In March 2012, the Northern Virginia Regional Commission adopted a far-reaching plan identifying our region’s key “green infrastructure” assets. In a document entitled “Conservation Corridor Planning,” the NVRC laid out a system of interconnected properties that supports our area’s environmental needs, much the same way that a transportation network (or “gray infrastructure”) provides for regional mobility. Importantly, the plan reveals that only about 50 percent of our region’s “green infrastructure” is currently protected as public parkland or by conservation easements.
The term “green infrastructure” has been diluted in recent years to include everything from power lines connecting wind farms with consumers of electricity to vegetated swales along highways for storm water management. In planning circles, however, green infrastructure is defined as “an interconnected network of green space that conserves natural ecosystem values and functions and provides associated benefits to human populations.”
These human benefits include everything from clean air and pure water to pathways for pollinators and trails for people. In short, it is the region’s green infrastructure that bestows upon us the high quality of life that we enjoy in Northern Virginia.
The plan identified five priority regional conservation corridors in Northern Virginia: (1) the Potomac River Corridor; (2) the Potomac Gorge – Quantico Corridor; (3) the Bull Run – Quantico Corridor; (4) Bull Run Mountain – Catoctin Mountain Corridor; and (5) Blue Ridge – Short Hill Corridor.
The NVRC prioritized these particular corridors “based on the vital role they play in defining the region’s natural characteristics, providing water quality benefits, supporting cultural heritage and nature-based recreation opportunities, and contributing to the region’s overall quality of life.”
Although the Potomac River Corridor was the only conservation corridor of regional significance to be found in Arlington, that is not the end of the story. In December 2005, Arlington County adopted the Public Spaces Master Plan that called for the creation of an Arlington-specific green infrastructure plan (Recommendation 2.7).
Almost seven years later, however, no progress has been made on that goal. Now, with the adoption of the regional green infrastructure plan, perhaps it is time for Arlington to fill in the missing piece of the puzzle by adopting its own green infrastructure plan.
Mike Nardolilli serves as President of the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust, President of the Arlington Outdoor Lab, and as a Member of the Board of Directors of the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority. His views are his own.