Wolftrap Creek Mucked Up By Club's Renovation
Westwood Country Club not doing enough to prevent adverse environmental effects, residents say.
It's a small creek that runs through Town and Foxstone Parks, one of the tributaries that finds its way to Difficult Run and eventually into the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay.
To Sue Mackenzie, Wolftrap Creek is the center of the neighborhood. Her kids played there when they were younger; she walks her dog on the path that winds beside it.
"For those of us who live over here, it's been a big part of our life," Mackenzie said.
So when the creek, normally clear, started clouding with silt this summer, the neighbors were concerned. So they traced the source, and found themselves at Westwood Country Club.
The club's property is adjacent to Foxstone Park. A large pond on the property drains directly into the creek, so when the club began doing work on the golf course this summer, the runoff quickly made its way downstream.
"I've been here for 20 years, and it's never been this bad," said neighbor Caroline Wilson, who worries about the wildlife in and around the creek. Wilson and her neighbors want the club to do more to stop the sediment from reaching the creek.
"We don't want to see it ruined," Mackenzie said.
Westwood Country Club General Manager Paul Flood said the club is working with the town, state agencies and environmental engineers to keep the work site in compliance as they complete the full-scale, 18-hole renovation, which has left much of the club's property without the ground cover needed to prevent erosion.
"We take this very seriously," Flood said.
The Town of Vienna, said spokesperson Kirstyn Barr, has been inspecting and monitoring the worksite since the beginning.
After receiving complaints from residents, it issued a stop-work order for the site until it could be inspected. The town, along with the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, inspected the site and found the club was in compliance with its work permit and regulations, and lifted the order.
"If there is no violation, there's only so much we can do," Barr said.
Flood said the club is complying with the work plan set out in the town-issued construction permit.
The bad news, said Kelly Vanover, regional manager of the Department of Conservation and Recreation's Warrenton office, is even if all drainage management measures are perfectly built and maintained, it's still very difficult to keep run-off water clean. The club is using silt fencing and sediment ponds to try to keep the water clear, but Vanover said there is always room for improvement.
Both of the state agency's recent inspections, the last on Sept. 12, found problems on the work site, including erosion in the channels connecting sediment pools, meaning more sediment was being picked up as it moved from one pool to the next. This eventually leads to the creek, Vanover said.
"The ultimate solution is to get vegetation back on the ground as soon as possible, and to control your construction to minimize how much you have to uncover," Vanover said.
Until the project's completion, the creek is likely to continue to be cloudy, which is affecting some of the aquatic life in the stream.
"In any stream that's subject to conditions like this, some of the aquatic life can't get away from the sediment," said Ed Stuart, water compliance manager for the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. Fish and other free-swimmers can move up or downstream to clear water, but microscopic invertebrates in the creek bed are stuck, Stuart said.
And when the silt settles, "Instead of a nice gravel bottom, you get, potentially, sediment covering everything."
The good news, said the club's Flood, is the golf course will be fully replanted this fall, and back in play by summer.
"We're going to have a wonderful facility, that not only club members but the entire town, we think, is going to enjoy," Flood said. "It looks very promising."