Monthly Archives: January 2020

What’s the story on those new trees at Lakeside Park?

27Last November, 12 new trees came to Lakeside Park, all native species, river birch, black gum, and Eastern redbud. I hope you’ve had the opportunity to enjoy them, but perhaps you’ve wondered how they came to be there. Well, here’s the story…

During 2019, Friends of Royal Lake (FORL) leadership visited several communities that border Royal Lake to garner more FORL members and increase interest in the work we are doing to protect and preserve the lake and surrounding parkland. At the New Lakepointe HOA meeting in March, resident Michael Schindler came to us with a proposal to volunteer as part of his company’s Balfour Beatty US Spirit program. Under the general contracting company’s program, Balfour Betty employees give back to the local community and volunteer their time.

Michael is a 2018 George Mason University (GMU) graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Civil and Infrastructure Engineering. At GMU, he was active with the student organization Engineers for International Development (EFID) and traveled to Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua to build a water supply for a local orphanage. While at GMU, he worked at the Fairfax County Department of Public Works and Environmental Services (DPWES) and established a connection with the Urban Forest Management Division (UFMD). Michael offered to act as middleman and reach out to UFMD.

UFMD deals primarily with land development, rezoning and working with site inspectors after projects begin construction, but it also provides education and outreach services to raise awareness of and encourage conservation of the county’s urban forests. Tree canopy loss to development is one of the main stressors impacting the urban forest, and planting new trees is necessary to maintain the county’s percentage of land area in tree cover, about 55%. For the last three years, UFMD has administered the county’s Tree Preservation and Planting Fund to cover material costs and coordinated tree planting at public schools, parks, and other county properties. Volunteers and organizations like Balfour Beatty, EFID, and FORL have been valuable contributors to successfully implement these tree planting projects. The trees that now grace Lakeside Park were paid for by the Fairfax County Tree Preservation and Planting Fund.

After consultation with local experts and review and approval by the Fairfax County Park Authority to ensure the trees selected were appropriate for the venue, we were ready to go. On November 23, with some help from the KPW community, FORL, students from GMU’s Engineers for International Development, and Balfour Beatty volunteers, the trees became permanent residents of Lakeside Park. They will surely provide welcome shade in the hot sunny months as park visitors use the trails!

More improvements are under development for Lakeside and Royal Lake Parks, including porta-johns to be installed year-round and two dog waste stations (co-located with existing trash receptacles) at both parks. These stem from a FORL survey a couple years ago. If you have ideas, please feel free to reach out to Paul Gross at and Sarah Lennon at or See you at the parks!

Author Sarah G.J. Lennon is Vice President of Friends of Royal Lake. FORL member Lynn Cline provided the photos. Workdays are done under the umbrella of the Royal Lake Park Volunteer Team in coordination with the Park Authority. 

Animal Quackers: Frog Noises in the Woods

What has four legs and sounds like a duck?

wood frogIf your answer is a wood frog, you are correct, and you may be familiar with the duck-like quacking sounds they make. Each spring, wood frogs (Lithobates sylvaticus) flock to local vernal pools with one goal in mind — to find the perfect mate and produce offspring. Male frogs are the ones who chorus. They emit their quacking croaks to attract females.

You’ll find wood frogs in Virginia’s mountains and throughout the Piedmont and the state’s northern coastal plain. Seeing them in the wild can be tricky, but if you know when and where to look, you will have a chance.


Contrary to logic, a good time to spot wood frogs in Fairfax County is late February and early March when winter has not quite released its icy-cold grip. This is the time the frogs gather in vernal pools and shallow ponds to breed.

IMG_4560Wood frogs have a special adaptation that gives them a jump on the other frog species seeking to breed in vernal pools. Wood frogs can survive freezing temperatures by producing glucose that acts like antifreeze in their blood. In winter, many wood frogs hide below leaves or under logs in forest areas near vernal pools. If they freeze, they can thaw as temperatures warm even if the pools still have an icy covering. Wood frogs are one of the first amphibians to come out of hibernation to breed, and you may find them just as snow is melting.

Vernal Pools

Vernal pools can be found in many places throughout Fairfax County. They appear in small and isolated areas that will be dry for part of the year. When full of water, vernal pools provide frogs and toads a safe place to breed and lay eggs away from predatory fish who may want to eat them.

Frogs are not the only ones taking advantage of vernal pools. In spring, vernal pools teem with life. Salamanders, insects and even small crustaceans can be found with close observation. These pools are habitats that many creatures rely on to survive.

You can help wood frogs

Many conservationists consider frogs to be the most imperiled animal group in the world. Recent reduction in their numbers is attributed largely to habitat loss and disease. Supporting areas with vernal pools and wetlands is a good way to help preserve frog populations.

Many Fairfax County parks feature wetlands and vernal pools. Parks help to conserve habitats that are vital to amphibians. At home, you can help by reducing pesticide and herbicide use. Look for natural alternatives because many wetland areas are sensitive to chemical pollution.

You can hear wood frogs on YouTube on the Park Authority’s video titled Frog Calls. The Fairfax County Park Authority offers many programs for the public on amphibians and vernal pools. Ellanor C. Lawrence Park will host Amphibians After Dark on Saturday, March 28, 2020, from 7:30 to 9 p.m.

Author Lara Dolata is a Park and Recreation Specialist at Ellanor C. Lawrence Park in Chantilly, Va.