One of the Reach Campaign projects we’ve been planning for some time is finally going to happen the last two weeks of August. As part of our improvement of the UUCF grounds, we will be installing a water catchment infiltration trench and retaining wall at the base of the hill below the traffic circle, which will retain the water that currently flows across the yard in front of the Program Building, causing erosion and creating a muddy mess, especially in the winter. This has been a problem for a long time. Perhaps you’ve noticed the exposed tree roots from the erosion or the mud after a rain.

The wall and infiltration trench will capture the water from most storms and allow it to soak into the ground instead of running off. For really big storms, there will be an overflow pipe running from the wall to the drain that takes excess storm water off the property. This will keep running water off the grassy area in front of the Program Building. The soil in that area will improved and sod will be laid to replace the dirt and weeds that are currently there. The area in front of the retaining wall will also be regraded to make it flatter for the picnic table gathering area.

This project not only resolves a long-standing problem, it is also good for the environment, significantly reducing storm water runoff from the property, so much so that the Fairfax County Conservation Assistance Program approved a $15,000 grant to help pay for the project.

However, as is the case with most change, there are a couple of less-than-desirable consequences. First, the sod will not be laid until the last week of August to avoid the hottest summer weather. This means the area will be off-limits for the month of September to allow the grass to get established. We will have to manage around the disruption for our Sep. 10 Ingathering picnic and there will no doubt be other inconveniences as well.

We also will be removing the two very tall old pine trees in that area as part of the project. To create the run-off infiltration trench (the size and depth of the trench is based on calculations provided by our advisors at the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District), it is unavoidable that those trees’ root systems will be damaged. And they are already past their normal lifespan and showing signs of decay. An arborist we consulted pointed out that the excessive pinecone production of one of the trees is a sign that the tree is nearing the end of its life. Given the root disruption, the arborist’s opinion is that neither pine tree is likely to survive and would become a safety hazard. The project plan includes planting new trees that are more appropriate for providing shade to that area. Lay Minister for Property Stewardship Suzy Foster is leading that effort. The poplar and beech trees between the pines and the north sidewalk to the Program Building will remain and disturbance to their root systems will be avoided.

The Property Stewardship Council has reviewed and endorsed this project. Special thanks to Jim Allen for doing the major project design work and to Suzy Foster for her landscaping and conservation design expertise.

The Coordinating Team

Rev. David A. Miller, Rich Sider, Kathy Smerke Hochberg, Pete Krone