Perhaps like no other place in the DMV, an oasis of unspoiled woodland and wetlands — Huntley Meadows — is juxtaposed with a traffic-choked, asphalt jungle — Hybla Valley.
Doing something to help rectify the situation is the Coalition for Smarter Growth. Formed in 1997, this influential organization provides leadership and experts in the fields of the environment, transit, housing, and urban planning. Their mission is to steer growth in the region towards a network of walkable, livable, transit-oriented communities.
CSG hosted a tour of Hybla Valley yesterday. Located along the Richmond Highway, this part of Northern Virginia is a census-designated collection of suburban neighborhoods and retail and restaurant chains three miles south of Alexandria. The historic community of Gum Springs sits nearby.
Attended by about two dozen people, the tour focused on the need for stream restoration and new public parks and play-fields. Hybla Valley has long been neglected this way.
Stewart Schwartz, a founder and longtime Executive Director of CSG, led the tour. He was assisted by Monica Bilger, Virginia Conservation Advocate with the Audubon Naturalist Society. Dan Stork, Supervisor, Mount Vernon District, spoke briefly and listened to concerns. Charles Smith, Fairfax County, provided insights into stormwater management.
The group saw an unhealthy portion of Little Hunting Creek, which winds its way from Huntley Meadows, past Gum Springs and flows into the Potomac River. Before George Washington took possession of Mount Vernon, the land there was known as Little Hunting Creek Plantation.
Hybla Valley was given a one-two punch by geological forces and humanity. Sitting on a low coastal plain at nearby sea level with clay subsoil, drainage is poor. The suburban footprint, plats of asphalt and strip malls, has been very unkind too.
Redevelopment of Hybla Valley will include parks, placemaking, green streets, dedicated bike paths, and a pedestrian network. These are nothing new in terms of smart growth, but Hybla Valley is a place that needs them more than most others.
And as we learned, storm water management is also an essential component too.