grounds

Updated June 26, 2017
For reference only, not an HCA endorsement or guarantee

GROUNDS MAINTENANCE
  2017 services provided by Perfect Landscapes LLC
  May-October season, typically onsite Mondays
  23x Professional Lawn Mowing
  6x Monthly Maintenance and Grounds Debris Pick-Up
  1x Spring Mulching and Landscape Bed Clean-Up
  1x Spring Shrub and Ornamental Tree Fertilization
  3x Fall Leaf Clean-Up

SNOW REMOVAL
  2017 services provided by Perfect Landscapes LLC
  Winter Season, night operations when possible
  Entrance, exit, roadway clearing
  Road Sanding and Ice Melt as necessary
  One inch snow accumulation trigger
  Residents responsible for clearing private vehicles

TREE TRIMMING AND REMOVAL
  2017 services provided by Blade Runners Inc.
  Batch contract and/or individual work order basis

HCA ENGLISH IVY:  CUT IT OR KEEP IT ?

English Ivy is an Invasive Plant.  Reston Association and many others say so.  It grows over and up and into everything.  It clogs storm drains.  It invades and short-circuits pad-mounted transformer wiring.  It digs into brick walls, fractures mortar, and won't let go.  It damages tree bark, attracts gypsy moths, hides dangerous tree trunk defects, and smothers leafy branches, eventually killing otherwise healthy trees.  It often grows in combination with Poison Ivy.  And it shelters critters, including chipmunks, that some Members consider to be pests. 

However, English Ivy also provides excellent ground cover that controls soil erosion because its vast root systems anchor soil and help keep it from washing away.  It costs very little to maintain.  It can be very expensive to replace.  And in the eyes of many Members it looks just fine.

The RA Environmental Resource Team position on English Ivy is that they " ... encourage, but do not require, the removal of existing invasive species from private property, including Cluster common property."  Furthermore, " ... Plants already in place ... are grandfathered in, or exempt, from removal. ... "  A related RA brochure identifies eight common Invasive Plants, including English Ivy, that should not be planted in Reston after May 22, 2008.

In addition, RA Design Guidelines for Cluster Common Area Landscaping state that "DRB review is required for regrading or other erosion control projects.  Any such installation which alters the existing flow of water must not detrimentally affect neighboring properties or compromise the health of trees and existing vegetation."

Fairfax County also regulates erosion control and land disturbances, including cutting down trees or shrubs, excavating, grading, or adding fill dirt.  FC requires a Site Permit, Grading Plan, and Conservation Deposit for projects that will disturb 2,500 s.f. or more of land. 

The HCA position is that Members should not remove Hickory Cluster Common Area trees or plants, including English Ivy, or other cluster common property without first consulting and coordinating with the Board of Directors.  HCA has incurred thousands of dollars in unnecessary and unplanned landscaping expenses paid for by all residents to replace erosion control ground cover because of well-meaning but unauthorized removal by individuals. 

Members can also help HCA trees live longer and reduce tree removal costs by cutting and clearing English Ivy and other vines at tree trunk ground level.  And by removing as much trunk-attached ivy as possible.  This has been an easy and effective Cluster Clean-Up task for several years.  Removing vines from Goodman House brick and rear patio walls also helps maintain their integrity and appearance.

In response to recent concerns, HCA will be consulting with knowledgeable and experienced professionals to assess and propose budget-conscious solutions to related storm water runoff, storm drain, soil erosion, pad-mounted transformer, and ground cover landscaping and planting issues, hopefully consistent with the pending Stream Restoration project and with original Hickory Cluster modern landscape architecture intent, design, and construction.

VINES + DERECHO = BLACKOUT

The June 2012 Mid-Atlantic and Midwest derecho was one of the most destructive and deadly fast-moving severe thunderstorm complexes in North American history. The progressive storm tracked across a large section of Midwestern, Appalachian, and Mid-Atlantic states on the afternoon and evening of June 29, 2012, and into the early morning of June 30, 2012. It resulted in 22 deaths, widespread damage and millions of power outages across the entire affected region.

This time-lapse video from the NOAA Environmental Visualization Laboratory shows images of the derecho from the orbiting NOAA geostationary GOES East weather satellite as the storm blasted across the nation and slammed directly into the Washington DC area June 29-30. 

People prefer underground electric lines in their neighborhood because they should be less vulnerable to such storm damage.  Pad-mounted transformers are part of the underground system. They are placed on easements in yards and serve the same purpose as transformers on utility poles. Because transformers may serve several homes, underground lines may go out in many directions.

According to the heroic Dominion Power repair crew, Blocks 1 and 2 lost power because a pad-mounted transformer behind Block 2 rowhouses failed.  Because the transformer failed a circuit breaker just outside Block 1 failed.  Block 3 was not affected and had power continuously.

Combined with effects of the storm, the Block 2 transformer failed because surrounding above-ground vines gradually worked their way inside. 

Dominion was finally able to repair the Block 2 transformer by clearing out the vines and replacing a large cable three feet below grade whose connection failed inside the unit.  They restored power to both Blocks 1 and 2 on July 3.

To help prevent similar future transformer failures and power outages, the Board of Directors may engage contractors, in coordination with Dominion Power, to clear plants, bushes, and trees from around all pad-mounted transformers throughout the cluster consistent with the following electric power industry standard guidelines:

1. Maintain a 3-foot clearance to the sides and back of the transformer. Equipment inside the box generates heat and needs air circulation to keep cool and run efficiently. Overheating could cause an outage.

2. Maintain a 10-foot clearance in front of the transformer.  Equipment inside is energized at high voltage. Line crews work on “energized” transformers to avoid interrupting your service. The linemen use long fiberglass (insulating) sticks and need the clear space to work safely.

3. Use gravel, wood chips, grass or low ground cover around the transformer. Flowers are okay but may get trampled if crews have to work on it. To maintain reliable service, crews may open the transformer and inspect it at least once a year.

Residents should NOT attempt to clear or dig into areas around high voltage pad-mounted transformers.  It can be extremely dangerous.  Only professionals coordinating with Dominion Power should perform such work.