Monday, June 10, 2019

Silver Lake and Tough Mudder

On the weekend of June 1 and 2, 2019 the Tough Mudder came to Silver Lake in Haymarket. In the short numer of years since Tough Mudder events began springing up around the country and the broader world, more than a million people have reportedly taken part. The event is marketed to young professional cubicle dwellers and military. Serious injuries are rare, and participants are warned and sign extensive liability waivers. A level of risk is woven into the appeal- the victory of completing the 8-10 mile course filled with man-made obstacles. For participants they can be joyous experiences.

I assume people who participated had  loads of fun. I heard variously that there were around 5,000-9,500 participants. However, there has been a loud outcry from the Haymarket community about the inappropriate use of Silver Lake Park and damage to the Resource Protected Area (RPA) around the lake park. Supervisor Pete Candland visited the entire course route before the event to make sure the Parks Department, Department of Environmental Services and Tough Mudder directors were coordinating closely and those particularly sensitive areas; the wetland and stream crossing, were bypassed. I am assured by PW Environmental Services that a couple of changes in the course were made to comply with their requests.

The race course ran through the trail at Silver Lake Park, the connecting Rainbow Riding Center property, and an adjacent private landowner’s property. All the excavated areas were in old farm fields and open lawn areas and were being filled, straw laid and seeded when Environmental Services went out to respond to resident complaints last Wednesday after the event. As you can see on the map below taken from the Prince William County Mapper much of the area around Silver Lake is RPA (the light green), but have been maintained as mowed grass.

While RPA’s are the corridors of environmentally sensitive land that lie along streams, rivers, lakes, ponds and other waterways. In their natural vegetated condition, RPA’s protect water quality by filtering pollutants out of storm water runoff, reduce the volume of storm water runoff and prevent erosion. 

Little of these environmental services were being performed by the mowed grass that existed around most of Silver Lake; and adding mud pits and lots of event participants resulted in what appeared to be a huge mess on Tuesday morning. Hopefully, the grounds of the park will recover in short order. Even with the pits gone and grass restored too many pollutants are carried in the stormwater runoff from the bare or even grassed field as it regrows over the summer. 
rotate the Tought Mudder map to ligh up with the county map
Tough Mudder at Silver Lake Park was a permitted temporary special event that was allowed by the Parks Department in compliance with County zoning ordinances. It should not happen again at this location. It is the wrong event for this location which was proffered for passive use only. In addition, it will take the better part of a year for the disturbed areas to recover enough to provide any filtering of stormwater. Continually, disturbing the land will prevent the RPA from protecting the waters within the Chesapeake watershed. 

The  Prince William Conservation Alliance is pushing to place Silver Lake into a conservation easement, which is a legal agreement that permanently restricts certain uses of the land to protect its conservation values. We need to restore the RPA to its natural state. A naturally vegetated RPA serves to remove pollutants from stormwater runoff. A vegetated RPA acts as a protector, filter and a system to change pollutants into useful substances.

All waters in Prince William County eventually flow into the Chesapeake Bay. In 1990 Prince William County enacted stringent local requirements to protect the RPA to safeguard the Chesapeake Bay as required under the Chesapeake Bay Act. The RPA needs to be restored to its natural state to support the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay. 

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