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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."

Anna Marie Mulvihill September 21, 2011 at 01:34 PM
Obviously being in "compliance" isn't enough. Then what happened after the State inspection found problems on the 12th of September? Nothing but more silting apparently. This is a genuine headache for the club and the community. Let the regulators take a long, hard look at the eventual planting and continue to monitor. Let the club take a lesson about making things right and doing more, more, more than required to fix things. Silting a creek and allowing unrestricted run off of rain water is a serious and vital concern because of the snowballing effects that it has. Some of these are chemical pollutants set free, destruction of water channels, and killing of wildlife in the food chain. All of this increasing as the water moves eventually to the ocean. This is the water we depend on for our very life and no trifling matter. The open Green Space the club provides is an asset to all in the community. Let the regulators and the club get on with it. Restitution and improvement are an appropriate apology.
Mark Nelson September 21, 2011 at 05:15 PM
Tricia, Westwood do not break a sewer line. What you smelled was good old fashioned manure in the top soil being spread on the golf course. The wind just happened to be blowing your way. Good thing you didn't live there when Westwood was a dairy farm!
Frank T September 26, 2011 at 01:57 AM
I guess no one at the Town every heard of a phased approach for ground and soil disturbance of this magnitude, nor have they heard about best management practices in terms of soil erosion. I would have expected this nonsense 30 years ago but it should not occur in this day and age. The Town and Club are clueless if you ask me! And don't just blame it on recent rains from Irene or Lee. This situation started to go south in the Spring. There was no attempt to capture or contain the silt until everyone started to complain.
Christine Keady September 28, 2011 at 08:50 PM
As a town resident for the past 26 years, I can't begin to express my excitement about prospects of enjoying the wonderful facility Westwood Country Club has become! Mr. Flood, are non-members allowed entrance on certain days or is this an open invitation?
Streamcreatures October 01, 2011 at 11:23 PM
I think Mr Flood means we can look through the fence and watch the members play!

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