Flooding Damage to Bon Air and Bluemont Parks, Incredible Water run off from Upton Hill (July 8, 2019)

July 9, 2019

Dear Chair Dorsey and members of the Arlington County Board:

I won’t likely be able to make it to public comment at the County Board’s meeting on July 13. Please accept these comments and images and add them to the public record.

In past comments to the board and elsewhere, I have written extensively about the increasing risk of damaging floods associated with the county’s very flexible land-use and construction rules. The county continues to ignore or downplay the ongoing loss of mature tree canopy coupled with an ongoing increase in impervious surfaces — this is true not just on private property but also on park property where staff evades even the most basic of environmental reviews by using maintenance capital for park projects that expand impervious surfaces, removes large numbers of mature trees and expands footprints of “amenities” well beyond what has previously existed.

The cumulative impact of poor land-use practices heads downstream both to other parts of the county and beyond. (I walked around Old Town last night. Debris from flooding earlier in the day was evident everywhere we went.)

The attached photos were taken by a neighbor after the water had subsided in Bon Air, Bluemont and Upton HIll Parks in Arlington. The restrooms in Bon Air Park took a direct hit. The building adjacent to it was destroyed. Below is another image of Bluemont Park’s flooded diamond field (recently “rehabilitated” at a significant cost), taken by someone else early yesterday morning. Just uphill from Bluemont Park and across N. Manchester Street is Ashlawn Elementary School, where roughly 100 trees were removed and extensive regrading of the site occurred in addition to significant increases in impervious surfaces.

I’ve also added some additional photos, including two of Lubber Run taken on the south side of Carlin Springs Road. And a still image captured from News Channel 7 video shows the inundated car on N. Kennebec Street 11th Street next to Westover Park (where a woman had to be rescued). There is no greater show of the power of water and what we can expect going forward.

Both the speed and volume of runoff is being exacerbated by land use and development practices over which the board does have control. Whether or not these flooded areas lie in FEMA-designated floodplains is irrelevant. Areas prone to flooding in the 1970s are often the same ones prone to flooding today. The only question is whether the Arlington County Board will pay attention to nature’s wake-up call or whether it will act to remedy the poor decision-making and processes that have allowed these unsafe conditions to proliferate.

Thank you for your time and attention.

Suzanne Smith Sundburg

Arlington, VA