This week on Then and Now, we’re going back to South Lakes to take a look at Lake Audubon.
With help from Fairfax County’s Historic Imagery Viewer, which offers aerial views of the county dating back to 1937, Reston Now has put together a look at how the lake has evolved from overhead and under the surface.
Audubon is the largest of Reston’s lakes in both it’s acreage — 43.5 acres — and it’s extensive watershed covering 1,558.5 acres.
While Lake Thoreau holds 26.5 million gallons of water, it’s southern twin holds 133.6 million gallons.
Lake Audubon and Lake Thoreau were conceived to be one lake, then named Lake Elsa. The lake was impounded in 1971 and was named for Reston founder Robert Simon’s mother.
But in 1979 the South Lakes dam bisected the property and split the lake, creating Lake Thoreau in the North and Lake Audubon in the south.
For years, the southern area closed off by the dam, but for years afterwards remained a dry pit. During the 1980s, the lake was filled in with water.
But while the lake shows very little change from above between 1997 and 2017, there were plenty of changes taking place beneath the water’s surface. In those years, several new species of aquatic wildlife was introduced to the lake, including:
- Redear Sunfish
- Black Crappie
- Brown Bullhead
- American Eel
In more recent years, the levels of contamination in the water continue to be a problem, caused in large part by the lake’s large surface area. According to a 2017 report on Reston’s lakes, Lake Audubon’s has faced increasing amounts of toxic algae that pose an ecological threat to the lake.
For more Reston Then and Now, check out:
“Fallen Angels” starts — NextStop Theatre Company’s production of the Noel Coward comedy hits the stage tonight. [NextStop Theatre Company]
Checkmate — McNair Elementary School finished second in the K-5 category of the Virginia Scholastic Chess Championships. The McNair also placed third in the K-8 category. [FCPS]
Lake Audubon dredging update — The dredging project is still on track for completion in April. [Reston Association/YouTube]
Girl Power! Book Club tonight — Middle-grade readers can head to Scrawl Books at 7 p.m. to talk about “Front Desk.” [Scrawl Books]
Lake Audubon’s dredging project is slated to start as soon as Feb. 1.
The Reston Association announced today (Jan. 18) that it plans to hire Lake Services, Inc. to dredge the accumulated sediment from the lake’s main coves. Dredging could begin as early as Feb. 1 with expected completion by the end of April.
The announcement came five months after residents were warned to avoid the lake after a harmful algae bloom was spotted. The bloom, called Microcystis, can produce toxins that are lethal for livestock, fish and people. Some of the toxins have been linked to liver cancer.
“Routine dredging is part of the association’s lakes maintenance program, which helps to extend the life of the lake,” the press release say. “As lakes age, they eventually fill in through sedimentation.”
Sedimentation occurs when materials such as soil from stream erosion, construction sites, road sand, leaves or other debris accumulate in the lake.
RA anticipates that the dredging will require removing 13,500 cubic yards of material, which will be placed in trucks and hauled to a disposal site in Loudoun County.
While the dredging is underway, locals can expect truck traffic to affect the Lake Audubon Pool’s parking lot, according to the press release.
The dredging operation staging area will be located at the Lake Audubon boat ramp. Dredging will not occur at the shoreline edge or within 5 feet of any dock structure, according to the press release.
Before dredging can begin, RA’s Board of Directors will need to approve the project contract with Lake Services, which is anticipated at the upcoming meeting next Thursday (Jan. 24).
Photo via Reston Association
This week on Then and Now, we’re going back to our roots as seeing how Reston’s iconic lakes have changed over the years. With help from Fairfax County’s Historic Imagery Viewer, which offers aerial views of the county dating back to 1937, Reston Now has put together a review of how the area around Lake Thoreau and Lake Audubon has evolved since the lake’s creation.
Like Lake Anne, there was no “South Lakes” in photography from 1960. Reston as a planned community was founded in 1964. Before that, much of what is the South Lakes were forests with a few cut-through roads. Interestingly, where Lake Audubon would be built later there was a large pond.
Lake Thoreau and Lake Audubon were built as reservoirs collecting the runoff created by the rapid urbanization nearby. Lake Thoreau was built in 1970 and Lake Audubon was built in 1971, though from the aerial photography there wasn’t much of a “lake” about Audubon until the late 1980s.
One of the earliest large scale developments in the area was the South Lakes High School, which opened in 1978 on 600 acres of land with an “open classroom” design.
The school was not broken into individual classrooms, a plan teachers and students discovered early on was ineffective and distracting. They wound up building temporary barriers until more permanent ones built in 2006 killed the open classroom idea for good.
Langston Hughes Middle School was originally an intermediate school for South Lakes High School, but in 1980 it was officially renamed the Langston Hughes Intermediate School, then Langston Hughes Middle School in the early 1990s.
By 1980, new residential developments had sprung up along the northern and southern edges of Lake Thoreau.
In 1984, the South Lakes Shopping Center opened, marking the last major shift in the area, though the design of that area could be undergoing some visible changes.
Between 1990 and 2017, most of the changes to the area involved the filling in of residential developments in the vicinity of the lake. In 2006, South Lakes High School also expanded and the aforementioned open-space classroom model was eliminated.
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Senior Capital Projects Operations Manager Chris Schumaker highlighted some of the “key” projects slated for 2019 in a Reston Association video.
Originally developed in 1965, the Hook Road Recreation Area will see architectural and engineering changes. The area, which has remained largely unchanged since tennis and baseball amenities were added in 1973, was identified for major revitalization in 2016 after a review of facility enhancements approved by RA’s Board of Directors.
Bathroom renovations are slated for Lake Newport Pool (11601 Lake Newport Road).
A dredging project will begin for Lake Audubon. Residents were warned in September to avoid the lake after a harmful algae bloom was spotted. The bloom, called Microcystis, can produce toxins that are lethal for livestock, fish, and people. Some toxins have been linked to liver cancer.
Nestled in the woods, the Walker Nature Education Center will receive accessibility improvements.
A little more than half of Reston’s capital projects were finished this year, Schumaker told RA’s board at a meeting last Thursday (Dec. 13).
Finished ones included renovating the Pony Barn, located at the corner of Steeplechase Drive and Triple Crown Road, to include an ADA-accessible parking lot, bathroom and pathway, along with adding concrete flooring to the pavilion and grill station. The project also included a new drainage system and playground.
The Central Services Facility at 12250 Sunset Hills Road had a “major transformation” with new energy efficient windows, a new HVAC and bathroom facilities and improvements for accessibility and security. The building had not been updated since it was built in 1982, Schumaker said.
Dredging was completed for Lake Thoreau this year. “Removing the sediment helps improve the overall health of the lake for many years to come,” Schumaker said.
Some of this year’s projects nearing completion include new flooring, paint, fixtures and lighting in the Glade Room at 11550 Glade Drive and tree removal along the dam at Butler Pond at 1145 Water Pointe Lane.
Photos via Reston Association/YouTube
Plans to restore roughly 800 linear feet of Lake Audubon’s streams were approved by Reston Association’s Design Review Board Tuesday night. The project, called Snakeden, would involve tree removal, stream construction and revegetation along RA’s parcels between Cedar Cove Cluster and Wakerobin Lane.
Meghan Fellows, the county’s manager of watershed projects, said a design team has been working on the project, with the input of RA, property owners and residents, for nearly three years.
“The stream is desperately in need of some assistance,” Fellows said at the DRB meeting, noting that portions of the area are degrading significantly.
Richard Newlon, the board’s chairman, said he hopes the project team will minimize the loss of trees by tweaking designs and implementation to conserve trees — even if it meant a minor tweak to save just one tree.
The project was challenged by the need to secure easements across private property and Reston Association property to construct the stream. Land rights for the project were obtained in June following a more than a year-long period of tree and stream surveys and conceptual planning.
After a cycle of revisions, permits were granted in October. After receiving final approval for designs, drawings and permits in the spring of next year, construction is likely to begin in the summer, Fellows said.
Overall, several sanitary crossings in the area are exposed and RA found that 40 trees are likely to fall down if no action is taken. Trees will be replanted during later phases of the project.
County staff estimates the project will cost under $1 million.
Photos via handout/Reston Association
Stay away from Lake Audubon and Lake Thoreau — A toxic algae bloom spotted at the lakes two weeks ago remains, so Reston Association staff are encouraging residents to avoid contact with the water. Pets also shouldn’t swim or drink from the lakes. [Reston Association]
Silver Line investigation continues — Metro’s Office of the Inspector General announced Wednesday that it’ll take over an investigation into flawed concrete in phase two of the Silver Line extension project. The effort is currently overseen by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. [The Washington Post, WMATA]
A natural recovery at Sunrise Valley Elementary School — When a renovation project at the school required the removal of trees to maintain line of sight for pedestrians and drivers, Reston Association, the school system and two design firms partnered to restore a natural area at the school. The area is now a natural habitat for birds, butterflies and other animals. [Fairfax County Public Schools]
Flickr pool photo by vantagehill
A harmful algae bloom spotted on Lake Audubon a little over a week ago remains on the lake. The bloom, called Microcystis, was can produce toxins that are lethal for livestock, fish, and people. Some toxins have been linked to liver cancer.
The Environmental Protection Agency says Microcystis is a common form of algae that is “almost always toxic.” It resembles a green, thick, paint-like material and tends to gather along shores.
As the algae bloom continues, Reston Association is advising all residents to avoid contact with the water. Pets should not swim in or drink from the water.
In a statement, RA said consultants have indicated a drop in the temperature of the water will help get rid of the bloom.
Also, purple and green clumps floating on the surface of Lake Thoreau were identified as Plankothrix algae, which can also produce toxins. Residents should also avoid contact with that water.
Thus far, no toxicity tests have been conducted by RA.
Photo by Reston Association
The results of the 35th annual Reston Triathlon are in the books. The community race, which happened on Sunday, drew contestants and participants despite the rain.
A harmful algae bloom on Lake Audubon, discovered on Thursday, forced Reston Association to cancel the swim portion of the triathlon. As of Monday (September 10), RA advises against touching the water, which has algae that can produce toxins that are lethal to livestock, fish, and people.
The overall winners in the male division were:
- Sean Pinkney, 34: 2 hours, 3 minutes, 16 seconds
- Jacob Gilden, 30: 2:07:25
- Noah Kennedy, 21: 2:07:30
In the female division, overall winners were:
- Raquel Torres, 37: 2 hours, 10 minutes, 17 seconds
- Ekaterina Pinkney, 34: 2:23:26
- Kristine Wooten, 30: 2:28:18
In the individual age groups, the winners were:
- Sean Pinkney, 34, Male: 2 hours, 3 minutes, 16 seconds
- Jacob Gilden, 30, Male: 2:07:25
- Noah Kennedy, 21, Male: 2:07:30
- Bryan Rivera, 34, Male: 2:08:25
- Andrew Gyenis, 24, Male: 2:08:54
- Raquel Torres, 37, Female: 2:10:17
- Kevin Wright, 29, Male: 2:11:33
- Wiehan Peyper, 32, Male: 2:16:52
- Paul Cutler, 50, Male: 2:18:31
- Ryan Luczak, 17, Male: 2:18:31
Neil Medoff and Rich Uhrig also received an award for perfect attendance. They attended every Reston Triathlon for the last 35 years.
Photos via Reston Triathlon/Facebook and Brian Kent
In a preliminary dive into next year’s budget on Monday, Reston Association’s Board of Directors and members of its fiscal committee explored ways to navigate a possible increase in assessments next year.
The increase may be necessary to offset additional expenses and new capital projects, according to RA officials. A major driver of expenses is a $50,000 increase in health insurance premiums for staff and $215,000 to pay for unanticipated lease payments for the lease of RA’s headquarters. Although staff hiring savings of $90,000 are expected to offset some expenses, the association has also seen an increase in lawsuits, amounting to roughly $30,000. Revenues from the Lake House and tennis courts are also down, said Larry Butler, RA’s Acting CEO.
Other expenses include a $60,000 state-mandated reserve study, $40,000 in software updates, $44,000 to add dechlorination systems for pools, $30,000 for a new billing and collections software and $20,000 for targeted marketing. The dredged of Lake Audubon, which was pushed from this year to next year, is expected to cost $850,000. Projected cost estimates for improvements to Hook Road are also expected to be a major expense next year.
Butler pitched several budgeting strategies for next year’s budget. On the top of the list is a proposed 2.5 percent in membership dues or annual RA assessments. Other alternatives include cutting expenses by 2.5 percent, dipping into investment earnings for $35,000, and the use of RA’s operating reserves.
RA Board President Andy Sigle suggested that staff continue to explore ways to balance the budget with RA’s operating reserve, which was also used to pay the Lake House loan. A stronger understanding of the projected year-end balance for the operating fund was necessary to determine whether or not to increase assessments, Sigle said.
Board member Julie Bitzer also stressed the need to ensure budgeted amounts are conservative and realistic, citing that RA budgeting for a decrease in lease payments for its headquarters location, only to later discover a decrease was not expected.
RA staff and the board will take a second dive into the budget by presenting draft two of the budget in late September. Following a series of listening sessions with members, the fiscal committee will receive the budget in late October. The budget is approved at a November meeting by the board following additional member input opportunities and amendments.
Photo via Reston Association
RTC West+ — JBG Smith plans major additions to RTC West, which, for now, is essentially an office park with a touch of retail. [Washington Business Journal]
Death ruled a drowning – An autopsy determined that Kevin Ruby’s cause of death was drowning, with the contributing cause of cardiovascular disease. Ruby drowned during a popular race on Lake Audubon in late May. [Fairfax County Police Department]
First PRC work session tomorrow — The first workgroup meeting regarding transportation as the county considers a plan to increase Reston’s population density is set for tomorrow at 12005 Sunrise Valley Drive. [Reston Today]
Twitter user @MrErrett
A Reston Association working group created to analyze rules governing lakes, docks and boats kicked off it meetings on June 13 (Wednesday).
RA’s board of directors formed the group on March 22 in response to residents’ concerns about outdated boating policies, enforcement issues and overall usage of local lakes. The group will provide recommendations to the board in November.
During the first meeting, members received information on Reston’s lakes, as well as the type and number of boats and docks currently allowed.
The group’s objectives include identification of the environmental impact of docks and boats, a review of current rules and policies and whether or not rules infringe on lakeside property owners’ use of their properties.
The presentation given to the working group is linked here.
Flickr pool photo by vantagehill
The body of a 45-year-old swimmer was recovered Monday afternoon from Lake Audubon.
Kevin Ruby was competing in the 31st annual Jim McDonnell Lake Swim when a family member noticed he was missing for more than an hour. Ruby finished a one-mile race but never showed up at the end of race two, which covers two miles.
Police believe Ruby may have drowned. Foul play is not suspected and a medical examiner will determine the cause of death, police said.
More than 600 people participated in the event. Swimmers wore bracelets, which were used to check in and out of the event. Event organizers were not immediately available for comment.
Remi Currell, who was a guard at the event, said the event was handled professionally.
“This sort of accident is not exclusive to our race. There is no way to completely [foolproof] this type of event, and the only way I can think of making it safer is to have one lifeguard per person, which is impossible.”
Police and fire and rescue personnel searched the area from Sunday noon through the night. The helicopter-assisted search resumed Monday. Ruby’s body was found around 12:45 p.m. that day.
Nearly three years ago, a 63-year-old man participating in the swim died after losing consciousness during the event.
The event happens at a Reston Association lake, but is organized by the Reston Masters Swim Team.
The team issued the following statement Tuesday afternoon:
Reston Masters is honored to have had Mr. Ruby compete at our Jim McDonnell Lake Swims for many years. He was a very talented top finisher. Earlier Sunday morning Mr. Ruby won his age group in the 1-mile race with a time of 23:38.
As part of all our races, Fairfax County on-water EMS staff are an integral part of our operations. We are especially grateful for the timely and extensive additional support from Fairfax County Police and Fairfax County Fire & Rescue.
Please join Reston Masters in keeping Kevin Ruby in our hearts and memories as an accomplished distance swimmer.
Photo by Fairfax County Police Department and Jessica Peachey
The Reston Masters Swim Team will host the 31st annual Jim McDonnell Lake Swim on Sunday at Lake Audubon.
The swim has been held every Memorial Day weekend since 1988, according to the team’s website. In 1999, it was named in honor of McDonnell, a founding member of the team who was on the committee that first organized the swim. McDonnell died from lymphoma in 2016.
“Reston Masters is excited to host the 2018 U.S. Masters Swimming (USMS) Middle Distance Open Water National Championship,” said Reston Masters President Brian Evans. “Our 2-mile swim is the kickoff race of the USMS championship series and we are ready to deliver a top-notch, well-organized experience for JMLS competitors.”
Up to 200 swimmers will vie for national champion status. Swimmers take part in a two-mile open water loop around Lake Audubon. This year, two visually impaired swimmers are competing, along with a young woman trying to qualify for the U.S. Special Olympics
A practice swim will take place on Saturday.
Proceeds from this year’s event will be donated to Lymphoma charities. In the past, recipients have included Herndon-Reston Fish, Inc. and the Lymphoma Research Foundation.
More information about the event is available online.
Here’s more about the event from the organizers:
Swimmers of all abilities compete every year. This year’s field includes elite swimmers like 66-year old Shirley Loftus-Charley, a USMS All-American and All-Stars champion and record holder, who is competing in her 31st consecutive JMLS.
Swimmers in the 30-34 year age group will be watching out for distance swimmer and triathlete Shannon Greene. Shannon has placed first in the 1-mile race three times, and has taken first in the 2-mile twice.
“You can expect to see some fast swim times,” said Evans.
One swimmer is hoping to score a qualifying time to compete with Special Olympics USA, and two visually impaired swimmers are also taking on the challenge.
Competitors will swim counter-clockwise around buoys over a 1-mile course. Those swimming the 2-mile race will make the trip twice.
Photo by Ryan Dawson
The Walker Nature Center’s Spring Festival is back next week, featuring a recycling clown magic show, crafts for kids, and live entertainment.
The free event will be held May 5 from 1-5 p.m. Song Garden, Hickory Grove, and other artists will perform acoustic music live throughout the festival.
There will be $5, half hour canoe and kayak rentals at Lake Audubon, as well as fishing activities, a native plant sale, and information from local environmental groups.
The entertainment schedule is as follows:
- 1:30-2 p.m. — Blue Sky Puppet Theater: The Three Green Pigs
- 2:45-3:30 p.m. — Teddy the Recycling Clown: Magic Show
- 4-4:45 p.m. — Reptiles Alive: Live Animal Show
Parking will be available at Glade and Soapstone Drives as well as at Glade Pool.
Photo courtesy of Reston Association