Secretary of Interior Visited Dyke Marsh to Launch $100 Million in Hurricane Sandy Grants
On Tuesday, October 29, U.S. Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell visited the Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve to launch a $100 million Hurricane Sandy Competitive Grant Program. Secretary Jewell and local officials also celebrated the award of a $25 million grant to restore Dyke Marsh, part of a $162 million Interior investment in 45 restoration and research projects to restore wetlands and beaches and rebuild shorelines. Speakers included U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, Congressman Jim Moran, George Washington Memorial Parkway Superintendent Alex Romero and Friends of Dyke Marsh President Glenda Booth. Over a dozen members of the media were there to cover the event including television, radio and newspaper reporters.
Students from Jefferson Houston PreK-8 School came to learn about the marsh and its ecology. After the announcement, Secretary Jewell joined the students and officials and from the Alexandria Seaport Foundation in an outdoor learning activity and National Park Service Horticulturist Barry Stahl introduced students to some of the plants common in the wetland.
Click on this link to watch a video of Secretary Jewell's visit to Dyke Marsh.
New FODM Board Member - Katherine Wychulis
By Erik Oberg, Biologist, NPS
On September 27, NPS's Natural Resources and Lands staff marked Dyke Marsh's federal boundary in the Potomac River with 11 buoys. This marks the end of four years of work to secure the approvals, permits and funding to help visitors see and understand the full extent of Dyke Marsh and how much land has eroded since the NPS began managing the marsh.
Working as a team, park staff safely moved and set over 3,300 pounds of concrete anchors, buoys and chain. With excellent satellite reception, anchors were placed within 17 inches of the target for every location. Each anchor was given enough chain to allow for site-specific water depth, anchor sinkage, tide and peak flood variation.
In addition to placing all 11 boundary buoys, NPS staff also gave assistance to U.S. Geological Survey researchers by extracting three soil cores from the marsh. These cores will be analyzed to provide a millennium-scale climate record of the region and supplement a new joint publication.
President's Message, Fall 2013 - Glenda C. Booth
This fall, the ospreys departed and the shorebirds, warblers and other birds moved through. Alert commuters glancing at the mudflats at low tide spotted great egrets that had dispersed and left their natal areas. Now we look forward to waterfowl sporting their winter plumage. And it won’t be long before bald eagles begin their courtship!
There could hardly be more welcomed news for the Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve than the news we received on October 24 – the Department of Interior will provide $25 million to restore Dyke Marsh. These funds come on top of the $2.5 million in National Airport mitigation funds to restore the promontory, phase one of the restoration. Many people deserve credit, including Congressman Jim Moran, NPS and Department of Interior officials, many local and state elected officials and numerous Dyke Marsh supporters.
We hope to see NPS’s proposed “preferred alternative” restoration plan and restoration underway soon. Given the accelerating rate of erosion in Dyke Marsh, it will be gone in 30 to 40 years if nothing is done.
Leaders Applaud Parks
At a September 29 celebration of one of our “sister” parks, Fort Hunt, supporters heard several leaders applaud national parks. Here are some examples:
Other elected officials who attended and spoke include Senator Adam Ebbin, Delegate Rob Krupicka and Mount Vernon School Board Member Dan Storck.
Wear and Tear -- Monthly Traffic
A National Park Service survey of 2013 “traffic” on the Mount Vernon bicycle trail that goes through Dyke Marsh reveals some staggering numbers. At “mile 7,” the counter located in Dyke Marsh, there were 16,057 “trips” in January; 10,844 in February; and 17,106 in March. NPS says, “Number of users is difficult to determine with over a dozen ingress/egress points for the trail.” Some users may pass multiple counters. Do they understand the jewel they are zipping through?
National park budgets have dropped 13 percent over the past three years and the nation’s 401 parks have a $12 billion (billion) maintenance backlog, reports the National Parks and Conservation Association. National parks are 1/15th of the federal budget and provide a $10 return for every $1.00 invested. (Virginia has 22 national parks attracting over 23 million visitors a year.) No matter how many times I see the Ken Burns’ film, National Parks: America’s Best Idea, I am awed by our country’s natural wonders and our national park system. People in the film refer to “nature’s superlatives,” “the most magnificent places in America” and our “common treasures.” Yellowstone was the first national park in the entire world. Let’s protect -- and restore -- our “Yellowstone.”
We are now planning our 2014 activities. We welcome your suggestions.
T.C. Williams Students Visited Dyke Marsh
On October 24, 2013, students from the International Academy of T.C.
Williams High School in Alexandria visited the Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve.
They are in Ms. Leigh Arscott's biology class.
Photo collection - clockwise from right by Glenda Booth:
T. C. Williams students leaning over the boardwalk looking for non-native snails.
Barry Stahl, National Park Service horticulturist, explained how cattails disperse seeds.
Students conduct some water sampling in the marsh by boat.
Students studied the trees in hopes of seeing bald eagles.
Making Community Connections
The Friends of Dyke Marsh participated in Gum Springs Community Day on June 15 along with over 15 other community organizations and 20 vendors. Volunteers Ned Stone, Greg Crider and Jennifer Smith were treated to lively steel drum music, good eats and many friendly visitors on a beautiful Saturday afternoon in the Martin Luther King, Jr., Park in the historic Gum Springs community.
Photo collection - clockwise from right by Glenda Booth:
FODM members Ned Stone and Greg Crider greeted visitors at the FODM table at the June 15 Gum Springs Community Day festivities.
Sara Hussain, a student at Hayfield Secondary School, stopped by the FODM table to learn about the Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve.
Jahmai Arrington, a sixth grader at Whitman Middle School, visited the FODM display and learned about Dyke Marsh.
Brownie Troop Visits Dyke Marsh
A local Brownie troop visited the marsh on
April 8. They were guided by National Park Service Ranger David Lassman. In
the photo (left) Ranger Lassman leads the troop in a pledge to protect the
Larry Brindza, a Northern Virginian who bills himself as Citizen Scientist, Monarch Expert, Author and Tagger, captivated the audience on May 15 describing his work with monarch butterflies at the Occoquan National Wildlife Refuge and on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. He told the group that he has been “blissfully tagging monarchs since 2001.”
Opening with “The monarch butterfly is one of the most fantastic critters on the planet,” he went on to describe the stages of growth, habitat, migration patterns and how he meticulously weighs, measures and tags these orange and black butterflies every fall as they migrate south, many to Mexico’s rugged Transvolcanic Mountain Range.
The number of monarchs in North America reached a record low in 2012, a 59 percent decline from 2011. Brindza attributes the drop in numbers to habitat destruction in the United States, severe weather and timber cutting in the wintering ground in Mexico, with loss of habitat being the major factor. He urged people to plant more milkweed, the monarch’s host plant. “Anyone of us can plant milkweed,” he said. “It’s the best thing people can do.”
Monarch butterflies can be seen in the Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve. The meeting was sponsored by the Friends of Dyke Marsh, the Friends of the Potomac River Refuges and Georgetown University’s Center for the Environment.
Dyke Marsh Islands Get Official Names
The multi-agency U.S. Board of Geographic Names has given four islands in the Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve official names – Angel, Bird, Coconut and Dyke Island.
As we reported in our summer 2012 issue, the Friends of Dyke Marsh suggested four different names -- Osprey, Marsh Wren, Kingbird and Cormorant Islands. Congressman Jim Moran and the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors agreed with FODM’s suggestions.
The Board accepted names recommended by the U.S. Geological Survey scientists who prepared the comprehensive 2010 study documenting the severe erosion occurring in Dyke Marsh (http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2010/1269/) and entered the new names into the Geographic Names Information System, the official repository (http://geonames.usgs.gov).
Commenting on the decision, Congressman Moran said, "Dyke Marsh is one of Northern Virginia's treasured wetlands and deference should be given to local community and local government when it comes to naming geographic sites. The Friends of Dyke Marsh proposed thoughtful and appropriate names for the four islands and I am disappointed USGS rejected the recommendations. Moving forward, we must continue working to preserve Dyke Marsh. Regardless of what the islands are named, they are important to the community."
Our 2012 article provides the rationale of the Board’s decisions and for FODM’s recommendations. Generally, FODM argued that the names should reflect the flora or fauna that are typically present and observed by those who know the area best.
The National Park Service told the board that they have “no objection” to the names recommended by USGS scientists. The website of the Board states that its goal is to “maintain uniform geographic name usage throughout the federal government. . . In partnership with federal, state and local agencies, the Board provides a conduit through which uniform geographic name usage is applied and current names data are promulgated.”
Research on Sediment Dynamics in Dyke Marsh
Many of us have wondered, "Is the marsh growing or shrinking? Is it being rebuilt by the river, or are we losing it to erosion?" To provide some answers to these questions, research in the gain and loss of sediments in the marsh has been undertaken by Cindy Palinkas and David Walters of the Horn Point Laboratory of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science in Cambridge, MD, in cooperation with the National Park Service, building on earlier work by Katia Engelhardt. They reported their work in a poster paper at a recent conference of the American Geophysical Union. The goal of their study is more modest than predicting the ultimate fate of the marsh: "to better understand the spatial and temporal variability in sedimentary processes in a freshwater tidal marsh." There are competing effects at work in setting the level of the marsh relative to the river. The Potomac always carries a burden of sediment, which is greatly enhanced following heavy rain upstream. Two daily incoming tides flood parts of the marsh, and some of the river-borne sediment is left behind in those areas.
The following is a copy of a letter to the editor written by FODM President Glenda Booth and published in the August 26 edition of the Mount Vernon Gazette.
Many newcomers view Northern Virginia as a suburban sea of tract homes, dense development, shopping malls and traffic jams.
I hope they realize that we are blessed with a natural jewel, which former U. S. Senator John Warner called “a magnificent little oasis.” It is the Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve on the banks of the Potomac River in the Mount Vernon area of Fairfax County, just south of Old Town Alexandria.
At 485 acres, the preserve is one of the last tidal wetlands on the river. Tidal freshwater marshes are rare, says Dr. Elizabeth Wells, a George Washington University wetland plant expert. This wetland complex is one of the most significant temperate, tidal, freshwater, riverine marshes in the national park system. Thus, it is a national treasure as well.
Congress designated it as a preserve in 1959 “so that fish and wildlife development and their preservation as wetland wildlife habitat shall be paramount.” Today, it has 300 known species of plants, 6,000 arthropods, 38 fish, 16 reptiles, 14 amphibians and over 230 birds, Like all wetlands, Dyke Marsh provides ecological services: flood control, water quality enhancement, habitat, fish nursery, shoreline stabilization and recreational opportunities.
It’s been excavated, dumped in and invaded by exotics. Commendably, the U.S. National Park Service is moving to restore damaged areas.
The Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve is “the nearest thing to primeval wilderness in the immediate vicinity of the city,” wrote naturalist Louis Halle in 1947. Newcomers’ lives can be enriched by the few remaining natural areas like Dyke Marsh that have not fallen prey to the bulldozer and asphalt spreader.
Take a walk out the Haul Road in Dyke Marsh, and when you
round the bend you will be treated to an open view of the Potomac River on your
right, thanks to Don Robinson (pictured), Ned Stone and Mary Jo Detweiler. The
three meet Friday mornings to remove Bush (Amur) Honeysuckle and other invasive
plants from Dyke Marsh. After they cut invasives to the ground and flag the cut
stems, National Park Service personnel selectively apply herbicides to the
flagged plants. Stone and Robinson have been trained by NPS to identify and
remove invasives. To join this volunteer effort, please contact either Ned
Stone, 703-765-5441 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact Elizabeth Ketz-Robinson
or Don Robinson at 703-768-1344.