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Beech leaf disease (BLD) has been detected in Fairfax County (courtesy DPWES)

A new tree disease has been detected in Fairfax County, threatening one of the region’s most common trees.

County officials have confirmed, in the fall, they found that a number of American beech trees in three parks in Fairfax County were infected with beech leaf disease (BLD). The parks include Burke Lake Park, Hemlock Overlook Park near Clifton, and Fairfax Station’s Fountainhead Park.

The disease causes the leaves of beech tree saplings to develop dark green stripes in the veins as well as potentially puckered, cupped, or distorted leaves. In more mature trees, it can result in reduced foliage.

It can be fatal to the trees, causing them to possibly die within six to 10 years.

BLD is somewhat mysterious, in that officials and researchers at the county’s Urban Forest Management Division (UFMD) are still trying to figure out exactly how it spreads. There is also no cure.

“Good tree care, including proper mulching and watering during droughts, may be helpful,” the county’s Department of Public Works and Environmental Services (DPWES) said in a press release. “There is ongoing research underway to learn more about BLD and how to effectively treat it.”

The disease doesn’t affect humans, animals, other tree species, or yard plants. It hasn’t been detected anywhere else in the county at the moment besides the three noted parks, DPWES spokesperson Sharon North confirmed to FFXnow.

The county is asking any residents who spot a tree they believe might be infected to report it to pestmail@fairfaxcounty.gov with photos of the tree or by calling 703-324-1770 TTY 711.

“Reporting potential infestations will allow UFMD to quickly begin monitoring BLD and providing treatment once it is developed.”

BLD was first detected in Ohio about a decade ago, and Virginia’s first case was found in Prince William County in August 2021. What has officials so concerned is how poorly the disease is understood and the impact it could have on already-dwindling regional forests.

It remains unclear how BLD spreads. Experts are looking into several possibilities, including possible transmission through bacteria, fungi, mites, or even microscopic parasitic worms.

Additionally, the American beech tree makes up about 10% of the county’s forests. Any mass loss of the trees could permanently change the region’s landscape.

“Given the American beech tree comprises a large portion of our eastern trees, the disease can potentially alter the composition of the eastern forest,” DPWES said. “It is one of the most common local giant trees.”

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Stabilizing and drainage work to be done at Burke Lake (via Fairfax County)

Burke Lake’s marina is being closed for a number of months, and the lake will be lowered by two feet to help stabilize the beach area and improve drainage.

The $1.5 million project aims to stabilize the beach area as well as add “armoring” — the use of physical structures to prevent further coastal erosion — to a large portion of the shoreline. Drainage will also be improved around the existing boathouse and restroom buildings.

“Gravel from the shoreline has eroded and deposited in the shallow area where [Fairfax County Park Authority] boats are launched, creating challenges when launching boats and causing damage to the boats,” spokesperson Judy Pedersen told FFXnow. “In addition, existing storm outfall and foot traffic are causing erosion to the shoreline adjacent to the marina.”

Paid for by county voter-approved bonds, construction is expected to start next month. The marina is already closed until the spring.

“Contingent on the weather, the marina is expected to reopen at the end of April 2023,” the park authority says on the project page.

To help with the construction, Burke Lake is now in the process of being lowered by two feet.

A “controlled drawdown” is underway, with 2 to 4 inches of water being pumped out of the lake a day. It’s estimated that Burke Lake will hit the 2-foot goal “on or before” next Monday (Nov. 19), based on a predicted lack of rainfall over the next several days.

The lake is expected to remain at this lower level until at least the end of March 2023, but its normal elevation will eventually return through natural runoff.

The rate and timing of the lake level’s rise is “contingent on precipitation,” the project page notes.

While the marina will be closed and water levels will be lower than usual, Burke Lake will remain open to those looking to fish and spend time on the water.

However, the park authority is asking boaters, canoeists, and kayakers to proceed with caution since “numerous obstructions will be exposed or may be present just under the water’s surface.”

The 218-acre public fishing lake is owned by the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources. The lake is located in Burke Lake Park, which is owned and operated by FCPA.

The park sits on land originally purchased by the federal government as a potential site for an international airport. When airport plans shifted to Chantilly, the nearly 900 acres of land were handed over to the county. The park opened to the public just about six decades ago, in 1963.

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Morning Notes

Media crews wait outside the Fairfax County Courthouse for jurors to deliver a verdict in the defamation trial involving actors Amber Heard and Johnny Depp (staff photo by David Taube)

Baby Born at Reston Fire Station Makes Visit — “Today, Station 25, Reston, B-Shift hosted Baby Ivy, who made her entrance into the world in Station 25 parking lot recently, and her big brother, mom and dad. 25-B were thrilled and presented the family w/station shirt/patch. Baby Ivy brought some goodies for the shift!” [FCFRD/Twitter]

TJ Students Reflect on First Year Under New Admissions System — “As the adults did battle in courtrooms, students such as Sarah Castillo were reconsidering their options. Hundreds of students who had neither thought of applying to TJ, nor felt they had a chance of acceptance under the old admissions system, now took the plunge — and some of them, including Sarah, got in.” [The Washington Post]

Burke House Fire Leads to Over $500K in Damages — Smoldering embers dropped in a pile of sawdust ignited a house fire in the 8900 block of Arley Drive on Thursday (May 26) that displaced two people and resulted in $516,075 in damages. Firefighters at the scene saw “heavy fire” through the two-story house’s roof, and one resident got minor injuries. [FCFRD]

Over a Quarter of Primary Mail Ballots Returned — “We’ve had about 28% of #votebymail ballots returned so far in the Democratic primary for the 8th Congressional District. Return your ballot now or #voteearly in person at the Fairfax County Govt. Center” [Fairfax County Office of Elections/Twitter]

West Falls Church Restaurant Closed Permanently — DC Steakholders owners Usman and Lilly Bhatti said in a May 4 message that “inflation, staffing shortages, and rising food costs have taken a toll on our business,” noting that their food trucks and catering business will continue. The restaurant first opened on Arlington Blvd. in April 2019 and served burgers and frozen custard. [Annandale Today]

Reston Food Delivery Business Plans Expansion — “Frolick is a fresh take on food delivery, offering a rotating menu of chef-prepared meals — delivered for now only in Northern Virginia but soon expanding to D.C. and then, perhaps, well beyond…Frolick was born in the summer of 2021 with a big assist from GateGroup, the Swiss-based airline catering giant whose North American headquarters is in Reston.” [DC Inno]

Future Springfield Town Center Hotel Site Sold — “PREIT…announced execution of a purchase and sale agreement for 11 outparcels that will generate gross proceeds in excess of $32 million. The Company also executed an agreement of sale for a vacant parcel at Springfield Town Center set to be developed into a hotel site for $2.5 million as the Company executes on its vision of delivering one-stop destinations for the communities it serves.” [PREIT]

Jefferson Manor Kids Start Pet Directory — “Two sisters in Alexandria, Virginia, created a directory of all the neighborhood pets to raise money for good causes and bring the community together.” There have been 144 different pets submitted to the directory so far. [NBC4]

Free Fishing Day This Weekend — The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources is helping people learn how to fish with an event from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. this Saturday (June 4) at Burke Lake. Equipment and bait are provided, and attendees don’t need to purchase a fishing license. [DWR]

It’s Wednesday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 87 and low of 73. Sunrise at 5:47 am and sunset at 8:30 pm. [Weather.gov]

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A motorcyclist was killed after colliding with an SUV around 7 p.m. Friday on Ox Road at Henderson Road, near Burke Lake Park.

The motorcyclist was pronounced dead at the scene, says Sgt. Tara Gerhard, Fairfax County police spokeswoman. She said the southbound lanes of Ox Road are closed at Wayfarer Drive and eastbound Henderson Road is closed at Thistledown Trail while police are investigating the crash.

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