The beavers are gone from Beaver Pond Park. And now their name is, too.
Arlington County Board members voted unanimously Oct. 18 to rename the property “Ballston Wetland Park,” in hopes of encouraging the public to visit the natural surroundings.
The site is located near where Interstate 66 empties eastbound traffic into Ballston.
The vote did not come without some blowback, as civic activist Bernie Berne said the new name is a misnomer.
The site is “not consistent with the name ‘park,’ said Berne, the only speaker during a public hearing on the topic.
In a sense, he’s right: There are no baseball fields, no playgrounds, etc., etc. Mostly it’s just wetlands.
But when renovations are complete, there will be a larger overlook area than now available, where the public can come by and view the wetlands.
“Our natural resources present their own sort of opportunity for people to engage – that’s an important principle,” said County Board Chairman Katie Cristol, who liked including the word “park” in the name.
(Natural resources, yes, but no beavers: They have been relocated elsewhere by edict of the county government, apparently.)
County Board member Libby Garvey also was in favor of keeping the p-word in the name.
“If you take the word ‘park’ out, people would think there’s nothing for the public to be able to do,” she said.
The proposal for Ballston Wetland Park came from the Park and Recreation Commission and Historical Affairs & Landmark Review Board, each of which sided with the name.
But the Arlington Neighborhoods Advisory Committee recommended “Ballston Wetland” along the same lines as Berne – the wetlands area of the parcel is not accessible to the public.
The park was designed as a stormwater-detention facility in Ballston during highway construction more than 60 years ago. The proposal to rename the park came in 2021 as the County Board approved a contract to update the stormwater-detention facilities. On top of the cost of modernizing the retention facility, county officials plan to spend about $22,000 to add furnishings, benches, a sign and trash/recycling receptacles to the publicly accessible portion of the parcel.
Some of the other proposed names bandied about during the process: “Ballston Wetlands Park” (with an “s” at the end of “Wetlands”); “Crossroads Park”; “Crossroads Wetland Park”; “Thaddeus Lowe Park” and “Wetlands Vista Park.”
For those asking “who was Thaddeus Lowe and why was his name included in the list,” here you go: Lowe [1832-1913] served as “chief aeronaut” of the U.S. Army’s Balloon Corps for the first three years of the Civil War, launching men in balloons from the Ballston area to observe the movements of Confederate troops attempting to undertake an invasion of the District of Columbia.
The renaming proposal had been included in the County Board’s Oct. 15 “consent agenda,” but was pulled to be heard Oct. 18 because Berne wanted to speak to it.