New Boot Brush Stations Curb Hitchhiking Seeds

Boot brush stations will capture hitchhiking seeds.

Most of us have learned over time to wipe our feet before entering the house. This spring, Natural Resource Specialist Kristen Sinclair will put a new spin on this message with the installation of three boot brush stations at Lake Fairfax Park. The goal of the one-year pilot project is to stop the spread of non-native invasive plant species such as wavyleaf basketgrass and garlic mustard by removing unwanted seeds from the soles of hikers’ shoes and boots.

Boot brush stations have been installed successfully by park agencies in the Midwest and the National Park Service. The Lake Fairfax stations will be located at trailheads and near the campground. Stations include a framed educational sign, mounted boot brush, and a gravel reservoir to catch fallen seeds. To deter new weeds from sprouting up in the soil around the stations, a pre-emergent herbicide will be applied to the gravel area.

Funded by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors’ Environmental Improvement Program, the stations provide an opportunity to educate park users about the negative effects of non-native invasive plants on the local environment. Aggressive invaders can choke forests, suppress native plants, and damage wildlife habitat. A startling example of invasive species spreading unchecked on parkland can be found at Maryland’s Patapsco Valley State Park, where wavyleaf basketgrass engulfed 100 acres in less than 10 years.

Wavyleaf Basketgrass

The threat of this happening at Lake Fairfax is very real. Erin Stockschlaeder, coordinator for the Invasive Management Area (IMA) and Early Detection and Rapid Response (EDRR) programs, has discovered and mapped wavyleaf basketgrass in the park. This plant blankets the forest floor, and its small, sticky seeds cling to pant legs, socks, and boots.  As the invading plant spreads, native plants including deer’s tongue (a native grass), violets, trout lilies, and a variety of ferns disappear. According to Sinclair, one measure of success for the program would be finding no new populations of wavyleaf basketgrass in the campground or on the trails. If the program is deemed successful, brush stations may be installed at other parks throughout the system.

A sign identifies common invasive species.

Getting the most bang for your buck is important in these lean budget years, and once installed the new inexpensive brush stations will require little maintenance. Three brush station kits and sign will be purchased from Genesis Graphics of Escanaba, Michigan, and assembled and installed by Groundskeeper Specialist Ferlin Mathews and the Area 6 crew. Graphics for the sign were developed by Graphic Designers Joanne Kearney and Alex Ngyuen. “We will monitor the stations the first season to make sure there aren’t any undue maintenance issues,” said Sinclair.

When implemented, this project will accomplish one of 12 best practices to assist in the prevention, control, and eradication of non-native invasive plan species, as recommended in the Park Authority’s 2009 Natural Resource Management Plan. Sinclair concluded, “I believe an interactive sign is a great way to raise awareness of the issue of “hitchhiking seeds.” It certainly can’t make the problem any worse.”

Written by Matthew Kaiser, deputy public information officer

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About Fairfax County Park Authority

About Fairfax County Park Authority HISTORY: On December 6, 1950, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors created the Fairfax County Park Authority. The Park Authority was authorized to make decisions concerning land acquisition, park development and operations in Fairfax County, Virginia. To date, 13 park bond referenda have been approved between 1959 and 2016. Today, the Park Authority has 427 parks on more than 23,000 acres of land. We offer 325 miles of trails, our most popular amenity. FACILITIES: The Park system is the primary public mechanism in Fairfax County for the preservation of environmentally sensitive land and resources, areas of historic significance and the provision of recreational facilities and services including: • Nine indoor RECenters with swimming pools, fitness rooms, gyms and class spaces. Cub Run features an indoor water park and on-site naturalist • Eight golf courses from par-3 to championship level, four driving ranges including the new state-of-the-art heated, covered range at Burke Lake Golf Center • Five nature and visitor centers. Also nine Off-Leash Dog Activity areas • Three lakefront parks including Lake Fairfax, Lake Accotink and Burke Lake, with campgrounds at Burke Lake and Lake Fairfax. The Water Mine Family Swimmin’ Hole at Lake Fairfax, Our Special Harbor Sprayground at Lee as well as an indoor water park at Cub Run RECenter • Clemyjontri Park, a fully accessible playground in Great Falls featuring two acres of family friendly fun and a carousel, as well as Chessie’s Big Backyard and a carousel at the Family Recreation Area at Lee District Park • An ice skating rink at Mount Vernon RECenter and the Skate Park in Wakefield Park adjacent to Audrey Moore RECenter • Kidwell Farm, a working farm of the 1930s-era at Frying Pan Farm Park in Herndon, now with historic carousel • Eight distinctive historic properties available for rent • A working grist mill at Colvin Run in Great Falls and a restored 18th century home at Sully Historic Site in Chantilly • A horticulture center at Green Spring Gardens in Annandale • Natural and cultural resources protected by the Natural Resource Management Plan and Cultural Resource Plans, plus an Invasive Management Area program that targets alien plants and utilizes volunteers in restoring native vegetation throughout our community • Picnic shelters, tennis courts, miniature golf courses, disc golf courses, off-leash dog parks, amphitheaters, a marina, kayaking/canoeing center • Provides 263 athletic fields, including 39 synthetic turf fields, and manages athletic field maintenance services at 417 school athletic fields. PARK AUTHORITY BOARD: A 12-member citizen board, appointed by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, sets policies and priorities for the Fairfax County Park Authority. Visit for Fairfax County Government's Comment Policy.

1 thought on “New Boot Brush Stations Curb Hitchhiking Seeds

  1. Pingback: The Plastic Bag | Garlic Mustard Challenge

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