a well-attended initial public meeting. Read our brief notes HERE.
Read the Annandale Blog report HERE.
The Master Plan for Lake Accotink Park is in development now.
Lend your voice in defense of habitat and watersheds!

The Board of Conservators of Friends of Accotink Creek has submitted comments on the focus of the Master Plan. Please find them HERE and use as a model for your own comments, either in person or in writing. Modify or personalize as appropriate

The fundamental principle is to defend natural resources over development and "improvements". The demand for active recreational and sports use of parks is infinite, but our remaining natural areas are finite. Destruction of irreplaceable habitat to satisfy demands for active recreation is an unwise course. Likewise, encouraging types of recreation in natural areas that degrade those areas is also destined to be regretted.

The Freshwater Mussel Survey commissioned by Friends of Accotink Creek and Friends of Lake Accotink Park describes an imperiled resource whose protection the Master Plan should enhance.

We can expect the Master Plan to be complete by 2018, after which any funding would come from the 2020 bond issue. In the meantime, the 2016 park bond issue includes $1.5 million for Lake Accotink Park. If approved by voters, these expenditures may begin while the Master Plan is incomplete. This creates some possibility of ad hoc projects incompatible with the long-term goals of the master plan.

At the Fairfax County Park Authority Master Plan webpage for Lake Accotink Park, you may read background information, review documents, and sign up for email notifications.

Submit your written comments by e-mail at .

Lake Accotink Park's website