Elklick: Preserving a Preserve for the Long Term

Western Field at ElklickThe goal is simple. Restore a forest stand.

The task is not so simple, and it will take a long time.

The Natural Resources Branch of the Fairfax County Park Authority’s Resource Management Division started a project in 2017 to restore a forest stand that was being taken over by invasive plants. The long-term goal is to replace those invasive plants with native species, replanting the area with native oaks and hickories to rebuild a rare forest type that exists in the forest stand next door.

According to the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), a basic oak-hickory forest in our region generally would have a mix of a variety of oak and hickory trees along with white ash (Fraxinus americana) and tulip-tree (Liriodendron tulipifera). The understory may have Eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis), Eastern hop-hornbeam (Ostrya virginiana) and flowering dogwood (Cornus florida).

This is taking place in western Fairfax County at the Elklick Woodlands Natural Area PreserveNature preserves in Virginia are places that the state designates to protect significant natural areas. DCR says there are 63 of these dedicated natural areas in Virginia.

Elklick burnSo far, light conditions in the forest have been improved by the removal of invasive plants and some cedar trees through controlled burns and other means. The Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA) partnered with Designs for Greener Gardens in a no-cost exchange of their labor in return for some of the trees. This company previously has worked on arbors and custom fences at Green Spring Gardens.

FCPA ecologist Owen Williams says the project’s next steps are to continue managing invasive plants and then prepare a planting design. It’s a long-term project with long-term natural resource benefits for Fairfax County.

Author David Ochs is the Manager of Stewardship Communications for the Resource Management Division of the Fairfax County Park Authority. More information about Elklick can be found on the FCPA web site.

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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 https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/news2/social-hub/ for Fairfax County Government's Comment Policy.

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