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Boosted by multi-million dollar endowment, ownership of the 45-acre Winkler Botanical Preserve (5400 Roanoke Avenue) was signed over to NOVA Parks on Thursday (September 15).

Mayor Justin Wilson was joined by members of City Council, interim Alexandria City Public Schools Superintendent Melanie Kay-Wyatt, City Manager Jim Parajon and city staff for the deed signing ceremony.

“This is a beautiful property,” Wilson said. “The fact that we are making this handoff happen here tonight, and in bringing NOVA Parks as the custodian of this property for the next generation is so exciting.”

The Winkler Botanical Preserve was created in 1979 by environmentalist Catherine Winkler Herman, who established it as a natural space for generations to enjoy in perpetuity.

The Winkler Organization gave NOVA Parks a $1 million check for capital needs at the deed-signing event, and will give a $3 million operating endowment for educational programs and other improvements.

“The steadfastness of the Winkler’s generosity over generations and their ability to see beyond the horizon is both humbling as it is inspiring,” said Cate Magennis Wyatt, chair of the NOVA Parks board of directors.

Randall Kell, president of the board of the Winkler Botanical Preserve for 30 years, said that the deal with NOVA Parks is a “match made in heaven.”

“How wonderful it is to have such an experiences, successful organization such as NOVA Parks, which shares so many of the values, goals, aspirations and ambitions that the Preserve has had for more than 50 years, step up to lead the Preserve for future generations.”

Kay-Wyatt said that the Preserve will be a valuable educational resource for Alexandria students.

“When you have an opportunity and a gift like this for children to come outside of that traditional classroom and to experience nature’s classroom, it is a gift to us all as educators,” Kay-Wyatt said.

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Winkler Botanical Preserve, via NOVA Parks/Facebook

The Winkler Botanical Preserve (5400 Roanoke Avenue) has been a tucked away, isolated enclave of natural beauty not far from the Mark Center, but with a new acquisition it could be thrust into the limelight.

Regional parks organization Northern Virginia Regional Parks Authority (NOVA Parks) announced today that it will take over ownership of the 44.6 acre nature preserve.

The Winkler Botanical Preserve was created in 1979 and features streams, a pond, a waterfall, and trails. The goal of the preserve was to create an island of natural beauty in the rapidly urbanizing city. The preserve was established by Catherine Winkler Herman, a philanthropist and environmentalist, in honor of her late husband: real estate developer Mark Winkler.

“The enormity of this gift cannot be overstated,” Cate Magennis Wyatt, NOVA Parks’ chair, said in the release. “Catherine Winkler Herman’s vision and Tori Winkler’s brilliance have created an unparalleled botanical oasis within our highly urbanized Northern Virginia. NOVA Parks is honored to be the new stewards of the Winkler Botanical Preserve and on behalf of the generations to come, express our eternal gratitude to the Winkler family.”

In a poll last year, 56% of ALXnow readers said they’d never heard of the park until recently. That’s likely to change, though, with NOVA Parks — which also runs Cameron Run Regional Park — overseeing a significant investment in the park.

NOVA Parks said that, as part of the transfer, the Winkler Organization will provide NOVA Parks with $1 million for capital needs and a $3 million operating endowment to support educational programs and improvements at the preserve.

“In addition, the Winkler Organization is gifting the City of Alexandria with $1 million to advance community engagement and learning resources for City residents and visitors of the Preserve,” NOVA Parks said.

The Winkler Organization will be making an additional $100,000 grant to ALIVE!, a local nonprofit dedicated to fighting poverty and hunger, specifically to supply food and basic needs to families in neighborhoods close to the preserve.

A ceremony later this week will officially mark the transfer. Due to limited on-site parking, parking will be available at William Ramsay Elementary School (5700 Sanger Avenue) with vans shuttling attendees to the site.

“On Thursday, September 15 at 6:30 p.m., NOVA Parks will host a ceremony with representatives from the Winkler Botanical Preserve (Winkler Organization) and local leaders including City of Alexandria Mayor Justin M. Wilson,” NOVA Parks said in a release. “Located in Alexandria’s West End, the Preserve provides public access to nature and protects plants native to the Potomac region.”

“A generation of Alexandria youth, including both of my children, have enjoyed the outdoors at the Winkler Botanical Preserve,” Mayor Justin Wilson said in the release. “With the funds the City is receiving to help our school-age children go to the Preserve and the renewed programming that NOVA Parks will bring to the site, a new generation will be enriched in this wonderful place. We are profoundly grateful for the generosity of the Winkler Organization to ensure the accessibility of this natural space for generations to come.”

Photo via NOVA Parks/Facebook

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Over a year after City Council paused its controversial stream rehabilitation projects, the City of Alexandria is hosting community meetings next week to restart that process.

The City Council paused stream rehabilitation projects for Taylor Run and Strawberry Run after local civic and environmental activists argued the projects could end up damaging the quality of the streams they were trying to help. City staff reviewed the concerns and said many were unfounded, but the debate raised sufficient uncertainty that the City Council sent the projects back to the drawing board for review.

One of the main criticisms of the city’s projects was that there was no water quality testing in the streams. The project was based on state models, and environmental activists estimated the model’s numbers were different from the actual situation on the ground.

In a newsletter, Mayor Justin Wilson said those activists were correct:

The measurements were conducted and were received by the City and our Environmental Policy Commission at the end of last year. These measurements show that the default formula provided by the Commonwealth’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to estimate pollutant reductions, over-estimates the pollutant reduction for these three projects, as expected. In the case of Taylor Run, our estimated pollutant reduction rate of $15,000 per pound, will rise to $50,000 per pound. For Lucky Run, it goes from $7,000 per pound to $72,000 and for Strawberry Run it goes from $5,000 to $20,000. If the City seeks to claim to obtain the same pollution credits, using this method, it will now cost more.

Now, a city release said the public is invited to a “consensus-building workshop” to discuss alternative approaches for the stream projects.

“The workshop will be held at Alexandria Renew Education Center & Meeting Space, 1800 Limerick Street on Saturday, Sept. 10 from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and a hybrid option is also available via Zoom link,” the city said in a release. “The workshop format will include presentations in the morning on the different alternatives, a lunch break and breakout discussions around community goals on improving the two streams.”

The workshop will be led by the Institute for Engagement and Negotiation (IEN) at the University of Virginia and co-hosted by the City of Alexandria’s Transportation and Environmental Services, Stormwater Management Division, and the Department of Project Implementation.

The release said the workshop will give the public a space to weigh in on the project.

“This workshop and subsequent meetings are an opportunity for stakeholders to provide feedback and comments on alternative approaches to restore and improve the health of the streams,” the release said. “It’s one of the multiple workshops set up with the goal of reaching a consensus. “

A report prepared by IEN is scheduled to be presented to the City Council in December.

Wilson said the city brought in IEN to serve as a neutral third party to help facilitate further discussion.

“The City has important obligations to improve the quality of the water in the waterways of our region,” Wilson wrote. “These investments are intended to maintain our commitment to the future of the Chesapeake Bay and address human-caused damage in these natural areas. We will continue to work to determine the best approach as we move forward.”

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The City of Alexandria is hosting a community workshop this Saturday (Aug. 27) that will let locals weigh in on the city’s plans to fight climate change.

The meeting at the Durant Memorial Center (1605 Cameron Street) is the third and final meeting in a series that aims to review the city’s progress towards its goals of combatting climate change on a local level and plan future efforts.

“The Community Workshop will provide you with the opportunity to provide feedback on new and ongoing actions to help reduce climate change causing greenhouse gas emissions from buildings, transportation, the electrical grid, and other sources,” the city said on its website. “The Community Workshop will also provide you with the opportunity to comment on actions the City may take to help reduce the impacts from climate change.”

The meeting is part of a process to update the Environmental Action Plan approved in 2019. That plan establishes a target of 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by FY 2030, with escalating goals in the following years

“The EAP2040’s targets include reducing community-wide greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030 and 80 to 100% by 2050, supported by significant state and federal contributions,” the website says. “The City’s update of the Energy and Climate Change Action Plan will leverage regional priority actions identified in the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG) 2030 Climate and Energy Action Plan, as well as the climate action planning efforts underway or completed by the City’s regional and national peers.”

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The Covanta Waste-to-Energy facility at the west end of Eisenhower Avenue has recently completed an overhaul that should make it less of a polluter.

The facility serves 400,000 residents and businesses in Alexandria and Arlington, the city said in a release. It incinerates household waste and generates steam for electricity production.

“In this way, Covanta processes and converts more than 350,000 tons of waste into energy,” the release said. “This waste would otherwise end up in landfills.”

But obviously, waste incineration has its own considerably negative environmental impact. The city’s release said new technology at the site has reduced the facility’s nitrogen oxide emissions by  50%:

With installation of its proprietary Low NOx (LN) technology now complete, nitrogen oxide emissions have been reduced by nearly 50%. The effort was part of a multi-year project at the Covanta Alexandria-Arlington Facility. By reducing the waste put in landfills, Covanta Alexandria has cut greenhouse gas emissions by 331,000 tons of carbon dioxide. That’s the same as taking 65,000 passenger vehicles off the road for one year.

The facility generated enough energy to power 15,000 homes year-round and recovers 11,000 tons of metal annually.

“Covanta is proud to manage our services and facilities in a way that prioritizes our communities, our businesses and our planet,” Covanta area asset manager Don Cammarata said in the release. “Today marks an important step in our work with the community to reduce our environmental impact and improve air quality.”

“The installation of this new NOx technology will even further reduce the emissions and improve air quality,” Mayor Justin Wilson said in the release. “This is an important effort to support the City of Alexandria in reaching our Environmental Action Plan 2040 goals.”

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Chanting and holding signs, a local environmental group protested Chase Bank and Wells Fargo with ‘die-ins’ at their Old Town branches.

On Monday afternoon (April 4), more than a dozen protestors from the group TH!RD ACT-VA walked into both banks and chanted “What do we want? Climate change! What do we need? System change!” and delivered letters to local branch managers to forward to Chase CEO Jamie Dimon and Wells Fargo CEO Charles W. Scharf. The letters demand that the banks “divest from fossil fuels this year.”

JP Morgan Chase & Co. is the top arranger of bonds for fossil fuel companies in the world, followed by Citibank, Wells Fargo and Bank of America. Last year, each of those banks joined the United Nations’ Net Zero Banking Alliance, pledging to have their investment portfolios represent only companies with no emissions by 2050.

But the banks have a long way to go, said TH!RD ACT-VA organizer Deborah Kushner.

“Chase’s business plan is planetary death and destruction,” Kushner said. “It’s up to us to wake Chase. If Chase Bank does not stop all fossil fuel funding by the end of this year, we pledged to close all their accounts with Chase.”

TH!RD ACT-VA is made up of senior citizens from across the state, and has conducted similar protests in Richmond and Charlottesville. Their main online presence is on Facebook, and they ask that supporters sign an online pledge against banking with the lenders.

Organizer Bill Muth, of Richmond, brought his young grandchildren to the event, and said they participated in the die-in because the issue of climate change concerns future generations.

“I cannot stand by and watch an institution fund industries that are destroying the air supply of my grandchild,” Muth said, and then played dead with them and other protestors on the red brick sidewalk.

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Spring gets into full swing in Alexandria this month, and there are dozens of events around the city to get you out of the house.

Visit Alexandria has compiled a list of events this month around town, including Easter egg hunts, book signings, a film screening and musical performances.

April events in Alexandria:

  • Outdoor cello concert: Listen to cellist Amit Peled at The Rectory in Old Town on April 7 (Thursday), from 5 to 6 p.m. and 6:30 to 7 p.m. Tickets cost $45 apiece for adults and $25 for children
  • Book signing at Alexandria Visitor Center: Meet John Adam Wasowicz, the Author of the Old Town Mysteries, Daingerfield Island, Jones Point, Slaters Land and Roaches Run. Two book signings will be held on April9 and 10 (Saturday and Sunday) from 10:00 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Easter Egg Hunt with the Old Town Business Association: On April 9 (Saturday) from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Historic event at Carlyle House: On April 9 (Saturday), learn from costumed interpreters about how Major General Edward Braddock, Commander-in-Chief of His Majesty’s Forces in North America, landed in Alexandria in 1775. Tickets are free, and the event is from 12 to 4 p.m.
  • Cherry Blossom Jubilee: On Sunday (April 10), enjoy live performance by taiko drum group Nen Daiko on the waterfront side of the Art Center, followed by an Art Center-wide exhibition of cherry blossom-inspired works by resident artists and galleries
  • Outdoor vocal recital: On Thursday (April 14), Mexican soprano Judy Yannini makes her Secret Garden debut in a program of selections from vibrant zarzuelas to beloved operas, from 5 to 6 p.m. and 6:30 to 7 p.m. Tickets cost $45 apiece for adults and $25 for children
  • Easter Egg Hunt at Lee-Fendall House: On April 16 and 17 (Saturday and Sunday), there will be Easter egg hunts at the historic property, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tickets cost $15 for children ages 2 to 12, $5 for accompanying adults
  • Outdoor bluegrass concert: On April 21 (Thursday), listen to father-son team Ken & Brad Kolodner, from 5 to 6 p.m. and 6:30 to 7 p.m. Tickets cost $45 apiece for adults and $25 for children
  • Advance screening of ‘TRASHY: a zero waste film’: The feature documentary follows its director as she tries not to throw anything away over the course of a year. The free screening at the Torpedo Factory Art Center starts at 6 p.m.
  • 89th Annual Old Town Alexandria Homes & Garden Tour: The long cherished event will be held on April 23 (Saturday), from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets cost $55 apiece if bought online and $65 at the Alexandria Visitor Center to tour the Carlyle House, Lee-Fendall House, River Farm, Gunston Hall, Mount Vernon and Green Spring Gardens
  • Alexandria Symphony Orchestra performance: The ASO will perform the music of Barber and Brahms at its April 23 (Saturday) concert. The event is from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. and costs $20-$85 for adults, $5 for children and $15 for students
  • Rocklands BBQ meat and greet party: The April 23 (Saturday) event features School of Rock performances and local vendors
  • Soul Food Saturday: On April 23 (Saturday), explore the contributions of African American innovation and tradition to American cuisine with a unique walking tour around Old Town. The event is from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. and tickets cost $95 apiece
  • Earth Day tree planting: Join the Alexandria City Council on April 23 (Saturday) for a tree planting on Earth Day in Old Town, from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m.
  • History discussion on African American housing crisis in Alexandria: On April 28 (Thursday), Dr. Krystyn Moon will examine how segregationist practices impaired Alexandria’s African American residents. The event is virtual
  • Old Town Alexandria Fine Art And Design Festival: On Saturday (April 30), more than 100 artisans, crafters, independent consultants and other local small businesses in John Carlyle Square
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Alexandria is about to embark on a public relations campaign in response to the 5 cent Plastic Bag Tax, which goes into effect next month.

In a meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 14, the City Council will consider the release of $30,000 from contingent reserves to the city’s Department of Transportation and Environmental Services for outreach on the matter.

The tax goes into effect Jan. 1, 2022. According to the city, the collected taxes will be used for:

  • Environmental Cleanup;
  • Providing education programs designed to reduce environmental waste;
  • Mitigating pollution and litter; or
  • Providing reusable bags to recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Women, Infants, and Children Program (WIC) benefits

“The City’s adopted FY (fiscal year) 2022 operating budget included $30,000 in Non-Departmental Contingent Reserves to develop and produce resources for graphics, advertisements, window clings, and to purchase reusable tote bags for distribution to low-income households,” the city said.

The Virginia General Assembly adopted Sen. Adam Ebbin’s (D-30th) legislation last year allowing localities to impose a bag tax. Neighboring jurisdictions Arlington and Fairfax County also adopted bag taxes.

The $30,000 would be spent in the following way:

  • $5,000 allocated for printing and postage (developing graphics, printing mailers, window cling stickers, notification letters for stakeholders);
  • $9,500 to purchase reusable bags for low-income households and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)/ Women, Infants and Children (WIC) beneficiaries;
  • $8,000 in temporary staffing hours (hours for reusable bag distribution events, conducting street outreach to regulated businesses); and
  • $7,500 allocated for advertisements (social media, local newspapers, and/or bus shelters)
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LED streetlight (photo via City of Alexandria)

Travellers along some of Alexandria’s arterial streets might see things in a different light now.

Transportation and Environmental Services has been working with Dominion Energy to swap out the city’s street lamps with LED lights. So far, the city said around 40% of the city’s streetlights have been swapped.

“As of October 2021, many arterial streets have been successfully retrofitted, including Van Dorn Street, Eisenhower Avenue, Duke Street, Washington Street, and N. Quaker Lane,” the city said. “In addition, all of the fixtures in the Cameron Station neighborhood and the Carlyle area have been transitioned to LED.”

The next phase of the project will involve continuing retrofits on main streets, like Route 1, King Street, Braddock Road and Glebe Road. The city said the transition to residential neighborhoods is likely to start in early 2022 once the lights on the arterial and collector streets have been changed. The project is expected to be completely finished in around 12-18 months.

The city said the new LED lights are brighter than existing streetlights, last five times longer and reduce energy consumption by 90%.

Via City of Alexandria

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Morning Notes

Mayoral candidates engage in public forum — “Alexandria’s mayoral candidates gathered in a virtual forum on Saturday, kicking into high gear to get their message out ahead of the Nov. 2 general election.” [Alexandria Times]

Amazon backs grant program to spur affordable development near D.C.-area transit — “Amazon will fund a new grant program to help local governments and nonprofit developers pursue affordable projects near transit stations, directing $500,000 of its recently announced $2 billion Housing Equity Fund to this effort.” [Washington Business Journal]

Local group plans Four Mile Run clean-up — “Join us Sat., Oct. 23 for cleanup at Four Mile Run Park from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. to celebrate the Clean Virginia Waterways and Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup.” [Twitter]

Alexandria kid goes viral for love of fire department — “Alotta yuck these days… Please enjoy the delight of my three year old spotting a fire truck. @AlexandriaVAFD, meet your biggest fan!” [Twitter]

D.C. didn’t ask Northam and Hogan to help crack down on ticket scofflaws, despite initial claims it did — “D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser never reached out to the governors of Virginia and Maryland to negotiate reciprocity for automated traffic camera tickets, despite a District government report — signed by the mayor and submitted to the D.C. Council last week — saying that said she did.” [DCist]

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