BLM seeks community feedback on draft environmental assessment for Lorton project
Bureau of Land Management (BLM) staff held a virtual information meeting March 7 on their draft environmental assessment for Multipurpose Pavilion Utilities and Parking Lot at the Mustang Loop at the Meadowood Special Recreation Management Area in Lorton. The draft assessment was released Feb. 21, and the general public has until April 7 to provide comments via the agency’s ePlanning website.
The multipurpose pavilion at the corner of Gunston and Harley Roads was built in summer 2022 as a site for wild horse and burro placement events, and for environmental education and recreational purposes. Following its construction, BLM saw a need to provide an expanded, paved parking lot, add electrical and water utilities, and relocate a pollinator garden that might be negatively impacted by vehicular traffic.
According to BLM district manager Stephanie Carman, the agency is proposing creating a 2.1-acre parking lot paved with asphalt that would prevent ponding and be accessible. The lot would include two security gates along Harley Road, which would be shut when the park closes at dusk.
The prospect of an asphalt parking surface was opposed by several community members at the meeting who said it was bad for horses and the environment. They asked whether BLM had considered permeable surfaces and were told to make that recommendation via the online comment system.
The problem with the current gravel lot, according to BLM field station manager Zach Reichold, is that rain causes ruts and slippery spots, and attracts drivers who like to spin circles in the lot, occasionally causing property damage.
To protect a pollinator garden currently located near the pavilion, BLM has proposed moving it to the Hidden Pond Trail, a 3/4-mile, accessible trail located off Belmont Boulevard. While one Harley Road resident expressed dismay that moving the garden would “remove a jewel in our community,” Carman said the garden’s new location would enable it to be planted with native, sustainable species and potentially expand in size.
The final part of BLM’s proposal was to connect water and electrical utilities to the pavilion, including adding motion-activated security lighting. Although solar-based lighting was originally considered, BLM’s final draft environmental assessment said the use of electrical utilities to power security lighting was “more practicable” and that they would use downward-facing, orange-colored lights to minimize light pollution.
At the end of the presentation and question and answer session, Carman reminded community members to submit any comments via the ePlanning website. The proposed project is still early in the planning process, she said, noting they do not yet have funding for it.