Scouts Tackle Invasive Plants

Scouts are invaluable to parks.

Scouts often volunteer in parks to upgrade trails, plant native trees, remove invasive plants, and take on an endless stream of other important tasks. Some even see a need and develop their own ideas to fulfill Gold Award and Eagle Scout requirements in cooperative ventures.

This story begins in May 2008, when an Eagle Scout undertook a project to create a natural screen between a ballfield at South Run and 50 new houses being built near the park. The goal was to turn a manicured lawn back into a more environmentally appropriate natural state by planting 250 native trees in it.


As time passed, the native tree area was overrun by invasive plants, in particular, Japanese honeysuckle that killed big trees bordering the ballfield and was about to kill the newly planted trees. Porcelain berry, multiflora rose and autumn and Russian Olive were also targeted.

Ten years later, Boy Scout John Reistrup led a May 2018 assault on those invasive plants at South Run. Reistrup’s team filled three tightly packed dumpsters with the honeysuckle they removed. His project made a big dent in the invasives but didn’t come close to eliminating the problem.


Alan Brown of Springfield, Va., and Troop 1849 in the Old Dominion District recently became another of those industrious scouts partnering with parks. He proposed a Hornaday Eagle project at the same South Run area. Hornaday Eagle is similar to a regular Eagle project, but it requires the scout to have five or six ecological merit badges and to conduct a project related to stewardship of the land that includes six months of follow-up.

Brown started by creating a GPS-based grid in order to conduct a plant survey of the area. That required the difficult task of cutting paths into dense tangles of thorns and vines. Seventeen people joined him to conduct the botanical survey. He recorded GPS coordinates for each corner in the grid and marked the spots on the ground.


Lauer used the grid to assign other scouts to the cleanup area. Brown had the scouts use different protocols for clearing the invasives and tracked which system worked best. He led a crew of more than two dozen people who cleared four areas in mid-October. Brown’s colleague Jake Hecker oversaw removals in two other areas, and Mason Melear, another of Brown’s crew, led clearing of two more. In late October, Brad Harris led a corporate group from Appian targeting another area and concentrating on the critical removal of invasive root structures.


It is plain to see this fight to save trees is a tough one, and scouts are making progress saving the forests for future generations.

 Author Kurt Lauer is the volunteer manager at South Run RECenter.

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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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