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Park Authority seeks funding, staff to clear 250 acres of running bamboo

Fairfax County parkland has an estimated 250 acres of running bamboo (courtesy Fairfax County Park Authority)

The Fairfax County Park Authority is going to need a bigger budget to handle its running bamboo.

The agency has requested an additional $500,000 and a new, full-time staff position for an ecologist to help manage bamboo removal projects now that the county requires property owners to contain the species.

The park authority has 185 bamboo patches on its property, covering 250 acres of land — exceeding an earlier estimate and any other county agency, according to a Feb. 28 memo to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors’ environmental committee.

“Due to the excessive cost, bamboo management on an estimated 250 acres of Park Authority land will be a long-term management issue,” FCPA Public Information Officer Benjamin Boxer said.

While no removals have been conducted yet this year, the park authority has developed a “protocol” for prioritizing projects based on:

  • Site conditions, such as the bamboo patch’s size, accessibility and proximity to rare resources
  • Cooperation from neighboring landowners
  • The county’s vulnerability index in terms of the impact on resources, restoration areas, high-quality natural areas, and the community

However, the county’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2024 doesn’t include funding for either the bamboo removal projects or the ecologist, who would be dedicated specifically to this issue, Boxer confirmed.

The park authority instead hopes to get the funds as part of the county’s fiscal year 2023 third-quarter review, which was presented to the Board of Supervisors today (Tuesday).

The package proposes allocating $400,000 “as initial funding” for bamboo mitigation, falling short of the FCPA’s request. It also doesn’t add any new positions, though staff identified nearly $10.7 million that the board could devote to non-recurring priorities.

“The Park Authority has requested recurring and dedicated funds for contracted bamboo removal and suppression projects on FCPA property and will proceed following the prioritization protocol with available resources as they are identified,” Boxer said.

The county’s running bamboo ordinance took effect on Jan. 1, requiring property owners to prevent the invasive species from spreading to other properties or risk getting fined.

The Fairfax County Department of Code Compliance has received 44 complaints about running bamboo since the ordinance took effect, but no fines have been imposed yet.

“We are focused on working with property owners to gain voluntary compliance. At this point no fines or litigation have been sought,” DCC Director Gabriel Zakkak said.

When the ordinance was adopted last year, Zakkak’s predecessor suggested the county may not resort to fines until cases have continued for a year or longer.

In addition to the bamboo on park authority land, the county’s Facilities Management Department identified about 1.5 acres of bamboo on eight of its properties, led by 43,000 square feet at the Mason District Government Center, according to a staff presentation.

The department said it has removed that bamboo and is in the process of treating the sites, stating that it doesn’t anticipate needing more funding to manage bamboo.

While Fairfax County Public Schools found no issues on school properties, Rose Hill and Hunt Valley elementary schools have adjacent properties with bamboo, according to FCPS spokesperson Julie Moult.

“Grounds has met with both owners and are working collaboratively to ensure that, if a small amount is on FCPS property, it is properly removed and also ensure that it does not spread onto FCPS property in the future,” Moult said.

Public hearings on the FY 2023 third quarter review package will be held on April 11, 12 and 13 — along with the proposed FY 2024 budget — before it’s adopted on May 2.

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