Our View: Acting like an Eco City

Our View: Acting like an Eco City
Erosion along the Taylor Run stream banks. (Photo/Missy Schrott)

Protecting the environment is not easy, nor cheap. A person or entity can say they’re for environmental protection – or for a city to even have an Eco City designation – but then fail to prioritize the environment when making their choices.

In our opinion, the City of Alexandria has talked the talk but failed to walk the walk on issue after issue for some time.

In just the last few years, environmental preservation has taken a back seat when the city has made decisions about where to place the Potomac Yard Metro Station, the development of a pristine forest at Karig Estates, the chopping down of the 150-year-old pin oak at the high school and the use of destructive natural channel design to do stream “restoration” projects.

With all of this as background, we are delighted that, in the face of overwhelming public opposition, not to mention damning scientific data, City Council decided at Tuesday night’s legislative meeting to pause current stream restoration plans at Taylor Run and Strawberry Run. This was the right decision and is welcome to everyone who cares about environmental preservation.

It was also welcome news that the city is going to test for actual levels of phosphorus and nitrogen at Taylor Run, Strawberry Run and Lucky Run to help inform the decision of what to do moving forward.

Yes, on-site testing clearly should have been done before the city applied for a grant from the state to use toward Chesapeake Bay pollution credits rather than basing that application on assumed levels from a far-more-polluted location. And yes, we absolutely oppose the city’s current method – which is exactly backwards – of using grant applications to drive policy rather than the other way around.

But this is definitely the right step, and even if it reeks of an election year pause that may well quickly be un-paused following the June 8 Democratic Primary, it’s still a positive development. Voters will have to decide how important environmental protection is to them, and who among the 13 candidates running for City Council and two for mayor share their perspective on this vital topic.

The World Bank says Eco Cities are “cities that enhance the well-being of citizens and society through integrated urban planning and management that harness the benefits of ecological systems and protect and nurture these assets for future generations.” We think Alexandria has significantly fallen short in recent years on the “protect and nurture these assets” portion of this definition.

Alexandria needs to actually be an Eco City rather than simply claim it is one.