Pond news is good news

After a brief discussion of recent challenges to the town’s charter and government, the Washington Town Council listened at its monthly meeting Monday night to an update on the Avon Hall pond by Rappahannock Friends and Lovers of Our Watershed (RappFLOW) founder Beverly Hunter and others who’ve helped with recent efforts to clean it up.

The highlight of Hunter’s presentation: Exclusion fencing, plantings and other measures have kept Canada geese out of the pond since August, and recent tests show the pond water is now both fishable and swimmable, its E. coli levels dropping to almost nil from a high last fall of nearly 5,000 colonies per milliliter (Virginia waters are considered unsafe at E. coli levels above 120/ml, Hunter said).

Mayor John Sullivan and council member Dan Spethmann thanked RappFLOW and the Old Rag Master Naturalist volunteers who’ve planted hundreds of native grasses, shrubs and native wildflowers around the pond and in the adjacent nature trail developed over the past three years by ORMN.

Mark Malik, a project leader and a member of both organizations, showed the council samples of the signs to be erected along the trail and pond, which he said high school woodworking classes have agreed to build.

Sam Quinn, biologist at The Farm at Sunnyside and another project volunteer, said the efforts to reseed and replant native flora, including native and wetland perennials around the pond, dam and surrounding meadow, have gone slowly but well. The results will be most evident next spring, he said.

Most of the efforts and materials were paid for by grants. Hunter said lots more information about the project can be found on rappflow.org.

In other action, the council voted unanimously to schedule a public hearing for Nov. 10, its next monthly meeting, on the council’s promised one-year review of a special-use permit granting White Moose Inn permission to house its manager at the Pullen House, two doors north of the hotel on Main Street.

Furniture maker Peter Kramer rose to recommend the town take immediate action to repair the cottages adjacent to Avon Hall, the long-vacant former Carrigan estate owned by the town. The chimney and porch of at least one cottage, Kramer said, “are about to fall down.” Kramer, a longtime presence in town and a former mayor, also strongly urged the council to extend the borders of the town to U.S. 211 to stave off commercial development of the town’s “main gateway.”

As part of the discussion that followed, although no promises were made about upkeep of the Avon Hall cottages, Spethmann said the town “has been encouraged to reapply” in the coming year for the same forestry-centered grant for which it applied three years ago.

The town didn’t make the cut for that round of grants, which would have funded a bargain-sale purchase of the old Black Kettle Motel site and an adjacent property along 211 (in exchange for tax credits to Sunny View LLC, the David Cole-Jimmie DeBergh partnership that owns the tracts).

A wetland and woodland park, stretching from Avon Hall to the four-lane highway, was the goal.

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