Loudoun’s Bles Park Plans Raise Ecological Concerns

The county government’s plans to add new recreation facilities at Bles Park has conservationists and some planners worried it will make one of the biggest green spaces in eastern Loudoun less green.

The 132-acre park follows the Broad Run almost to Rt. 7, widening at the mouth of the stream at the Potomac River and hosting four soccer fields along with the wetlands, trails and playground. The county now has plans expand the park and its amenities with more playgrounds, skate spots, a canoe and kayak launch, tennis and pickleball courts, additional parking, and a boardwalk through a wetland.

The Planning Commission has already recommended denial of those plans, finding they are against the county’s 2019 comprehensive plan and would destroy the habitats for rare and sensitive plant and animal species found in the park. The commission also took the unusual further step of voting the recommend that the Board of Supervisors work to develop in-house expertise on wildlife biology, natural ecosystems, and native plant and animal communities, and to look into alternatives for the plans for parking and other facilities.

The commission’s denial voted 5-2-2, with Commissioners Mark Miller (Catoctin) and Jeff Salmon (Dulles) opposed, and Commissioners Ad Barnes (Leesburg) and Roger Vance (Blue Ridge) absent.

The concerns were raised by conservationists at public hearings at both the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors level. The Loudoun Wildlife Foundation has called for changes such as eliminating the proposed boardwalk, preventing vehicular traffic along the edge of the wetlands expected to serve the canoe launch, removal of a lawn area, and a reduction the number of parking spaces.

A depiction of Loudoun County’s plans for Bles Park. [Loudoun County]

However, some supervisors are defending the proposal, including district Supervisor Juli E. Briskman (D-Algonkian), who published a statement indicating she supports the plans. She cited reductions to the original plan, such as removing a parks and recreation maintenance facility out of the park, removing five proposed pavilions and reducing the amount of parking and lawn area.

“This may sound like a lot, but the increased structures in the flood plain amount to 0.89 acres. This is not development in the traditional sense, and it is not an expansion. Those terms are misleading to describe the project,” Briskman stated. “The Algonkian community has been asking for a dog park and more pickleball courts for years and I am proud that we are finally building them.” 

Supervisors are scheduled to vote on the plans at their Jan. 18 meeting.

13 thoughts on “Loudoun’s Bles Park Plans Raise Ecological Concerns

  • 2021-12-23 at 8:22 am

    I tend to side with the conservationists on this one. Even though the work to be done isn’t extensive, it’s still invasive. I’d rather see the park remain undisturbed. Frankly, I don’t want to see one more parking space created. We’ve kowtowed enough to the autocracy. There are entirely too many cars on the road. (As Joni Mitchell sang: “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”) And the other amenities are frills we could do without. Happy Holidays Loudoun!

    • 2021-12-23 at 12:41 pm

      Someone needs to look up the meaning of “autocracy.” I do not think that word means what he thinks it means unless Nicholas II has assumed power in Loudoun County.

      And a further irony is that once you have over-developed huge sections of the county, you absolutely must have more parking spaces. One of the greater annoyances in the county is a dearth of parking spaces in high-density communities.

  • 2021-12-23 at 9:33 am

    “The commission also took the unusual further step of voting the recommend that the Board of Supervisors work to develop in-house expertise on wildlife biology, natural ecosystems, and native plant and animal communities, and to look into alternatives for the plans for parking and other facilities.”

    Good. Now do the same for the ecosystem destroying “Emerald Ribbons” trails boondoggle.

  • 2021-12-23 at 8:52 pm

    Remember — this was the same BOS that voted to put a data center on one of the 10 known geological formations in the WORLD known as a mafic. How many data centers are there in the world? How many data centers are in Loudoun Co (which handles 70% of the world’s internet traffic)? So we’re going to put a data center on top of the northern-most unique, geological formation in the WORLD?

    Yup. That’s what they did. That same stunning illogic was present at the last BOS review of the planning commission’s recommendations for “enhancements” to Bles Park.

    Here’s something that gets lost in the discussion. Everywhere you read, Bles Park is stated to have an area of 132 acres. But that includes the soccer fields. parking, etc that have nothing to do with the trails and wildlife habitat that attract so many which is roughly 34 acres. And the actual “wet part” of the wetlands? Nine acres! That’s it.

    The BOS, through ignorance, not malice, is intent on destroying this absolute jewel. As multiple people said during a recent meeting, once Bles is gone, it’s gone. Some species, like mallards and geese, are people tolerant. (You really don’t want to get cross with a goose.) Others, like wood ducks, are painfully shy which is why they congregate in the wetlands furthest from the trails. One of the proposed enhancements is a boardwalk adjacent to the wetlands where, on a good day, you’ll have the joy of watching (from afar) wood ducks swim east-west (and back) across the northern part of the wetlands. I’m curious: does the BOS know the duck traffic pattern in the wetlands? How about the planning commission?

    There is still time to stop another environmental travesty. But only if we let our voices be heard. Contact the BOS members and their staffs before the January 2022 meeting.

  • 2021-12-24 at 4:48 am

    Julie makes it sound like a done deal, not so fast my little chickadee. We can email at bos@loudoun.gov Chair Randall, Tony Buffington, Matt Letourneau, Kristen C. Umstattd, Caleb A. Kershner, Koran T. Saines and Juli Briskman explaining this is an abuse gone too far.
    All these so-called improvements will be used only 6 months out of the year, yet the habitats have to live with the proposed abuse all year.
    Look at all the dog parks that have closed and the reasons vary, every one of them covered an acre or more. Plus, up to 250k to build it plus parking spaces and the topper is the thousand dollar a month minimum insurance cost. Dog put out about 150 pounds of waste a year a portion of this waste, untreated would be going into the Broad Run and the Potomac River, there is no storm water filtration system cleaning it, yikes! Dog waste is unpleasant and can spread parasites and disease. Next to waterways is a poor choice when it comes to dog parks.
    Kayak launch, harmless enough, right? Now there is a gravel road leading to it no parking spaces. This plan would more than double the width of the road, pave it with impervious surface material then as another topper add 10 parking places. This goes right up to the Potomac River, just what is needed said no one ever. Please write the Board of Supervisors imploring them to vote against the exception also you can sign the petition at https://chng.it/NcszSZJfmS

  • 2021-12-24 at 2:31 pm

    So if the “The Algonkian community has been asking for a dog park and more pickleballcourts for years” then put them in Algonkian regional park. Don’t be so lazy, walk your dogs in your neighborhood. Leave Bles Park alone, there is no need to destroy this beautiful area so self important BoS members can look back and think they left behind a good legacy for Loudoun.

  • 2021-12-24 at 2:33 pm

    Oh I almost forgot I didn’t know we had a Native American (Algonkian) community in Loudoun.

  • 2021-12-25 at 9:37 am

    Although I love dogs and enjoy playing pickle ball I don’t remember the BOS listing dog parks and increased pickle ball playing on their list of priorities. Oh yeah – there never was a list of priorities published which could explain why $2 plus billion in property taxes is being spent to remove 100 year old statues, engorge LCPS with funds they can’t even spend while not even being fully open, change road names and any other partisan, virtue signaling project that one board member might be wanting! Do we really need another overpass near the Route 7/Route 28 connection, the Loudoun county overpass and the Ashburn Village/Janelia Farm overpass just because that same BOS member WANTS it? Was that or should that EVER have been on any list of priorities other than the donation contributing builder community who whispers the wants to BOS members? IMHO 🙂

  • 2021-12-26 at 3:56 pm

    How about removing invasive species and putting the rest of the money in escrow to pay for the current amenities’ maintenance costs giving the taxpayer a break instead of building more that increased taxes will have to pay for in the future?

  • 2021-12-29 at 7:43 pm

    Besides removing invasive species how about an effort to prevent the further destruction of ash trees in the county. Ash trees have been devastated by the emerald ash borer. There has been no restrictions on moving cut down affected trees to other counties in Va. These trees are disappearing almost as fast as development knocks them down.

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