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Under new ordinance, Fairfax County Park Authority will need to control 200-plus acres of bamboo

Bamboo (photo via Fairfax County)

Property owners and tenants in Fairfax County will soon be required to contain running bamboo, and the local park authority is no exception.

The Fairfax County Park Authority, which oversees 23,000 acres of land, says it has an estimated 204 acres or more of bamboo. The new ordinance, which will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2023, introduces the possibility of fines for people who get a complaint for letting running bamboo spread beyond their property.

“We’ll be working with code compliance as well as our neighboring properties to achieve compliance in the eyes of the ordinance,” John Burke, the park authority’s branch manager of natural resources, said Wednesday (April 27) during a park authority committee meeting.

Burke said the FCPA has been removing and monitoring bamboo over the years, but it could have more than estimated. The invasive plant can spread as much as 15 feet horizontally per year, according to the county.

The park authority has been removing two to three bamboo sites per year, but it can be expensive.

At Gilbert S. McCutcheon Park in Fort Hunt, FCPA removed about an acre of bamboo in two patches, and it cost about $35,000 — almost entirely due to herbicide treatment costs during 2021 and 2022.

Jim Zook, an at-large member of the park authority board, called for more education about not planting the species. Virginia gave municipalities the authority to ban it in 2017 but still lets customers purchase it.

Prior to adopting the running bamboo ordinance in March, Fairfax County supervisors said it isn’t perfect, but officials say they will try to work with property owners to help them meet requirements before imposing fines.

Ron Kendall, the park authority board’s Mason District representative, questioned where the park authority will find the money to support compliance.

According to Burke, the McCutcheon park example was atypical, but there could be other complications.

“Eradication countywide may not be possible or likely,” he said. “We may have to have some serious discussions with neighboring landowners about…eradicating bamboo versus trying to contain it.”

Burke estimated that the park authority receives around 10 to 20 bamboo complaints per year from neighboring homeowners, involving either problems spreading from park property to homes or concerns about bamboo adjacent to park property.

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