Our View: Choose the right path

Our View: Choose the right path
City Arborist Andrew Benjamin (left) and City Natural Resource Manager Rod Simmons (right) standing next to an old-age Red Maple, the City champion, at the edge of the Acidic Seepage Swamp at Chinquapin Park along Taylor Run.

Some things are more important than money.

That concept is perhaps an easier sell to individuals when appealing to their personal morality than it is to local government leaders who have to make constant fiscal tradeoffs. This dichot- omy is on display in the ongoing, multi-faceted saga of Taylor Run, a forested retreat in the heart of burgeoning, bustling Alexandria.

At question is a $2.25 million grant the city was awarded by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality to remediate levels of phosphorus and other pollutants at Taylor Run, which would in turn earn Alexandria credits toward Chesapeake Bay cleanup obligations. It’s the ultimate bureaucratic two-fer, and it’s not difficult to see why City Manager Jim Parajon and his staff are loathe to relinquish both the money and the credits.

Except, oops, phosphorus levels at Taylor Run are negligible and there’s evidence that the stream itself is effectively reducing pollution that is there naturally, as streams are supposed to do. See our page 1 story, “Next steps for Taylor Run.”

Most importantly, the Natural Channel Design process, which is what the city had planned to implement at Taylor Run prior to pausing last year after strenuous resident pushback, has been shown to be destructive rather than corrective in streams like Taylor Run.

The best-case scenario, for the city’s coffers and for our local environment, would be for environmentalists and city staff to find an accommodation that results in a triple win: for the city budget, the bureaucratic check-boxes and most importantly for Taylor Run itself. That’s the process that’s underway right now, and all sides seem to be talking in good faith.

But, when the rubber hits the road – or the boulder hits the water as it may be – later this fall, the city must do what is environmentally best for Taylor Run, and by extension for our whole region of streams that connect to the Chesapeake Bay.

And it’s really clear, thanks to the astonishing collection of environmental scientists who reside in Alexandria and keep watch over our environmental treasures, that the ultimate solution should not include NCD or a variation thereof.

In a city where the annual operating budget is inching ever closer to a billion dollars, a couple million in grant money is relatively speaking small potatoes – whereas Taylor Run is priceless.

A good man

It’s affirming when good things happen to good people, and the ascension of Don Hayes to Alexandria police chief after 42 years in the department certainly qualifies.

Lauded by those who worked closely with him and by individual residents alike, Hayes has an unusual ability to work toward the big picture while focusing on daily connections with ordinary residents. See our page 1 story, “From patrolman to chief,” for more information.

Hayes didn’t just spend 42 years punching the clock, he participated in and was a leader of numerous police initiatives during the years, from DARE to community policing. It’s equally clear that Hayes recognizes the difficulties that police departments everywhere currently face, as we are in an era where finding the right balance between protecting victims of crime while being fair to perpetrators of those crimes has never been more precarious.

Belated congratulations to Chief Hayes for this most deserved promotion.