I again went to Royal Lake Park, the same one that I’ve been to for a handful of assignments now. Like I’ve detailed in a couple other posts, the lake serves as a gathering point for the community: local soccer and t-ball leagues use the fields, there are county organized fairs and concerts around the park, and a community pool overlooks the lake.
It is also a key way Fairfax County tries to make the area more sustainable. Like other small lakes in Fairfax County, Royal Lake is completely man-made and is used to trap sediment that would otherwise run into creeks and rivers feeding into the Chesapeake Bay. This ensures that Fairfax County isn’t developing at the expense of local ecosystems.
However, serving as a hub for sediment collection means the lake must be occasionally dredged to remove excess mud, weeds, and other organic waste from its bottom. The last time the lake was dredged was in 2016. According to the Fairfax County website, “a fish save was conducted at the lake in October 2015 prior to the dredging. Staff relocated juvenile bass and crappie to Brookfield Pond along with a large number of bluegill and redear sunfish. Lakes Barton and Braddock received all the large game fish along with a considerable number of juveniles and various forage species.” The County is careful to specify that they removed “all the large game fish” but only “a large number of bluegill and redear sunfish.” This is because they weren’t able to remove all the smaller fish, meaning thousands of fish were left to die when they drained the lake to dredge it. I was only able to find a stock photo of the dead fish, but the stench of rotting fish was unmistakable in the summer of 2016 when we would swim at my local pool. This is obviously not a very sustainable model: a man-made lake collects sediment, which then requires dredging, the killing of thousands of fish, and temporary destruction of a local ecosystem.
So while Royal Lake was created to make the entire County more sustainable as part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, it is not necessarily sustainable as its own ecosystem.