Spring Symphony Stroll

HM0513Spring.  A time to celebrate!

The earth is warming, the days are getting longer, the animals are becoming more active, and there is a feeling of excitement. This year there is extra excitement in the air, because Huntley Meadows Park is celebrating its 40th Anniversary!

In 1975, Fairfax County purchased 1,261 acres for just $1 from the federal government under the Federal Legacy of Parks Program. Over the years, additional gifts and purchases increased the size of the park to 1,557 acres.

woodcock

Woodcock

Huntley Meadows staff has planned several programs over the next few months for the community to celebrate this important milestone. This month is Spring Symphony Stroll, March 28 at 7:30 p.m.   Please see the registration information below.

During the last weekend of March 2014, the evening chorus was so loud the male Woodcocks couldn’t perform their dance. However, the buzzy, nasal call of these plump, short-legged shore birds could still be heard.

Spring Peeper

Spring Peeper

Besides the American Woodcock, hopefully, other feathered callers will be heard including a Barred or Great Horned Owl, longtime residents of the park’s forest.

With spring in full swing, the soundscape will abound with males of numerous species competing to be heard by their ladies. You’re guaranteed to hear Spring Peepers on this evening stroll, for they begin their call of love in March and can continue into April. Other amphibian callers will be the Southern Leopard Frog, Pickerel Frog, and American Toad. These amphibians make their appearance in late March to early April (depending on the weather).

The Spring Symphony Stroll , Saturday, March 28, 2015, will begin at 7:30 p.m. in the parking lot at the park’s entrance on S. Kings Highway (6901 S. Kings Highway.) Bring a flashlight if you wish and dress for the weather.

Register online with Parktakes and join us for a stroll!

A Love of Gardening Passed Down from the Master Gardener

Alfredo RinaldoI come from a long line of gardeners. When my nonno (grandfather), Alfredo Rinaldo, emigrated from Italy by boat with his family he brought seeds from his vegetable garden. He was known for his grapes and tomatoes. He started his seeds in America in discarded containers on the fire escape of his New York tenement house. Perhaps that was the infancy of container gardening. Years later, when he moved his family to a house, he promised his wife roses and hydrangeas. Old black and white photos prove he kept his promise.

In the 1950s, my parents moved the entire family to Long Island. My mother gardened with her father while my grandmother took care of the house. Grandfather planted tomatoes from his original seeds and established grape vines for wine. He became the neighborhood plant advisor. Although his English was poor, his green thumb was obvious. The neighbors called him the Ivy Man. The property surrounding the house had the healthiest and most vibrant ivy. Its waxy, dark green leaves were trained into topiaries. Nonno and mePeople thought his green thumb caused the leaves to climb the trees. He composted long before it was the thing to do. When he had problems with his grass, he went to a nearby cemetery to talk with the caretaker. He wanted to know how the grass on the newly dug graves filled in and looked so lush in such a short time. I went along to help translate. It was too bad he didn’t have the Green Spring Gardens’ help line to call (703-642-5173).

Fast forward nearly 50 years. His favorite granddaughter (me) enrolls in the Green Spring Master Gardening (GSMG) course, a course co-sponsored by Virginia Tech and the Virginia Cooperative Extension. The class is full of people with a passion for gardening matching mine. Every class session brings an expert in for a talk. Topics include basic botany, diagnosing plant damage, pesticide use, plant propagation, growing vegetables and composting to mention a few.  I wonder what the Ivy Man, my dear nonno, would think to learn he was growing invasive English Ivy. His lush and beautiful ivy would have killed the trees if he hadn’t worked so hard to keep it under control.

When one of the presenters spoke on composting, I could hear grandfather calling me the Principessa ramoscello (the twig princess). My job was to collect small twigs to start the compost pile. I was also responsible for the kitchen refuse of coffee grounds and crushed eggs shells. I wonder how he knew about that. He would have been thrilled to learn what I learned from the GSMG course on composting.

When he was 91, he came to visit my home in Virginia. When he saw my garden, his first words were “le rose sono magnifici, ma abbicamo bisogno di tagliare” (your roses are magnificent, but we must trim). We trimmed and six weeks later the roses did look a lot better.

Gioia Caiola The knowledge I gained from the GSMG course has been invaluable. I wish I could share my new knowledge with my nonno. He would have been delighted to know the science of gardening, to know there was a help line to call with questions, and a place where other gardeners gather to learn. And he would be delighted to know that his love and knowledge of gardening is being passed on to others by me and the other Master Gardeners at Green Spring Gardens.

Author Gioia Caiola Forman is a Master Gardener Intern at Green Springs Gardens in Alexandria. There is more information about the Master Gardener program on Green Spring’s website.

 

 

 

 

 

Bluebell Watch Returns at Riverbend Park

Bluebells

Bluebell

The Bluebells are coming. There’s still some snow on the ground and the wind chills have been at record levels, so it may seem strange to be thinking about Bluebells, but spring will soon be upon us despite the dire predictions of the groundhog. Our spring ephemerals are getting ready to put on their annual show and in a few weeks the floodplains of Riverbend Park will be carpeted in blue as the Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica) reach their peak. They are already preparing to send their early purple shoots up into the light, along with the many other species of native spring wildflowers that grace the banks of the Potomac River. The rich floodplain soils are host to numerous wildflower species, such as Spring Beauty, Bloodroot and Trout Lily, that take advantage of the early spring sunlight that falls to the forest floor before the trees have fully leafed out.

The Virginia Bluebell, also known as the Oysterleaf (for the faint taste of oysters released by chewing the mature leaves) and the Lungwort (for its supposed efficacy in treating lung ailments), produces masses of drooping blue flowers for several weeks in the spring.

Flower buds of the Red Maple tree primed for blooming

Flower buds of the Red Maple tree primed for blooming

The plant thrives in the moist soil of the floodplain and is one our most showy spring blooms. Unlike the Cherry blossoms, peak Bluebell blooming can be difficult to predict so watch this space for regular updates on the plants’ progress.

While waiting for the Bluebells to appear take a walk along the trails of Riverbend Park and you will find some early signs of spring. Look up to see the flower buds of the Red Maple (Acer rubrum) ready to burst into bloom on the next warm day.

Look down as you walk along a stream or creek and you may find signs of our earliest wildflower, the Skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetida), as it pushes its brownish-purple spathe through the snow and ice.

Skunk cabbage (break off one of its leaves later in the season and you will understand why it is so named) generates enough heat to penetrate the frozen winter earth. Look inside the pod-like spathe and you will see the small yellow flowers carried on the spadix, ready to be pollinated by the flies that are attracted by the plant’s foul smell.

Skunk cabbage emerges through the ice and snow of winter

Skunk cabbage emerges through the ice and snow of winter

The pod-like spathe of the Skunk cabbage

The pod-like spathe of the Skunk cabbage

The spadix with tiny yellow flowers

The spadix with tiny yellow flowers

Skunk cabbage leaves appear next to the withering spathe

Skunk cabbage leaves appear next to the withering spathe

A walk along the Potomac Heritage Trail will lead you past Northern spicebush (Lindera benzoin) with its delicate yellow flowers blooming right on the twigs. Gently scratch the bark to release the aromatic scent that gives Spicebush its name. Native Americans used all parts of the plant to make tea and to add spice to their food.

Northern spicebush
Northern spicebush

As spring progresses different wildflower species come to the fore while early bloomers begin to fade. By late spring there will be little trace of these “ephemeral” plants as the more showy summer flowers take their place. Make sure to come out during the spring months to watch the parade of early wildflowers that make Riverbend such a special place. 

Join us on Saturday, April 11, 2015 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for our third annual Bluebell Festival and celebrate the return of the Bluebells and the arrival of spring with activities for all the family including wildflower walks, face painting, live animals, wagon rides, live music and other family fun activities in celebration of spring.  Bluebell Festival:  $5 per person.  Wildflower Walks: $6.

Naturalist led Spring Wildflower Walks at Riverbend Park (April 4) and Scotts Run Nature Preserve (April 23) are a great way to get to know these lovely harbingers of spring, and discover the folklore associated with them.

For more information on these or any of our spring activities call 703-759-9018 or view our website at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/riverbend-park/

Check back for regular updates on the Bluebells’ progress.

Author and photographer Marijke Gate, is a Naturalist at Riverbend Park

Memories Felled at Sully Historic Site

Red mulberry at sunset   And the boy loved the tree….

—Shel Silverstein

There is a tree at Sully Historic Site that has given everything it had to soothe and please people over the past three decades, and the time has arrived for it to come down. Shel Silverstein’s brilliant story, The Giving Tree, reflects the same feelings that some people will experience when they learn that the largest and best-known tree at the park has reached the end of its run. The red mulberry that dominated the landscape in the open field not far from Sully’s main house has to be taken down.

The Split red mulberry“It is sad, and it is shocking,” said Site Manager Carol McDonnell. The mulberry’s trunk is badly split to the point that a visitor can, standing at the right angle, see through it. McDonnell said the most disappointed people will likely be those who have worked Sully’s annual Fathers’ Day car show. Through recent decades the mulberry has provided shade for the show’s flea market, a resting spot away from summer’s searing heat reflecting off the metal machines, and comfort for staff, volunteers and visitors who have picnicked under the security of its arms.

Still, just as the tree in Silverstein’s book provided rest and value to the boy in the story after it had been cut down, the trees being removed at Sully will have purpose a little longer after they are felled. None of the wood will leave the Sully property. The trees will become mulch along the park trails and firewood to stoke the hearth and warm the house during school programs. There also is hope that the beloved red mulberry will get a feature role in the park’s interpretation. The site’s representative slave quarter is in need of a table, and the mulberry may become the source for that addition. As in Silverstein’s book, the tree will continue to provide a place of rest.

The treasured mulberry is one of several trees being removed during the early 2015 winter months because of safety considerations. Every one of the trees taken down “were either dead, had bad bases, or 90% of the limbs in the top of them were dead,” said Everett ‘Butch’ Loughery, the Park Authority’s Landscape and Forestry manager. “The trees that we’re removing are too dangerous to leave stand,” he said.

“They’re called widow makers for a reason,” said McDonnell.

Trees leaning toward historic buildings also were removed. Loughery said a contractor was hired to prune trees that could be salvaged.

Tree in front of main house

The trees around the park’s main house are actually a historic anachronism. The site preserves the land as it was in the early 1800s, and at that time there were no trees near the main house. Over the years they’ve either been planted by families that lived there or by the arbitrary arborists of nature. Trees, like us, have a life span, and some of those being removed have not been fully leafing out in recent years, and others were beginning to hang over park paths.

Some of the walnut trees along pathways at the historic site were severely damaged in storms, Loughery said. The trunk of another mulberry being removed had split several years ago and was being held together by a bolt that had been driven through the branches of the split. Site visitors may continue to see work being done on the trees into the early spring.

Trees at SullyThe story of the trees at Sully will continue after the removal project. Funding for new plantings is being sought, and there may even be a young red mulberry given a prime placement in the open field near the main house. It will be a chance for another generation of people to grow up with a new giving tree and to share the experiences of those who rested and cooled under Sully’s red mulberry for the past three decades.

And the tree was happy.

The closing line of The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein

 

Author David Ochs is the Manager of Stewardship Communications for the Park Authority’s Resource Management Division.

Two Fish Visit The Farm In Fish Bowl II

Charlie the clownfish

Charlie the clownfish joined Goldie the goldfish at Frying Pan Farm Park for Nat Geo WILD’s Fish Bowl II.

Last year, Nat Geo WILD aired a humorous alternative to the Super Bowl called Fish Bowl, in which television viewers were introduced to Goldie the Goldfish. This year fans can watch Goldie and her new co-star, Charlie the clownfish, spend an exciting, fun-filled day at Frying Pan Farm Park. Fish Bowl II premieres Sunday, Feb. 1, 2015, at 6 p.m. ET/PT.

The program was shot on location over the course of two beautiful sunny days in early October 2014. Farm Manager Paul Nicholson served as the Fairfax County Park Authority’s liaison during production and was instrumental in the success of the shoot. He managed the farm animals and even milked a cow in one scene. Nicholson’s fear that his animals would drink from the fish bowls never happened, and his quick reflexes may have saved the famous fish from becoming a pig’s snack. “They were awesome and knew it was a funny shoot, so they had some fun with it, too,” he said.

Nicholson shared his experience working with Nat Geo WILD on the set of Fish Bowl II.

What was your role? My main role was to have the animals ready in the background and try to get them to focus on the fish bowl.   Of course, how do you get livestock to care about a fish! Two part-time farm staff members, Steve Luckett and Laura Mowery, were also involved in the filming. We moved some animals to new pastures, and Steve is in the background mowing grass on a tractor in one of the scenes.

During the sound recording, he had a list of sounds that were needed to complete the show. During the filming, one of the cows is scratching her neck on the fence in front of the bowl. He asked to repeat that noise. How do you get a cow to scratch her neck on command I say to him? We found an old board and brought the board to her neck and body to re-create the sound.

Can you describe some of the different settings in which the fish bowl was placed? The first scene we shot was the fish bowl on a wagon in Middleton Barn, with calves grazing in the background and the sun rising over the Antique Equipment Shed. Then we moved the fish bowl outside and filmed the larger cattle on the other side of the fence. The fish bowl was resting on straw bales.   The chicken house finished out the first day of shooting. The rising sun played havoc on the next scene as we milked the cows early in the morning, outside of Kidwell Barn. Jesse the horse was next to be filmed in Kidwell Barn, and then we finished the day with a litter of young piglets in the field.

Did anything funny happen while shooting? We had met with Nat Geo a few weeks before the shoot and I brought up cow milking and they loved it. Of course, I was thinking it would be a stationary shot with the cow in the barn, fresh milk in the clear milk machine, and maybe a calf bottle on the ground while the cow ate her breakfast. The day of filming, the director said to me, ‘Which one of you will be milking during the shot?’ I’m sure our jaws dropped, as we thought only animals were involved in this film! Guess I got the short stick and got to milk her on camera. My two sons were behind the camera, and I could hear them saying ‘Hi Daddy’ while I was milking.

Paul Nicholson prepares to milk the cow.

Paul Nicholson prepares to milk the cow.

During the large outdoor cattle scene, [Nat Geo] wanted something in the background and we got Steve on a tractor and had him mow the pasture. He would go up and down the field, coming in and out of the shot. They filmed for around an hour, but the field still needed to be finished, so I let Steve keep going on his tractor. At one point, when they packed up the camera, he knew his stardom was over and I was just having him mow the field!

How did the animals react to the fish bowl occupying their space? The animals see so many different and unique things on the farm, that their new barn mates were treated no differently. Jesse was the most curious and welcoming of any of the animals. We were concerned one of the animals would try to drink the water, but it never happened.

Jesse the horse

Jesse the horse

What challenges did the film crew have to overcome? The sun and the wind caused trouble with the lighting and blowing over their shade and reflection screens. Being a beautiful day on the farm, we had lots of school groups and visitors. Some would look at us funny, with a fish on the farm, and most would laugh when we told them what we were filming. We removed some of the wire fence on the chicken yard to get the perfect shot.   While trying to get Jesse to look at the fish bowl, we were behind the camera teasing him with a bucket of grain. At one point, we did such a good job that he touched the fish bowl that was balancing on two stacked benches and almost knocked it off! The director screamed and ran to catch the fish. Just some splashes out of the bowl and all was good. Well, I guess she had a heart attack! Also during the piglet filming, the pigs ran around and knocked the wire panel and the bowl was almost knocked into the pig pen. We knew they would eat the fish, but the bowl stayed upright and did not fall.

Wind and sun gave the crew trouble.

Wind and sun gave the crew trouble.

Do you have any other funny stories to share? The cow-milking scene was first, and then we would move over and film Jesse in the barn. During a down time in the cow-milking scene, I asked Laura to check and clean Jesse’s stall if needed.   Time went on, and we started filming the cow-milking and we hear the director say ‘Uumm, you in the background, please stay where you are.’ Little did we know that Laura was in the background and coming into the picture as they filmed!

Fish Bowl II premiers Sunday, February 1, 2015, at 6 p.m. ET/PT. Frying Pan Farm Park is located in Herndon, Va.

Watch the Fish Bowl II trailer: http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/wild/videos/fish-bowl-ii-trailer/?cmp=user_post.

Prepared by Matthew Kaiser, deputy public information officer, Fairfax County Park Authority

The View From The Tower At Huntley Meadows Park

Great Blue Heron. Photo by Curtis Gibbens.

Great Blue Heron. Photo by Curtis Gibbens.

If you know me, you know my fascination with Huntley Meadows Park (HMP) the first time I stepped on the boardwalk over the marsh. I thought I stepped in the Everglades as I saw a dozen egrets and heard songs of red-winged blackbirds throughout the marsh. I also saw birds I had never seen or heard before, such as two yellow-crowned night herons and king rails. Another fascination was the amount of turtles resting on fallen branches beside the boardwalk oblivious to people. It was the first time I recognized a wetland and found it hard to believe an environment like this existed three miles from the Beltway.

I lived across the county, but I made many return trips, this time, armed with a camera. I quickly became a boardwalk regular and started recognizing other boardwalk regulars. These people consisted of other photographers, birders, and people who loved walking in nature. I would have discussions on birds or any other animal we had seen, and where to go to see others. Discussions also consisted on photography and sharing images on the Internet.

I encountered two of the boardwalk regulars, Jim Cox and Bill Stetzer, on almost every visit. They both volunteered at HMP as boardwalk nature interpreters. They kept visitors informed of the beaver family residing under the boardwalk at that time. They knew how many were in the family, the location of the lodge, and waited for the beavers to come out as the sun was going down. Sometimes the beavers made an appearance, but most of the time, we would hear them eating under the boardwalk, or the cry of the young. Neither one was a biologist, but they had a lot of knowledge of beavers by naturalists they encountered through the park and their own research. They were very friendly and welcoming to visitors as they shared what they knew about the beavers. I really respected the way they interacted with visitors. I also really loved the park, so I also wanted to play a small role and follow their footsteps.

Beaver. Photo by Curtis Gibbens.

Beaver. Photo by Curtis Gibbens.

I contacted the park to inquire about volunteer opportunities. HMP staff member Ann (Annie) Stat asked if I would be willing to take the park’s spotting scope to the tower. I confirmed, and met her one afternoon. She provided the scope and walked with me to the boardwalk, setting an example as she socialized with the visitors. She emphasized sharing something that a person might not see. That afternoon, it was a hawk (a red-shouldered, I believe) perched quietly above the boardwalk. Annie presented it to visitors that would have most likely walked past it unaware of its presence.

The requirements for the View from the Tower position were not hard. I had to show up, return on time, and record the number of contacts and bird sightings. I regularly volunteered two Sunday afternoons a month. Volunteering on weekends provided large counts of visitor contacts, especially on nice days. If a scout troop visited, my visitor counts would multiply.

I do not have strong social skills with unfamiliar people. I’m usually not one to start a conversation, but I had my mindset on the way Jim and Bill talked with boardwalk visitors. They did not present the park like salesmen; instead, they would share with people something that would make their visit more pleasurable and fulfilling, which was also Annie’s emphasis.

The visitors I encountered the most were birders. When I first started, I was very familiar with birds I captured on camera, like wading birds and ducks, but I lacked the knowledge of songbirds.   A few birders quizzed my birding skills, but I had my worn copy of National Geographic Guide to Birds with me for assistance.

My birding knowledge grew over the years thanks to many friendly and helpful birders. I learned a lot about different species, migration, what bird you are most likely to see at a certain time, and what comes or leaves when the wetland changes.

I also met great photographers, which has always been a very strong interest of mine. Some were just starting, the way I did when I first came to the park.   I would give them pointers, such as early morning is the best time for pictures because of the sunlight and activity. I also met photographers that had been shooting for years with lens that cost as much as a car. They gave me pointers like aperture settings and exposure.

The visitors I enjoyed the most were people that were unfamiliar with wetlands, the way I was when I first entered the park. For the most part, they enjoyed their walk on the boardwalk. When I invited them to look through the park’s spotting scope at a great blue heron, their interest peaked, especially the young children. If they had trouble reaching the scope, I had them stand on the bench. They had never noticed a large bird with all its feathers, face, and beak in great detail. I would have to work much harder to impress a hardcore birder.

I cannot express how much I enjoyed my time being on the tower sharing the natural events unfolding in front of us. I witnessed many fascinating things, such as spotting an American bittern for a group of people, a painted turtle crawling on the ice, wild turkeys jumping from a tree, a great blue heron eating a turtle during a drought, and an eagle flying off with a carcass half its size.

The past year I met a wonderful lady who has a 12-year-old son, and both are also boardwalk regulars. Their birding skills, especially the 12-year-old, are phenomenal; he is a walking bird encyclopedia. We plan to officially be a family this summer. Although we plan to spend a lot of family time in the park, I can’t get there as much as I could, so I have resigned from the View from the Tower volunteer position.

I enjoyed my time up on the tower, and I highly recommend anyone with good birding skills and who likes socializing with other birders and people who don’t know what they are looking at, to think about this position. You’ll always have an excuse to go to the park, and you will always have an excuse to get out of something you don’t want to do. I can’t tell you how many times I said, “I wish I could go, but I have to volunteer at Huntley.”

Sunday afternoons was a great way for me to wind down from the weekend, and get ready for another week of work (the calm before the storm). Although I no longer officially volunteer on the tower, I will still be making frequent visits and sharing what I see.

A side note: You may already know that HMP has directed me to wildlife and nature photography. I will display some of my work at the Norma Hoffman Visitor Center during March and April of this year. One wall will be strictly images taken at HMP. I will host a reception on March 8, 2015 from 2 to 4 p.m.

Hope to see you there.

Written by Curtis Gibbens. Huntley Meadows Park is located in Alexandria, Virginia.

Golf And Birdies: The Perfect Match

This photo shows the area between the first and second holes.  The left side is the golf course and the right side is the Pinecrest community. Photo by Sarah Oberther.

This photo shows the area between the first and second holes. The left side is the golf course and the right side is the Pinecrest community. Photo by Sarah Oberther.

Want more birdies the next time you’re on a golf course? Just look around.

There’s been an increase in wildlife, including the number of birds, at Fairfax County Park Authority golf courses. That’s because we’re consciously merging the entertainment and sporting missions of the parks with our responsibility to protect natural resources.

Look outside the fairway, beyond and away from the next dogleg or sand trap. Natural resource protection areas are not in key playing areas of the golf courses. “We sneak them in around the perimeter and in between holes as much as possible,” said Pinecrest Golf Course Manager Sarah Oberther.

The park’s Hole by Hole Guide to Environmental Stewardship shows the location of some of Pinecrest’s natural resource areas, such as woods, shrubs, tall grasses, brush piles and riparian buffers.

Some of these areas protect resources under the guidance of the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf.

Audubon International, based in Troy, New York, provides environmental education and supports sustainable management of natural resources. The organization certifies places like golf courses, cemeteries, ski areas, and hotels that have an environmental plan and that meet certain established land management and resource conservation requirements. More than 3,000 sites have been certified for reaching those standards. Pinecrest and Laurel Hill are two of them.

There are Audubon certificates of recognition in six categories – environmental planning, wildlife and habitat management, outreach and education, chemical use reduction and safety, water conservation, and water quality management. Golf Enterprises Manager Peter Furey says Pinecrest and Laurel Hill are fully certified in all six.

Pinecrest received its first certification, for environmental planning, in April 2011 and was fully certified in July 2012. Laurel Hill received full certification in February 2009. The Park Authority’s other five courses are working toward certification, and Furey said he anticipates that will take 12 to 24 months. That would bring certification to other courses sometime between 2015 and 2017.

Oberther said the program’s impact is “priceless.” Audubon sanctioning confirms that “we have reduced our carbon footprint while increasing native habitats and wildlife.” The site has substantially reduced its use of pesticides, fertilizers and water, and labor costs are lower because less mowing is needed. “This is absolutely the best way for any golf course to be environmentally accountable,” she said.

Pinecrest is a good example of steps being taken at Fairfax County Park Authority golf courses to protect natural resources. To meet the Audubon requirements, Pinecrest documented its fertilizer and pesticide use, monitored water quality, then made changes and measured improvements. Some changes involved strategically selecting areas to filter, such as those with water.

There are plants around the ponds on the Pinecrest course in strips from three to 25 feet wide. These are vegetative filters of Bermuda, fescue and native plants that grow with no fertilizer or chemical help. Water that runs through drains and culverts and feeds the course’s ponds and creeks filters through these vegetated areas. There’s also a riparian buffer along the creek that filters more water. The runoff is primarily water from streets of developments that surround the golf course.

There is a 25-foot wide no-spray zone around water features on the course. In addition, Pinecrest has converted its fairways to Bermuda grass to reduce the demand for pesticides on the course. The Bermuda grass conversion allowed staff to eliminate all fungicide applications on the fairways for the past three years.

During the certification process, Pinecrest documented a 25% increase in bird populations at the course. Staff prepared a Guide to Birds at Pinecrest Golf Course, and it is on display in the clubhouse. There’s also a guide that will help you discover the mammals that make their home in the area’s approximately 50 acres of land. (Guide to Wildlife at Pinecrest Golf Course)

The protection of resources doesn’t stop with certification.

“This year (2014), we have planted wildflowers in our designated environmental protection areas that border our golf course and surrounding homes,” Oberther said. She added that the protection areas are “spectacular” when the native flowers are in peak bloom.

To get an idea of the program’s local impact, peek at the Wake Up Pinecrest video in the Park Videos box on the Park Authority’s home web page or at the videos on the Fairfax County Park Authority’s website for golf courses and take note of the sights and sounds of nature in those videos. Then see for yourself. Head out for a nature hike – and take along the clubs.

Pinecrest Golf Course is at 6600 Little River Turnpike in Alexandria, Va. The phone number is 703-941-1062. Information about all of the Fairfax County Park Authority golf courses is on the Park Authority website.

Author David Ochs is the manager of stewardship communications for the Resource Management Division of the Fairfax County Park Authority.