Park Authority Marks Ten Years of Invasive Management

IMA Nottoway-4You can pull a lot of weeds over ten years.

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the Fairfax County Park Authority’s national award-winning Invasive Management Area (IMA) program.

The hugely successful stewardship effort started in 2006 with 454 volunteers donating just over 1,600 hours to remove non-native invasive plants from 21 places on park land. Three of those original volunteers are still with the program. Jan Meyer is the volunteer site leader for IMA at Fred Crabtree Park, Bryant Bullock is the site leader at Brentwood Park, and Philip Latasa is the site leader at Lake Accotink and Americana Park.

Program growth has led to about 2,000 volunteers pitching in during each of the last four years. REI, Inc. has donated $55,000 in grants through the Fairfax County Park Foundation in the past four years to support the program and an annual spring event called Take Back the Forest.

“REI’s support through the Park Foundation for Fairfax County Park Authority’s IMA program spans well beyond their valuable financial investment,” said Park Foundation Executive Director Roberta Longworth. “REI staff and members get personally involved by volunteering to remove invasive plants that are detrimental to the environment.  We are grateful for REI’s partnership with Fairfax County parks,” she said.

TBTF-logoTake Back the Forest is a recruiting tool for IMA. It’s a one-month long effort that emphasizes volunteering in the spring when invasive species are readily attacked and volunteers don’t have to fight through summer forest growth to pull out invasive plants or to plant native species. Take Back the Forest annually coincides with national volunteer days such as Earth Day, National Volunteer Week, Potomac River Watershed Cleanup Day, and Arbor Day.

Take Back the Forest will run from April 15 to May 15 this year. The Park Authority will have many volunteer opportunities available during that time, and volunteers who lend a hand during the Take Back the Forest promotion receive a free T-shirt as thanks.

IMA has received multiple awards during its existence, and in 2013 the National Association of Government Communicators named Take Back the Forest the top communication-with-the-public initiative of any government agency in the nation. Through 2015, since the program’s debut, some 13,441 volunteers have donated 43,442 hours during 2,108 workdays to remove 8,706 large bags of invasive plants from 68 park sites.

IMA plans to highlight its tenth anniversary with a ceremony and workday on National Public Lands Day, Saturday, September 24, 2016, at Nottoway Park, 9537 Courthouse Road in Vienna, Va.

More information about the Invasive Management Area program, when and where work sessions are held, and how to become an IMA volunteer, is on the Park Authority’s website at Information also is available by contacting IMA Coordinator Leslie Gerhard at 703-324-8681 or

Author David Ochs is the Manager of Stewardship Communications for the Resource Management Division of the Fairfax County Park Authority

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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.

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