Killing Lakelands’ Namesake
Residents, commuters and transients coming into and out of Lakelands are killing Lakelands’ namesake. As the name suggests, there are nine lakes in the community (when combined with its sister community, Kentlands) intertwined with streams, parklands and woods. “You leave the house and you’re one with nature,” Judy Gross, author of “The Kentlands: A Home for All Seasons” stated in a 2013 interview with The Washington Post.
But the community is also crowded and often fast-paced. More than 1,290 cars cross the intersection of Lakelands Drive and Great Seneca Highway during rush hour—with more than 60 percent of the cars coming from within the development, according to 2017 statistics retrieved from Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission. Up to 12 drivers every minute return to their homes in Lakelands during rush hour. Anyone familiar with Lakelands Drive knows that’s a lot of cars moving across a narrow space.
As a resident of Lakelands, I sadly recognize that as we drive through community streets rushing off to work, to the gym, to school, or to run errands, we often forget that we live among these lakes, but we are not alone among them. There are literally hundreds of animals that live around us.
Recently, I was driving home on Main Street coming into Lakelands from Darnestown Road between Lake Nirvana and Lake Placid. Just before the parking lot for the Lakelands Park baseball fields, I saw cars, one by one, passing by a turtle struggling to make it across the road. Not one car slowed. I stopped. I picked up the turtle, now with its head tucked deep into its shell for protection, and placed it down on the grass in the direction it was headed.
Unfortunately, the story doesn’t end there. No more than 10 minutes later, I drove out the other entrance of Lakelands, with Lake Varuna on my left and Elysium Lake on my right (most people think of this as just a stream). There, dead in the middle of the road, was an even larger turtle than the one I saved just moments ago.
Incredibly, no more than 24 hours later in almost the exact same location, in the direction leaving Lakelands on Lakelands Drive, was a dead beaver. As I drove out of the development, I thought about the beavers, turtles, deer, foxes, ducks, herons, and of course geese that all make their homes in the lakes and lands that surround the community.
Some 4,700 residents live in homes on tree-lined streets, near tranquil lakes and woodlands. Lakelands is a model for other communities and is thought to be very safe—at least for people. Perhaps we could do something to make it safe for the animals that live here, too.
There are already speedbumps at each entrance to Lakelands and Kentlands. The speed of the road is 25 miles per hour (mph). Peter Paul van Dijk of Conservation International stated in his blog that the box turtle, or terrapin, has been clocked as fast as 0.25 mph over a short distance, but a more average walking speed is 0.17 mph. A box turtle will rarely cover 100 yards in a full day of walking. The box turtle will close into its shell to protect itself from predators rather than trying to run away; it will never be able to outrun cars being driven by people not paying attention to what is in front of them.
According to High County News, a 15-mile stretch of the Mojave Desert Highway saw a 93 percent reduction in desert tortoise roadkill after fencing and culverts were installed. Lakelands Drive is about 0.5 miles long, but the stretch of road along Lake Varuna and Elysium Lake is only 0.1 miles long. There are at least three viable options to consider:
- a low fence that doesn’t interfere with the surroundings;
- a reduction in speed to 15 or 20 miles per hour entering and leaving the development, especially at the Lakelands Drive entrance; and
- signs that indicate animal crossing.
None of these may be perfect fixes, but we need to do something. Rachel Carson once said, “Until we have the courage to recognize cruelty for what it is—whether its victim is human or animal—we cannot expect things to be much better in this world.” We need to recognize that driving in a manner not to notice a defenseless turtle moving 0.25 miles per hour, at a sprint, or any other animal trying to cross the road would meet Ms. Carson’s definition of cruelty. Let us heed Ms. Carson’s powerful words of humanity and kindness to animals so that we protect Lakelands’ namesake and find a way to thrive.
—Steve Feller, Lakelands