Reston, VA

Thursday Morning Notes

Lake Thoreau Pool Work Begins — Contractors will be on-site at Lake Thoreau pool later this week for soil sampling. This step is necessary to begin the engineering and design of the pool’s retaining walls and parking lot. [Reston Association]

County Executive Releases Podcast — County Executive Bryan Hill discusses the COVID-19 pandemic, the search for a new police chief, and the upcoming fiscal year 2022 budget in his latest podcast. [Fairfax County Government]

Reston Songwriter Releases New Single — Singer and songwriter Amanda Cunningham has released a new single about breaking free from bad relationships. [Reston Patch]

Photo by Marjorie Copson

0 Comments

Lake Audubon Pool, operated by Reston Association, is in the midst of renovations. The pool is undergoing re-plastering, the pump and filter are being replaced, and other plumbing is being fixed.

Work began in mid-January and is expected to be completed sometime between mid-April and early May. But weather could delay the project, cautions Mike Leone of Reston Association.

This is all part of Reston Association’s regular maintenance plan and required for compliance under Fairfax County Health Department code. Plaster coatings have about an eight-to-ten- year service life, writes Leone in an email to Reston Now.

Another Reston Association pool, Lake Thoreau, is also expected to undergo renovations but a funding hang-up has caused delays. The Lake Thoreau Pool project could cost up to $3.5 million.

Lake Audubon pool renovation project is costing roughly $120,000, according to Leone.

At this time, it remains unclear when Reston Association pools will open this summer. In 2020, four out of 15 pools opened in late June.

“RA does not have hard dates for the opening of any of our pools for the 2021 summer season,” wrote Leone. “We are planning to open as many facilities as we can this summer.”

As pool season inches closer, updates will be posted on the Reston Association website.

Photo courtesy of Reston Association

0 Comments

A rare winter algae bloom that has both toxic and non-toxic forms has formed over Lake Thoreau.

Reston Association is advising caution after the bloom — known as Aphanizomenon flos-aquae – took over parts of the lake. The bloom is toxic if humans ingest it but dogs can become ill after ingesting or coming in contact with the algae.

The association has no immediate plans to treat the lake until water temperatures are in the upper 50s.

In the latest budget cycle, RA’s Board of Directors significantly increased its funding allotment by 86 percent for lake management and water treatment after major blooms — caused partially by ineffective or delayed water treatment — consumed Lake Thoreau over the summer.

Monthly treatment is expected to begin in the spring as part of RA’s new lake management strategy.

But winter blooms are more uncommon in Reston.

In a statement released today, RA noted that Reston typically does not have algae blooms in the winter because of colder temperatures. Water temperatures have hovered in the upper 30s and lakes have not completely frozen this season.

RA’s spokesman Mike Leone said that the organization has not yet determined the toxicity of the current bloom. He noted that certain species of cyanobacteria are referred to as toxic because they can harm people, pets and wildlife.

‘The current algae bloom has the potential to be toxic but it does not mean that it is toxic all the time. Given the potential though, RA encourages individuals and their pets to avoid contact with water where they see visible algae just to be safe,’ he wrote in a statement to Reston Now.

RA staff found that areas where the algae bloom was before have already been reduced.

Photo via RA

0 Comments

Delayed since mid-December, the Reston Association’s project to inspect and repair Lakes Audubon, Anne, Newport, and Thoreau dams will finally get under way later this month.

In a statement posted to social media, Reston Association will start work on January 25 on the trash racks and riser structure in Lake Audubon. This requires lowering the lake on January 21 and 22, a foot and a half to two feet a day. That work is expected to take a week.

Then, on February 1, the organization will draw down the lake again, this time to a total of eight feet, to allow for a full inspection of the dam infrastructure. It will be drawn down no more than a foot a day, so this work could talk up to one and a half weeks.

Due to this, Lakes Anne, Newport, and Thoreau will also be lowered to prevent spillage.

Later that month, February 15, more dam inspections will be done. This is expected to take until February 24. Once finished, the lake will be allowed to refill naturally which could take up to a few months to happen.

Reston Association asks all residents to provide slack in their moor lines so that boats can lower safely with the water level. The lake bottom will be “deep mud” so do not attempt to walk on it, RA advises.

Every year, the Reston Association performs these inspections and repairs. They are a state requirement, Chris Schumaker, Director of Capital Projects, tells Reston Now via email.

The project was initially pushed due to “delays both in the fabrication and delivery of key materials for the Lake Audubon trash rack and valve replacements,” writes Shumaker.

Photo via Reston Association/Facebook

0 Comments

Students at South Lakes High School will debut their seventh temporary public artwork for the Lake Thoreau spillway in early 2021.

The project, titled Part and Parcel, is made largely from repurposed materials in order to draw attention to ”companies and corporations that could have better systems of disposing unused products and materials,” according to a project description.

Students who are the SLHS STEAM team began creating public artwork for the spillway after a Lake Thoreau resident pitched the idea in 2012. Since then, Reston Association worked with Public Art Reston to launch a partnership.

Students who are part of the team and led by local artist and SLHS art teacher Marco Rando, design, develop and construct pieces of public art. Members then present the concepts to RA’s Design Review Board and Public Art Reston’s public art committee.

”By repurposing materials, we are challenging ourselves to create art out of things that would otherwise be deemed trash,” the students wrote.

Photo via Public Art Reston

0 Comments

The Reston Association’s project to repair and inspect the Lakes Anne, Audubon and Thoreau dams was scheduled for the second week of December has been rescheduled for the second half of January 2021. 

According to a statement from the Reston Association, the start date for the project was pushed due to delays with both the fabrication of new parts and with shipping. However, the statement says that the shift will lessen the impact on holiday plans the community may have. 

Previously, Lake Audubon was supposed to be lowered to conduct repairs on the riser structure, and the Lake Thoreau dam was supposed to be thoroughly inspected. 

According to Chris Schumaker, the Director of Capital Projects, the Lake Audubon Projects as well as the three spillway inspections should take no more than one month to complete. Lake Audubon is the only lake that needs to be lowered to complete the replacement of its spillway trash racks and several gate valves in addition to the inspection of the outfall pipes. 

Lake Thoreau, Lake Anne and Lake Newport do not require lowering more than a foot to conduct inspections and therefore won’t impact its members, according to Schumaker. 

Photo by Matt Paulson

0 Comments

Reston’s Lake Thoreau Entertainment Association is officially holding its 8th Annual Lake Thoreau Festival of Winter Lights. 

The festival, a lakeside tradition, will raise money for local causes. Residents must decorate the lake-facing side of their house, condo or boat with lights, and in return, donors will donate money to organizations of their choice.

This year, the initial pledges include:

  • $12 per house contribution (max $2,000) for Lake Thoreau concerts next year (contact [email protected] to join the pledge).
  • $8 per house contribution, cumulative from two donors, towards Cornerstones.
  • $5 per house contribution (max $1,000) to Public Art Reston to sponsor Reston community art projects (donations can be directed to the Lake Thoreau project).
  • $100 fixed contribution to Friends of Reston.

According to the statement, this means a total of $25 per house will go to the causes listed above based on the current commitments. 

Those interested in becoming a donor can reach out to James Pan at [email protected]. Donors can pledge either a fixed amount or on a per house basis. 

The Lake Thoreau Entertainment Association encourages the whole neighborhood to become involved and beat last year’s count of 177 homes and boats with lights. Since residents put up their own lights, the event is COVID-19 friendly — one of the safer seasonal celebrations to partake in. 

The houses will be counted on Monday, Dec. 21, weather permitting. 

Photo by Bob Ricca/Unsplash

0 Comments

Next month, Reston Association will be conducting its annual lake inspections on Reston lakes.

The association announced the inspection in a press release Tuesday (Nov. 17). Starting the second week of December, if weather permits, Lakes Anne, Audubon, Newport and Thoreau will all have inspections inside and outside the bodies of water, according to the press release.

“We contract with an engineering firm specialized in this service whose team inspects the inside and outside of the structure and uses divers to look at areas underwater,” the press release said. “To accommodate this inspection, each lake is lowered slightly to prevent water from spilling over the concrete lip that is at the regular lake pool surface level. This lowering typically does not impact activities or boats on the lake.”

Reston Association Watershed Manager William Peterson says these inspections are performed to look for several possible areas of concern.

“Regardless of whether a part of the riser structure is under water or out of the water, we are looking for similar things,” Peterson said. “Essentially, anything that might create a concern. This could include cracks in the concrete, leaks in the control gates, corroded metal for any of the gears, pipes or grates, proper operation of the gates and valves, and more. We want to make sure that our dams are well maintained to ensure the safety of our community and those downstream of each of our lakes.”

Restionians living near any of the four lakes – Anne, Audubon, Newport and Thoreau – should not expect to be affected by the inspections, according to Peterson.

“Typically, the inspections do not affect the residents living near the four lakes,” Peterson said. “Although each riser structure has gates to control the water level, they are always closed except for maintenance purposes. The level of the water for the lakes is typically right at the concrete threshold that allows the lakes to have continuous flow downstream. For the inspections, we lower the levels slightly, typically about a foot, so that water is not flowing inside of the riser structure during the inspection. This helps the inspectors identify possible leaks.”

This year, according to Peterson, Lake Audubon will be lowered a lot more to accommodate the water-overflow.

“Lake Audubon’s water level will be lowered six to eight feet to conduct an inspection on the Thoreau dam outfall, which is on the Lake Audubon side of the dam, Peterson said.” “This is on the opposite side of South Lakes Drive from Thoreau. Although Lake Thoreau will be lowered to prevent water from flowing over the threshold mentioned above, it will not be lowered substantially like Lake Audubon is and should not impact boats on Lake Thoreau.”

For more information about the upcoming lake inspections, visit Reston Association’s website.

Photo via Restion Association/Facebook

0 Comments

In mid-August, a major and possibly toxic algae bloom blanketed Lake Thoreau following Reston Association’s treatment of an invasive plant in the lake.

The treatment, which RA said was one of several factors that caused the bloom, was conducted much later into the season, making the bloom worse.

Following this issue and subsequent community meetings about lake management, RA CEO Hank Lynch wants to more than double its lake maintenance treatment budget for 2021 budget, which is currently under development. This year’s lake maintenance budget is $31,745, up from $17,103 in 2020’s. budget.

The proposed budget would include up to five algae treatments of Lake Thoreau, up to five algae treatments at Lake Anne, and $18,920 to treat lake Thoreau with sonar pelters in the spring or early summer.

The association also plans to shift from treating the lake with contact herbicides to systemic herbicides earlier in the season to control the hydrilla plant.

“This solution will control the hydrilla before it gets to grow and become a problem in the lake,” according to meeting materials.

The systemic herbicide treatment is much more costly than previously used treatment but will produce more long-lasting results, Lynch said at a Board of Directors’ meeting last week.

RA also hopes to remove water lillies at Lake Newport every few years. Its consultant, Aquatic Environment Consultants, will “continue to monitor to determine the right timing of this treatment,” according to meeting materials.

The removal of primrose and alligator weed at Lake Thoreau on the shoreline and along the dams has also been identified as a pending project. The issue will be addressed based on growing conditions this summer.

The lake will also be stocked with 130 carp — which consume aquatics plants — to help manage the overgrowth of certain aquatic plants like hydrilla. The lake was last stocked in 2017 with 80 carp.

RA will hold another community engagement meeting tomorrow (Wednesday) at 6:30 p.m. to discuss Lake Thoreau and lake environmental health. The meeting will take place online.

Photo by Jeannine Santoro

0 Comments

Despite full support for a major replacement of Lake Thoreau Pool, Reston Association’s Board of Directors grappled with how to fund the project, which could cost up to $3.5 million.

At a meeting on Thursday night, board members said it was unclear how RA would fund the project as it develops the budget for the coming fiscal year. RA staff and CEO Hank Lynch suggested splitting the cost of the project between fiscal years 2021 and 2022.

The board’s latest meeting highlighted pressing and longstanding budgetary management concerns as RA determines next steps for moving forward with the project.

RA’s COO Larry Butler stressed the need for more structured longterm planning, including the developing of a five-and ten-year capital project plan for projects that exceed $250,000. Those plans would allow the board and the community to have a “true understanding or real costs,” he said.

“There’s a lot to be done in that realm,” Butler said.

Board Director Ven Iyer said the question of how to fund Lake Thoreau highlights RA’s habits of “fiscal irresponsibility.”

“In spite of bringing in 18 million a year, we are unable to find $3.5 million dollars to fix a pool,” he said.

For the pool, the most favored design includes a zero-depth wading pool in what used to be the facility’s deep end, expand the parking lot and bathhouse to meet Fairfax County and Americans with Disabilities Act code requirements, and incorporate an elevated observation and lounge deck.

Staff recommends splitting project costs between $1.6 million in 2021 and 1.5 million in 2022. Under this scenario, the board could defer upgrades to Lake Anne’s dam and renovations to Glade Tennis Court.

RA is expected to grapple with other major renovation projects, included the full-scale renovation of Shadowood Pool. Despite cosmetic changes in the last few years, parts of the facility are obsolete and ongoing sewage issues continue on the site.

Lynch also stressed that RA needs to allows its recreational facilities and working group to evaluate the association’s recreational needs, missed opportunities for amenities, and a review of the need or lack thereof of current amenities.

RA Board Director John Mooney suggested that the board consider financing certain project instead of pay-as-you-go funding.

“It’s not fair that current rate payers foot the bill for a facility that will serve multiple future generations of rate payers,” he said.

A motion to direct staff to explore an across-the-board seven-percent cut to all operational expenses failed to gain traction. Some board members said they were confident staff had already pared down operational expenses to the extend possible.

Discussions on the budget are expected to continue in coming meetings.

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

0 Comments

Reston Association’s Board of Directors is working through various funding options for the planned renovation of Lake Thoreau Pool.

Although most residents appear to agree on a plan presented by design consultant Kimley-Horn, RA must now determine the best way to finance the multi-million project.

At previous community meetings, members have expressed support for a lean design concept that would largely work within the existing footprint of the aging site.  A zero-depth wading pool would be installed on the facility’s deep end, the parking lot would be expanded, and the bathhouse would meet county and federal code requirements for individuals with disabilities. A lounge observation deck is also planned in the new design.

The first concept is expected to cost between $2.9 and $3.5 million while a more extensive rehaul. Would cost between $3.8 million and $4.6 million, according to meeting materials.

RA staff recommends that the board adopt the first concept and split project costs between fiscal years 2021 and 2022. Other major projects above $250,000 would be pushed forward by two years.

At a meeting on Thursday, Oct. 8, RA’s board will discuss whether or not the project should be fully funded within the next two fiscal years. Other planned topics. Of discussion include eliminating or repurposing facilities that do not offer value to members and are costly to operate.

The discussion comes as RA tackles current and anticipated projects. In a 2019 reserve study, consultant DMA Reserves identified more than 1,300 capital assets and offered a suggested replacement plan.

Between 2021 and 2031, RA hopes to tackle ten major pool and tennis projects that would cost more than $250,000. Some projects have been deferred.

For example, renovations to the Lake Newport Tennis Court have been deferred until 2022 until a “more intensive renovation” will be conducted, according to meeting materials.

The board will also discuss other issues, including a review of the role of the Recreation Facilities Working Group and an analysis of the 2019 reserve study. The meeting takes place via Zoom.

Photo via handout/RA

0 Comments

Tuesday Morning Notes

Senior Girl Scout Builds Turtle Platform — Mercer Thomas built a turtle platform on Lake Thoreau as part of her Gold Award to help the turtle population in Reston. Thomas needs the community’s help to track her project. [Reston Association]

Final Construction of STEAM Project Underway — Students from South Lakes High School’s STEAM team is working on the final construction phase of “Part & Parcel,” a temporary sculpture to be installed in the Lake Thoreau spillway in Reston. [Public Art  Reston]

Metro Plans Next Phases of Reconstruction, Capital Projects — “Metro will rebuild deteriorating outdoor platforms at Arlington Cemetery, Addison Road, and four Green Line stations north of Fort Totten next year, continuing its robust capital program to keep the system safe and reliable for the next generation of riders.” [Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority]

Reports of Stolen Campaign Signs Increase — “With less than a month until Nov. 3, and 2020’s contentious political climate, local police and sheriff’s departments are fielding reports of stolen, damaged and vandalized campaign signs.” [WTOP]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

0 Comments

Reston Association will need to get creative in order to fund its planned renovation of the Lake Thoreau Pool.

The majority of residents who spoke at the association’s board of directors meeting on Thursday expressed support for funding the project in 2021 so that it can reopen in 2022 as planned. Members urging board members to consider a variety of funding and design options if necessary to make it more feasible.

Suggestions included opening the pool up to non-RA members, turning the pool into a shallow-end-only facility to make maintenance easier, and opening up the pool deck year-round so that it could be utilized for other activities.

“Now that we are all living through this pandemic, we know the huge importance of outdoor spaces,” Giselle Agosto Hincapie, whose family lives in walking distance of the pool, said. “The idea of completely eliminating the pool or delaying the construction project is truly disheartening. I think a pool can be incorporated with year-round amenities in this space.”

Kimley-Horn, the consultant hired to develop design concepts for the pool project, estimates that its first proposal, a more straightforward renovation that stays within the site’s existing footprint, would cost somewhere between $2.9 million and $3.5 million.

This design would install a zero-depth wading pool in what used to be the facility’s deep end, expand the parking lot and bathhouse to meet Fairfax County and Americans with Disabilities Act code requirements, and incorporate an elevated observation and lounge deck.

A second proposal that would involve a more extensive overhaul of the site would cost between $3.8 million and $4.6 million, though Kimle-Horn landscape architect Ron Kagawa says there has been a “great preference” for the simpler concept.

Kagawa says a significant part of the project’s cost is tied to the need to level out the site so that it is more accessible and to construct an approximately 450-foot-long retaining wall along the lakefront and around the parking lot.

Chris Schumaker, Reston Association’s senior capital projects operations manager, estimates that if RA picks the first project concept, it would need to commit an additional $3.1 million on top of the $350,000 allocated to the Lake Thoreau project in 2020, possibly splitting the $3.45 million total cost between $1.6 million in 2021 and $1.5 million in 2022.

However, Reston Association also has five other pools and three tennis courts that are expected to need renovations between 2022 and 2031.

Adding these other projects on top of the Lake Thoreau pool funding, the association’s repair and replacement reserve fund could drop into a negative balance by 2023 and not recover until 2027, according to Schumaker’s projections.

“A lot of our facilities are nearing that 40, 50-year age mark,” Schumaker said. “We can safely assume there are going to be some major projects coming down the pike that we’re going to need to be aware of and planning for.”

RA’s Board of Directors will discuss options for financing the Lake Thoreau pool renovation in more detail during a special working session on Oct. 8.

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

0 Comments

The potentially harmful green sludge that suddenly emerged, covering large swaths of a Reston lake is finally subsiding.

Thanks to cooling weather, rain and less sunshine the algae bloom which has covered Lake Thoreau for weeks is now on the decline and the lake is mostly clear, according to Mike Leone, Reston Association’s spokesman.

In mid-August, algae started to cover parts of Lake Thoreau causing the RA to tell nearby residents to avoid contact with the lake as the algae is “potentially harmful.”

RA staff pointed to the hot summer sun as a contributing factor and the RA’s recent attempt to clear the lake of an invasive plant species as potential reasons for the recent algae bloom. Now that the weather has cooled and some recent rainfall has poured freshwater in the lake, the algae bloom is subsiding Leone said.

“Essentially, the situation on Lake Thoreau is not necessarily as bad as it was like three or four weeks ago when we were in the height of the summer,” Leone said.

Management of the algae is something that RA staff is tracking closely with experts frequently examining the lake. Now that the lake is mostly clear, a treatment option to remove the algae may not be necessary anymore, Leone said.

“If the lake is very clear, it is likely that treatment is not necessary,” said William Peterson, the watershed manager for RA in a statement. “However, you also do not want to treat during a large algae bloom because killing the algae could decrease the dissolved oxygen in the lake, potentially leading to a fish kill.”

The direct cause of the bloom has not been determined, but the association’s attempt to clear the lakes of hydrilla, an invasive plant species, could be a factor. Removing hydrilla from the lake left more nutrients available for algae, potentially causing the latest algae bloom.

Before RA tried treating the lake with herbicide to kill the hydrilla, RA stocked the lake with grass carp, a freshwater fish that eats the plant. But the fish were not enough to clear the lake of hydrilla, leading to other treatment options.

Lab results from the lake confirm the algae specie that covered the lake was Dolichospermum planctonicum, also known Anabaena, which could cause  skin irritation or make someone nauseous if exposed to it.

Algae grows when it is exposed to sunlight and nutrients, which often flows into lakes as runoff. While algae is a normal part of the aquatic ecosystem, some types of algae can make people sick if they are exposed to it causing the most recent concern over the algae bloom at Lake Thoreau, which has had previous algae blooms, particularly during summer months.

0 Comments

Reston Association will consider including more funding in next year’s budget to preserve the environmental health of Lake Thoreau.

At a meeting with members last night (Monday), RA CEO Hank Lynch said the association has a line-item in the fiscal year 2021 budget to better protect the lake’s environmental health.

A major and potentially toxic algae bloom blanketed Lake Thoreau’s surface last month after RA treated the lake with herbicides to manage Hydrilla, an aquatic plant that had taken over parts of the lake. The treatment occurred in late July — late into the season when treatments are typically avoided in order to prevent further blooms and other issues.

Since then, RA has encouraged residents to avoid contact with the water. The dying hydrilla and algae bloom are expected to continue to dissipate in the coming weeks.

Lynch said there is no “simple formula” to solve all of Lake Thoreau’s environmental health challenges. His staff is working with experts — including Aquatic Environment Consultants — to discuss how to manage algae blooms, erosion, stormwater runoff, and other issues in the future.

“We’ve already go ta line item in the budget if we indeed we need to increase funding to make this doesn’t happen next year,” Lynch said.

RA has routinely worked with AEC to protect its lakes. The consultant’s president Bill Kirkpatrick said that RA had hoped introducing grass carp into the lake would fend off the hydrilla.

“The hope was the carp would be able to get a handle on it,” Kirkpatrick said, adding that his company will reevaluate what happened this year, lay out other options, and make a decision for next year.

RA members urged the association to act more swiftly and proactively in the future to prevent further issues at the lake. Others called on RA to improve its communication with residents, particularly those living near and around Lake Thoreau.

“It should be a top priority,” said Lorri Zell, adding that the lake’s health trumps efforts to bring movies on the lake or pontoon boats.

The full meeting is available online. RA plans to step up community engagement efforts to educate members about its lakes and lake management.

Photo by Jeannine Santoro

0 Comments
×

Subscribe to our mailing list