Northern Snakeheads: New Burke Lake Residents

Northern snakeheads are in Burke Lake.

Northern Snakehead

The invasive fish drew substantial attention and concern when it first was discovered in local waters in 2004, and there were fears that it could cause an ecological nightmare. So far, snakeheads are fitting in and playing somewhat well with others, however that does not mean we are out of, so to speak, dangerous waters. U-S Department of Agriculture (USDA) studies indicate that Northern snakeheads do prey on and compete with native species. The fish is listed as an injurious species, which means that by law it cannot be imported or transported between states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, or any territory or possession of the U.S. by any means without a permit issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In addition, releasing any creature into a park violates the Fairfax County Park Authority policy that reads: No person shall abandon, release or cause to be released into a park any animal or other organism without the express written permission of the Park Authority.

You’re not going to get that written permission just to dump them into a local lake on a whim. Policy exceptions are sometimes made only for bona fide scientific, medical, educational, or zoological purposes.

Discovery of snakeheads

The first known catch of a Northern snakehead in Burke Lake was in the late spring of 2014. Burke Lake Park Duty Manager Keith O’Connor says that first one was about 18 inches long, adding that someone likely illegally dumped them into the lake. Despite efforts to inform people about the bad things that can happen when a non-native invasive species is introduced anywhere in the world, this invasive fish continues to spread through Fairfax County waters. Park Manager Charlie Reagle says that people caught them on a regular basis in 2014. It’s possible that snakeheads had been in Burke Lake for more than a year prior to their discovery.

The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) says snakeheads have become common in the Potomac River from Great Falls to the Chesapeake Bay, including all of the river’s tidal tributaries. The VDGIF web page on snakeheads says that 2014 surveys indicate the fish’s population may have stabilized and possibly even declined a bit from its peak in waters where they first appeared. VDGIF cites Burke Lake as one of several Virginia lakes in which there have been recent illegal stockings of Northern snakeheads. USDA says snakeheads also have been found in the spillway at Lake Accotink.

Staff at Burke Lake monitors snakehead catches. So far, most of the hauls have come from the deep water weeds at the dam end of the lake. Park personnel keep state officials informed about the catches, and state fisheries biologist John Odenkirk, who monitors Northern Virginia waters, says VDGIF plans annual spring surveys of the lake to determine if the snakeheads have any impact.

Odenkirk says that although there’s nothing in writings about Northern snakeheads that suggests the fish has had any negative impact in places where they’ve been introduced, they “potentially could alter the eco-system.” He doesn’t eliminate that possibility because environmental circumstances differ from place to place. Although invasive species can sometimes introduce parasites and disease or virtually wipe out a native species in a competition for food or living space, evidence suggests that snakeheads might not be as big a problem as once feared. However, VDGIF says problems still could arise, and state officials emphasize that snakeheads should not be released into the wild.

Huntley Meadows Park Manager Kevin Munroe monitors snakeheads in his park’s wetlands. “Although no specific data has been collected showing an adverse effect on local ecosystems from snakeheads, they have been here for a relatively short time, and we don’t know yet what their full effect will be,” Munroe says. “There have been anecdotal reports that local fish populations appear to be unaffected, but very little info is available on how they have affected amphibian populations. There are several species of locally rare frogs and salamanders whose breeding success could be affected by snakeheads if this fish decides it has a taste for tadpoles and juvenile salamanders.”

As more is learned about the fish and the role it is forging for itself in local waters, state officials adopt strategies for dealing with them. Odenkirk says to treat them like any other fish. Catch them and eat them. That’s not bad advice, because snakeheads have gained a reputation as a very tasty fish. Reagle says many fishermen tell him they like snakeheads better than walleye, one of North America’s premier freshwater fish for eating.

VDGIF’s guidelines for snakeheads are:

  1. Know how to identify the fish.
  2. Report any unusual fish to VDGIF.
  3. There is a hotline for reporting snakehead catches: 804-367-2925.
  4. There is a website for reporting observations of snakeheads.
  5. You do not have to report or kill snakeheads if you catch one, however….
  6. VDGIF asks that you do report and kill them if possible.
  7. If you wish to keep a legally-caught snakehead, it must be killed immediately. You cannot have a live snakehead in your possession. If you keep one to eat, VDGIF says you must kill the fish and then call the hotline and report the angler’s last name, date of catch, location of catch and size of the fish.
  8. Kill the fish by removing the head and separating the gill arches from the body, or by removing the internal organs. Put it on ice as quickly as possible.

Remember to monitor fish consumption advisories from the Virginia Department of Health for fish caught in Virginia waters.

Odenkirk says Northern snakeheads have a long spawning period that begins in April, peaks in early June, and can last into August. If you catch one, handle it carefully. They have teeth, so don’t lip them in the manner commonly used by bass fishermen. Odenkirk says they can be caught on virtually any bait. They are almost always deep in weeds, and can be found in very shallow water in spring when topwater or weedless lures will take them.

More information:

Written by David Ochs, Manager of Stewardship Communications, Resource Management Division, Fairfax County Park Authority.

The Walney Workbooks: Now On Exhibit

How did they feed a nation 160 years ago without the equipment we have today? Here’s your chance to read a farm’s history if a farm could write its own diary.

The Walney workbooks provide detailed information about the daily operations of the Machen farm from 1849 to 1854.

The Walney workbooks provide detailed information about the daily operations of the Machen farm from 1849 to 1854.

At Ellanor C. Lawrence Park rest the workbooks of Walney — historic, hidden gems within Fairfax County that reveal what life on a farm was like during the 19th century.

The Walney workbooks were donated to Ellanor C. Lawrence Park in 1994 by descendants of Lewis H. Machen, who in 1843 purchased Walney, a farm once located within the boundaries of the present day park. Machen was a clerk for the United States Senate until 1859 and, as a result, did not spend much time at Walney while the Senate was in session. He left the daily operation of the farm to his sons, Arthur and James Machen. However, Lewis was an avid record keeper, and he logged the daily operations of Walney in workbooks, one of which is bound in an old congressional act.

The Walney workbooks provide detailed information about the daily operations of the farm from 1849 to 1854. Recorded inside are the names of the overseers, the farm’s white, hired hands, and rented enslaved African Americans, including several mentioned by name — Mr. William Thompson, Henry, John, and William among others. The workbooks also record who completed which tasks each day, weather conditions, who went to market, when crops were harvested, and even when Peruvian guano was spread in the fields as fertilizer.

The workbooks are a treasure trove of information about the Machen family, their everyday life at Walney, and the day-to-day operations of the farm, all of which provide insight into the lives of Fairfax County citizens in the mid-19th century.

This winter, one of the Machen workbooks will be displayed for the first time in Ellanor C. Lawrence Park’s new exhibit, Harvest Time at Walney, at Walney Visitor Center. The exhibit will be open to the public from November 12, 2014, through January 2015.

Author Paige Gibbons is a Fairfax County Park Authority historian. Research for the blog was based on an examination of the workbooks and information from the agency’s museum collection accession files. Walney Visitor Center is inside E.C. Lawrence Park at 5040 Walney Road in Chantilly, Va. 

Lake Accotink Volunteers Remove Over 900 Pounds Of Trash

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One of the odd things about a watershed cleanup is that someone in the crew counts everything that is found. Like 197 bottle caps or 466 pieces of foam and one coconut.

It’s kind of fun, though. It raises questions of how all that stuff got into a watershed, suggests ideas for how to reduce trash of certain kinds, and shows how much was accomplished.

Lake Accotink Park’s Fall Watershed Cleanup this month drew volunteers of all ages. There were local residents including members of the Friends of Lake Accotink Park and Cub Scouts from Pack 702. Lake Accotink Park’s marketing coordinator, Hannah Wilkerson, filed this tally of their accomplishments:

  • Estimated number of volunteers: 107
  • Estimated number of volunteer hours contributed: 179 hours
  • Estimated number of bags filled: 61
  • Estimated number of pounds of trash collected: 915

Items removed from the watershed:

  • 833 plastic beverage bottles
  • 466 foam pieces
  • 281 beverage cans
  • 272 food wrappers/containers
  • 206 glass beverage bottles
  • 181 bottle caps (plastic)
  • 157 cups/plates (foam)
  • 118 plastic pieces
  • 111 plastic bags
  • 107 takeout containers (plastic)
  • 103 segments of fishing line
  • 100 plastic grocery bags
  • 86 lids (plastic)
  • 85 takeout containers (foam)
  • 62 glass pieces
  • 58 straws or stirrers
  • 57 cigarettes/filters
  • 51 cups/plates (paper)
  • 41 cups/plates (plastic)
  • 29 tobacco packaging wraps
  • 28 balloons
  • 24 forks, knives, or spoons
  • 22 cigarette lighters
  • 22 buoys/traps
  • 20 cigar tips
  • 20 fishing nets
  • 16 bottle caps (metal)
  • 16 construction material pieces
  • 9 diapers
  • 8 other plastic/foam packaging pieces
  • 7 paper bags
  • 7 condoms
  • 7 six-pack holders
  • 3 arrows
  • 2 socks
  • bleach/cleaner bottles
  • A lot of balls
  • A few rope segments
  • 1 syringe
  • 1 shoe
  • 1 Q-tip
  • 1 small rubber tube
  • 1 pair of underwear
  • 1 hat
  • 1 gas cap
  • 1 fishing rod
  • 1 coconut

Thanks to volunteers, Lake Accotink is a little cleaner, our water is a little cleaner, and a couple thousand pieces of trash aren’t headed to the Chesapeake Bay.

Cracked Shaft Stops Grinding Temporarily At Colvin Run Mill

Broken Shaft


The staff at Colvin Run Mill Historic Site was hosting a lunch for its volunteers and was planning to unleash its waters for a spin of the big wheel and the grinding of some flour when miller Mason Maddox delivered the bad news. He’d found a crack in the axle of the mill’s main water wheel.

The water wheel can’t spin on a cracked shaft, which leaves no way to capture any power from the water flowing through the millrace. Tours and interpretation continue at the mill, and a smaller system at the historic site can be used to grind flour for sale, but there will be no grinding with the mill’s big stones for several months.

The 6,000-pound shaft that cracked was made from the trunk of a single white oak tree and was installed as part of an update at the mill in 2001 when the existing water wheel was built. Its demise was not unexpected. Although some last longer, the lifespan of woodwork like this is typically 10-to-15 years, and it’s been 12 years since this wheel was installed. In addition, the wood had a fungus growing on it, and it had become infested with woodborer beetles.

There’s work ahead to determine how long the mill will be sidelined. The water wheel will be disengaged and the broken shaft removed. Colvin Run’s Assistant Site Administrator Ann Korzeniewski says that, in a perfect world, a new shaft simply would be slid in place, although that’s not a simple operation. In addition, the spokes and the wheel were also installed in 2001, and those spokes are attached to the bug-infested axle that broke.   Until all the parts are removed and analyzed, staff won’t know how much of the mechanism will need to be replaced.

The Park Authority is researching options for funding the project, estimated to cost approximately $83,000. There may be limited funding available because the current restoration that is taking place at the mill appears to be coming in under budget.

There is good news in the midst of the problem. Because millwright Ben Hassett is already working on a restoration project at the mill, arranging a time for B.E. Hassett-Millwrights, Inc. to take on the new project may be just a matter of adding time to the current project. Pending any further setbacks, replacement of the cracked shaft would likely take about 75-90 days. In addition, there is another white oak tree trunk immediately available at a lumber yard. That alone will save a year of time finding a suitable tree, felling it and curing the wood.

The restoration project to restore the second grinding stone at the mill, already well under way, will continue. That project will allow the mill to run at full capacity for the first time in decades, however that new installation cannot be tested until the water wheel shaft is replaced and the big wheel is turning again.

Colvin Run Mill Site Manager Mike Henry says “There are a lot of wild cards in this mix,” but he is hopeful that with a little luck the historic site still will be able to hold its planned April 19, 2015 ceremony to celebrate the completion of a long-planned restoration that will have the mill running at full capacity.

October 19, 2014 is Friends of Colvin Run Mill Day at Colvin Run Historic Site. Any visitors at the mill that day who sign up to join the Friends group will receive a free Four Floor tour – a rare chance to see the entire mill, including areas not usually open to the public.

To help fund the mill restoration and repairs, contact the Fairfax County Park Foundation at 703-324-8582 or email.

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

A Rick-a-bamboo And Other Girl Scout Secrets

Girl Scouts with Riverbend’s box turtles

Girl Scouts with Riverbend’s box turtles

Girl Scouts never leaves you, even if you leave it.

I was a Girl Scout in elementary school, but unfortunately didn’t have amazing leaders to make the experience special. I quickly dropped out. However, in time’s passing I learned what it takes and means to be a Girl Scout, even if you don’t officially hold the title.

I was lucky enough to get my Girl Scout experience outside the organization, learning the fundamentals of scouting, bonding with other girls my age, and generally enjoying and exploring the world around me. As I got older, one thing stuck with me:

Girls are pretty awesome.

If leaders remind girls how awesome they are and give them opportunities to have fun, enjoy, and explore like I did, maybe other Girl Scouts won’t have the same organizational experience I did. It will be better. I’m trying to do something about that.

Focus on Fun

Girl Scouts return to their tents during an overnight at Riverbend.

Girl Scouts return to their tents during an overnight at Riverbend.

When I arrived at Riverbend Park, Girl Scouts were rebranding with new badges and a new mindset. The focus was less about getting badges done and more about exploring the topics and generally having fun with them. I jumped on that and quickly became involved in organizing Girl Scout activities and planning badges to offer local troops. One activity became my favorite: the overnights.

Overnights are wonderful. They’re a chance for girls to bond with their troop, to explore something new, to get away from home for one night, which many of the younger ones have never done.

Riverbend Park hosts Girl Scout overnights. While each overnight has something special, all overnights I run require three main things:

  1. A team game (more fun than it sounds, ‘cause it’s not what you think)
  2. A sweet treat (usually s’mores!)
  3. Repeat songs (This is where the moose comes in.)

A Team Game
Common when I was younger were team games that revolved around either sports or names. I remember being so bored that I would lead the groans of complaints whenever someone said we’d be playing a team game. However, I learned that games don’t have to be about how well you throw a ball or run. There are games about teamwork and games that need everyone to win a round. The stars of Riverbend overnights are games that highlight uniqueness rather than shun it because this is where girls learn the quirks of their friends. Who has the biggest shoe? Who can sing? Who knows the funniest joke? You don’t learn these things during Capture the Flag, but you do learn them at a Girl Scout overnight.

A Sweet Treat
No Girl Scout overnight is complete without a campfire, and no campfire is complete without s’mores. Tired of s’mores? Try Can O’ Crispies, Banana Boats, or Dough Boys. Raining outside? Learn how to make your own ice cream, or make a cold s’more with graham crackers, marshmallow fluff and chocolate spread! If there isn’t a dose of past-your-bedtime sugar, something’s not right.

Repeat Songs
We are taught at a young age to repeat. Doctors say that’s how we learn speech and behaviors as we grow. Girl Scouts are the super power of repeat songs. If you’ve never heard 150 Girl Scouts singing about a rick-a-bamboo at the top of their lungs, you haven’t lived. I have a book of songs, and I pull them out while around a campfire, hiking on a trail and just going about my day.

Most girls know The Princess Pat. They learn it from other scouts, friends at school, and their scout leaders. Some know Great Big Moose (a song about a moose named Fred who loves to drink juice), a few know Tarzan, and fewer know about Red Rose and the Briar. Singing puts everyone on equal ground. I make sure to sing as badly as possible so that even the least talented singers feel like they’re doing a great job. Singing also creates strong memories for girls, making them happy and confident with themselves and their friends. Everyone must sing at Riverbend Girl Scout overnights, and everyone must sing louder than me, no exceptions.

We have fun throughout the night, and we all enjoy the time together, including the 3 a.m. shriek that a spider is on someone’s pillow.

That’s all very well and good, but the final word? The very best part about Girl Scout overnights? For me, it’s at the end, when everyone’s packing and loading the cars. Not for reasons you might think, though. It’s when girls come to me saying they want to come back tomorrow. It’s when scout leaders say this was one of the best events they’ve attended. Throughout the site, I hear girls complaining they don’t want to go, phone numbers being swapped with new friends, and one last round of the cup game before jumping in the car.

At the end is where you see how much fun everyone had, parents included. When it’s time to go and they don’t want to go, it’s clear the event was a success. There are memories the girls aren’t soon to forget.

So, to answer the question: What is a rick-a-bamboo? The Princess Pat used it to rescue Captain Jack from the Channel 2. We know it’s red and gold, and purple, too.

To me, a rick-a-bamboo

is a Girl Scout overnight

when all is said and done,

and the girls are sad to leave

but primed for a rerun.

Riverbend Park naturalists offer Girl Scout programs and sleepovers at their nature center along the Potomac River in warmer months and at historic Dranesville Tavern multiple times a year.

Programs for Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts are held in parks across the county.

Author Michelle Brannon is a naturalist at Riverbend Park in Great Falls.

Student’s Questions About Environmental Stewardship Answered

Volunteers make a difference during a stream clean-up at Holmes Run Stream Valley Park.

Volunteers make a difference during a stream cleanup at Holmes Run Stream Valley Park.

We recently received an intriguing email from a youngster in the county, and it caught our eye because it showed an interest in the environment, an interest in knowing what the county is doing about environmental issues, and a curiosity about how he could help. All good qualities. All good questions. We hope we have good answers.

The Park Authority does a lot to promote environmental stewardship and provides a number of ways for young people to help preserve and protect our natural resources. Here are some examples.

One part of the Park Authority is fully dedicated to protecting, preserving and teaching about the county’s natural and cultural resources. That’s all they do. It’s the Resource Management Division. Those employees protect historic sites as well as wildlife and plants in the parks and teach others to do the same. One specific example is our Invasive Management Area program, which has won national awards for its work in teaching volunteers to remove non-native invasive plants from our parks and replace them with native plants. We also work with other agencies to protect soil and water and to teach people about watersheds. A good example is a recent reconstruction job that saved the wetlands at Huntley Meadows Park.

Because environmental protection is such a big task, one of our major jobs is teaching stewardship – showing people how to take care of their resources. We do that through publications such as Parktakes, stewardship brochures, and our monthly E-Newsletter, ResOURces, through visits with people at big events like the annual 4-H Show and Carnival, and through hundreds of classes (click the Nature/Science box on that link). There’s also the Park Authority’s website, where there’s a blog, information about a Family Backyard program that teaches how to make your backyard friendly to wildlife, and a fun nature almanac.

Our nature centers are terrific places for more information. They’re beautiful parks, and there are naturalists at those parks who can answer questions and help folks experience nature up close.

If you really want to get into the nitty-gritty of what we do, check out the part of the Resource Management Division that we call the Natural Resource Management and Protection Branch. These are the guys who monitor the health of plants, seek out rare plants, assess the health of local wildlife, manage the wildlife in a way that keeps the animals healthy, preserve the quality of the water in our streams by rebuilding or revitalizing stream valleys if needed, partner with other agencies to protect air quality, study the human impact on land (graffiti, littering, vandalism, overuse or improper use of parks), and teach.

One of the biggest teaching tools is a program called Meaningful Watershed Education Experience (MWEE). If you’ve been through a fourth grade or seventh grade science class in Fairfax County, you’ve likely been out at one of our parks as part of the MWEE program. The whole idea is to bring students into the parks to see, touch and hear the things they learn about in the classroom.

So, what can you do?

  • If you’re in school, learn about the environment through your science classes. Remember, you’ve got a lifetime ahead of you to protect the environment.
  • Visit our nature centers and talk with the naturalists there. If you don’t have a specific question, just ask them what’s happening with the plants and animals in the parks on that day.
  • Consider volunteering, even if it’s just for a day or a couple of hours. The folks at the nature centers can tell you what jobs need to be done, and you can choose what you want to do. They are almost always looking for some help. Some people volunteer at a park on a regular basis, spending maybe two or three hours once a week or once a month at a park. A great way to volunteer for just a couple of hours is to help our Invasive Management program. Get a friend to join you and help other volunteers pull invasive plants out of the ground and plant native ones. Our website has a calendar that tells you when and where the IMA crews are working and explains how you can sign up.
  • If you’re a scout and you ever do an Eagle Scout, Silver or Gold project, consider doing it in one of the parks. …… and subscribe to ResOURces. (it’s free)

And get out to a park and have some fun!

Written by Dave Ochs, stewardship communications manager, Fairfax County Park Authority

Cindy Dyer: A Photographer at Green Spring

Forever Stamps

A Green Spring visitor’s photos appear on Forever postage stamps.

“How can I make a living off of this?”

A question asked one day in Cindy Dyer’s garden would lead her to a successful career in photography. The buoyantly inspiring Dyer has been honing her craft with a camera since high school, where on the staff of the yearbook, which she lovingly refers to as “photography boot camp,” she discovered her skill in the art of capturing images.

“I first started noticing all that hard work paying off when I was doing a shoot for the football team during one of their games,” Dyer said. “I was taking some really great action shots; passes caught, touchdowns being scored, and players getting tackled. I’ve never been a big sports fan, but that was something that got me pumped to go to those games.” After college, Dyer became a graphic designer by trade, though she maintained a close relationship with photography, cataloging her botanical endeavors on her Zenfolio account. After being fervently pressured by her friends, she began to promote her photography skills and to do more with her abilities. Her first major triumph came a few years ago from a local park where she had already shot most of her material — Green Spring Gardens.

“A friend of mine introduced me there seven years ago now, and it’s just a lovely park,” Dyer said. “It’s smaller, so it makes it a bit easier to get around in, and the horticulturists are always planting some unusual stuff that you really don’t see anywhere else. To me, even the bigger parks don’t do as well for photographing as Green Spring.”

She pitched the idea for a gallery exhibition to the park’s volunteer manager, and then spent three winter months matting, framing and planning. She said her show in the spring of 2012 had “a really great reception,” adding that “it really solidified that I could make it doing photography.”

Her success continued with the help of a very important patron at the Green Spring show. During the first month of the show, she met the wife of one of the U.S. Postal Service’s art directors. “She bought a piece of mine, went home and talked about my show with her husband who, luckily for me, was tasked with putting together a series of stamps with ferns, palms, and orchids,” Dyer said.

Dyer received a call from Photo Assist, a procurement agency for the Postal Service, asking about her show and if they could license some of her fern photos. Those stamps were issued in January and re-released in March 2014 as a part of the Forever Stamps series.

Dyer’s photography also received notice in 2011 when Nikon web columnist Barry Tanenbaum interviewed her for a how-to piece illustrating the mechanics of photography and used 12 of her images to demonstrate tenants of the discipline. That led to another interview and photo feature with Tanenbaum when he later wrote for Talking Pictures Magazine, and she gained more exposure for her photography in Shutterbug Magazine.

In a tone that is both matter-of-fact and undeniably humble, Dyer attributed her burst of success to Green Spring Gardens. She said that the park takes an intelligent approach by endorsing an attitude of quality over quantity in terms of space and how it is used.

Discussing photography at Green Spring, Dyer said some plants are more predictable because they naturally grow there. “I can look in my calendar and say ‘okay, it’s mid-April, I’ll bet this is in bloom,’ and I’ll usually be on the money.” She also adores the park’s “beautiful bunch of lilies” and her personal favorite, the Love in a Mist. Those she described as “something you’d see in outer space.” She noted that Green Spring marks its flowers with both a plant’s common and Latin names, which Dyer calls invaluable. “Being able to add even that little bit of information to my photos helps make it look a bit more professional,” she said. Dyer added that the park’s intimate size limits the walking she has to do between shoots on her searches for interesting photo subjects.

Her tips for inspiring photographers center on the thought that “a good photographer can do a lot with a little.” Her point is that good photography is not about the camera and its associated toys:

“You need to not just have the gadgets; you also need to have a good eye for capturing the moment. Don’t be so obsessed with equipment. Get the best for what you can afford. If you really want to invest your money into an important part of the camera, invest in the lens. Scientifically speaking, photography is about capturing light and the piece of equipment that does that job the most is the lens. I’ve taken some great pictures that have ended up going on my website with my iPhone. Those things have some really solid lenses.

“Another essential piece of equipment, I’d say, for photographing still scenes/objects is a tripod. Even if you have hands steady as a surgeon, the tripod will do the job for you 100 percent right, 100 percent of the time, and it frees you up to move around the shot to see if there are better angles to get an even better shot without having to focus through the lens or lose where you were originally standing.

“And of course the big one is that if you really believe in your work, get it out there. Don’t be shy. Get a blog, get a website, and just post your photos somewhere. It really wasn’t until my friends started asking me, ‘why don’t you get a show for your work?’ that I started to truly push for my work to get more exposure. Getting my show opened so many doors for me, more people were seeing my work, and I was getting paid to do what I love. All because I was in my garden taking pictures of my plants wondering, how can I make money off of this?”

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Author Dominic Lodato is a summer intern for the Fairfax County Park Authority’s Resource Management Division. To see more photos of Green Spring Gardens, visit Cindy Dyer’s website.

Editor’s Note: All professional photographers conducting business on FCPA property or in FCPA facilities must obtain a photography permit and submit appropriate fees in advance. To learn more and apply for a permit, visit Professional Photography in the Parks.