Restoring the Huntley Meadows Park Wetlands

Located in Virginia, United States, Huntley Meadows Park wetlands is regionally significant as one of the most diverse and productive non-tidal wetlands in the region. It is also the largest wetland area in Fairfax County. Historically the Huntley Meadows Park wetlands have attracted a great range of rare wildlife species including the pied-billed grebe, yellow-crowned night heron, least bittern, American bittern, king rail, the common moorhen and a great many amphibians and reptiles. The park, much like other parks presented on this site, consists of secondary-growth forest and is dotted with wildflower and native-grass meadows. The four main bodies of water that flow through the park are the headwaters of Little Hunting Creek, Barnyard Run, which is the source of the park’s central wetland, Dogue Creek which is located on the western border of the park and Little Hunting Creek.

Issues Faced by the Wetland of Huntley Meadows Park

Three main factors that have adversely affected the habitat and reduced the wetlands’ diversity in wildlife: deposits of silt and debris, colonisation and spread of aggressive alien plant species and beaver activity that changes constantly. Because of concrete ditches carrying storm water and badly regulated construction projects, massive amounts of silt have been deposited from the surrounding neighbourhoods. Rice-cut grass and cattails are two of the most aggressive plant species growing on the silt deposits. These invasive plants have taken over large areas that used to be open water. As nomadic animals beavers change their habitats cyclically. They raise water levels to such an extent that plant life is drowned out. Beavers also abandon dams and allow wetlands to drain and become dried out. To restore the wetland to a habitable community for rare animals and plant life, a wetland restoration project was launched by the Huntley Meadows Park community and the Fairfax County Park Authority.

The Restoration Project

Launched in 2013 the Huntley Meadows Park wetlands restoration project has five primary objectives:

Huntley Meadows Park Wetlands (Photo: Flickr)

Huntley Meadows Park Wetlands (Photo: Flickr)

  1. Construction of earthen berm to keep water back
  2. Expansion of the wetlands into the surrounding forest
  3. Creating a water control structure with the aim of managing water levels
  4. Adding several logs and brush shelters to provide additional habitat for wildlife
  5. Providing year-round habitat for wildlife with five deeper pools

The project was completed in 2014 and came to a total cost of around US$3 million which was sourced from grants and bonds awarded to the park.

On-going Restoration Initiatives

To ensure that the Huntley Meadows Park wetlands remain sustainable healthy and diverse wetlands that support rare plant life and wildlife in the long-term it is necessary to have a functioning management plan in place. Extensive research was performed by three environmental engineering companies and extensive monitoring was done by volunteers and park staff. It was revealed that the priorities for the community are environmental education, maintaining biodiversity and protecting resources.