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Secretary of Interior Visited Dyke Marsh to Launch $100 Million in Hurricane Sandy Grants

Announcement

Glenda Booth spoke. Officials included Senator Tim Kaine, Congressman Jim Moran, Secretary Sally Jewell and Superintendent Alex Romero.  Photo by T.D. Hobart.

Barry Stahl

 NPS Horticulturist Barry Stahl taught students about the marsh's plants. Photo by Tami Heilemann.

    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.

Alex Romero

George Washington Parkway Superintendent Alex Romero's responsibilities include Dyke Marsh. Photo by Dorothy McManus.

    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.

 

 

Girl Scout Troop 2459 Tackled Trash at Dyke Marsh

    Ten enthusiastic Girl Scouts from Troop 2459 visited the Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve on April 28 and cleaned up trash along the shoreline. They are working on an animal habitat badge. Their troop leader is Sarah Olson and they are based at Fort Hunt Elementary School in the Mount Vernon area. FODM President Glenda Booth, Vice President Ned Stone and FODMer Patty McCarthy talked about the harm of trash on wildlife and habitat.

Clean up Ned Stone Clean up

NPS Buoy
 

Buoy at the Belle Haven Marina.  Photo by NPS.

 
New Buoys Mark River Boundaries
     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, Spring 2015 - Glenda C. Booth

      Spring's awakening is always eventful in Dyke Marsh. Snakes and turtles stretch out to sun. Warblers return or migrate through. Fox kits leave their dens. Frogs start calling and insects start stirring.

     This year, visitors delighted in an Eastern screech owl pair in a cavity quietly watching passersby on the Haul Road. We think they mated. We have confirmed one breeding pair of bald eagles and seven occupied osprey nests. And we have a new beaver lodge on the island near the bike path at Pipeline Bay.

     As we approach next year's centennial of the National Park Service, President Barack Obama has announced plans to allow families of all fourth graders free admission to all national parks for one year. This is could increase public support for our parks and encourage environmental stewardship in the next generation. However, given cuts to the NPS budget in recent years and the shortage of rangers already, visitor experiences could be less than ideal. NPS faces an $11.5 billion deferred maintenance shortfall. The George Washington Memorial Parkway has a $258 million backlog, much of which involves parkway and building repairs. You might want to contact your U.S. senators and representatives and advocate for increased funding for our national parks. NPS Partnership: We have prepared a work plan with the Park Service and are working on a new partnership agreement.

     Pumpkin Ash Project

Pumpkin ash flowers
 

The flowers of the pumpkin ash emerge in late April. Photo by Ed Eder.

 
      Pumpkin ash trees make up a significant portion of the tree canopy in Dyke Marsh. NPS officials tell us that an impending emerald ash borer infestation is likely to kill these trees over a 20-year period. With guidance from NPS (Brent Steury) and the services of Bartlett Tree Experts (Joshua Darkow), we are conducting a test project to protect two small sets of pumpkin ash trees of mixed sexes from this infestation. Bartlett will treat selected trees that hopefully will protect them for two years. If the trees withstand the infestation and continue to bloom this year and next, we and NPS will continue to treat them biannually so that a small native breeding stock can be maintained. We also hope to conduct a seed collection program.

     Other Highlights

     We are supporting Fairfax County's project to restore the "Quander Road outfall" and stream, a failing system in Mount Vernon Park that is sending unacceptable sediment loads into Dyke Marsh West.

     In a joint project with the National Park Service, we have completed three of four seasonal brochures to help visitors identify what they might see in the preserve. Our invasive plants team works regularly. As we go to press, we will again welcome 30 students from the T.C. Williams High School's International Academy to Dyke Marsh. They will help us attack English ivy. And we will host a trash cleanup.

     Some dedicated FODMers are surveying frogs in Dyke Marsh West. Laura Sebastianelli reports, "March 31 was the first night a frog was heard and documented in the area by a FODM FrogWatcher. A small but vocal group of spring peepers was recorded at the Belle View Elementary School in their restored wetland habitat! On April 6, a single spring peeper was heard and documented on the River Towers grounds near the community gardens. Both of these events are encouraging as previous anecdotal reports suggested that spring peepers have been absent from western Dyke Marsh for three years. FODM Frogwatchers will continue to monitor frogs through August."

     On March 28, we received a community service award from the Nelly Custis Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution for our support of Dyke Marsh restoration.
See you in Dyke Marsh soon!

October 25 Walk Highlights Dyke Marsh’s Autumn Assets

Barry Sperling

Barry Sperling explains clouds to the group.

Northern brown snake

A little northern brown snake seen on the walk.

    "I have a passion for plant skeletons. They really stand out in the fall and winter," said Pat Salamone, FODM Board member and walk leader, as she led 30 FODMers and friends on a fall walk on October 25. Walkers studied the plants, animals and more on a beautiful, sunny, 70-degree afternoon. FODM member Barry Sperling explained the day’s weather. He was prepared to discuss clouds, but around 2 p.m., there was only a faint wisp of a cirrus cloud in the east in the clear blue sky.
    Among many highlights, Pat shared these tidbits:
    Sneezeweed earned its name because it was once used as a substitute for snuff. It is insect pollinated.
    Pokeweed plants were showing off magenta stems. A few deep purple berries had not yet been devoured by birds.
    The seedheads of the sweet autumn clematis always look like they’re having “having a bad hair day.”
    The leaves of the poison ivy vine climbing up tree trunks and limbs can seem like the tree’s actual leaves. Poison ivy was once exported to England because of its bright red and yellow fall colors. Poison ivy, including the fuzzy vines of winter, can cause a rash on humans year-round.
Common checkered skipper

The Common checkered skipper is a late fall species.

    The “gum balls” of the sweetgum tree are intricately designed. They are green in the fall and turn brown when they mature. The seeds falling from the gumballs can sound like rainfall. The tree’s leaves turn from yellow to red to maroon in autumn.
    The marsh’s signature narrow-leaf cattails have begun releasing their seeds to the wind from their brown “hotdog” flowers.
    Goldenrod and ironweed plants were sporting fuzzy seedheads.
    Walkers spotted many great egrets, several great blue herons, gulls, terns, grebes, cormorants, a beautiful grasshopper and two little northern brown snakes. At the end of the boardwalk, they watched a beautiful red fox forage along the shoreline across the water on Dyke Island in the bright afternoon sun.  A photo collection and description of plants seen on the walk are on our Marsh Life page.

New Bulletin Board and Bicycle Racks Installed on Haul Road

Carson Cameron
Bicycle racks

    On August 9, 2014, Carson Cameron and his Boy Scout Troop 1509 colleagues installed a new bulletin board and bicycle racks at the Haul Road entrance as an Eagle Scout Service Project. Carson organized 16 boys and adults who worked diligently from 8 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. FODM thanks Carson, his helpers and the National Park Service for the new bulletin board.
Digging holes
Wheelbarrow
   

    Photo collection contributed courtesy of Scott Cameron.

    Organizer of the project, Carson Cameron in front of the newly installed bulletin board. F

 

    E Lots of holes need to be dug prior to installing the new bulletin board and bicycle racks.

 

 

    Ground is leveled off after installing new bicycle racks in the holes. F

 

 

   E Materials brought in by wheelbarrow help to complete the job.

 

 

International Academy Students Visit Dyke Marsh

Digging holes
Group photo

T.C. Williams students
Ned Stone
    Biology students from the T. C. Williams High School International Academy visited the Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve on April 25 to learn about native and non-native plants. They planted native wetland-friendly plants along the trail between the “dogleg” and the boardwalk. The students are from all over the world.
    Thank you, T. C. Williams students! You are a great group. Come back soon!

    Photo collection - clockwise from right by Glenda Booth:

    T. C. Williams High School students arrive, ready to plant some native plants.

 

    FODM Vice-President Ned Stone explains why non-native, invasive plants can be a problem.

 

    The group celebrated their planting successes with a group photo on the bridge across the wetland.

 

    Students dug holes and planted new native plants.

 

 

Volunteers Prepare to Attack Invasive Plants

Eric Oberg

Erik Oberg explains how to use clippers to clip an English ivy vine off a tree.

Dorothy Canter

FODM member Dorothy Canter attacks English ivy on a tree. Dorothy is also President of the Friends of Fort Hunt Park.

Eric Oberg

Erik Oberg explains that wild grape is a native and has a peeling bark, not to be confused with Oriental bittersweet and other invasive vines, most of which twine.

Garlic Mustard

Cory Neissel listens as NPS Biologist Erik Oberg explains how to identify garlic mustard.

  

    Thirty eager volunteers participated in a training on May 16 on how to attack invasive plants along the George Washington Memorial Parkway, sponsored by FODM and the National Park Service (NPS). NPS Biologist Erik Oberg explained the harm of non-native plants and trained volunteers in how to reduce and manage these plants. Many invasive plants outcompete valuable natives and form monocultures, thus reducing biodiversity, Oberg explained. He said that NPS has to prioritize and perform a "triage operation" along the parkway, given the abundance and widespread distribution of non-natives.

    The target invasive plants for the teams are garlic mustard, amur or bush honeysuckle, multiflora rose, wineberry, English ivy, Japanese honeysuckle and Oriental bittersweet. Volunteers will "enter into a relationship with the parkway," he suggested and he asked everyone to commit to four hours a month. If you'd like to help, contact Erik at erik_oberg@nps.gov or FODM Vice-President at nedstone@cox.net.

Photos by Glenda Booth.

 

 

Ned Stone is Recognized

    Ned Stone
   

Ned Stone receives the Potomac Champion Award.  Photo: Alice Ferguson Foundation.

     FODM Vice President Ned Stone received the Potomac Champion Award at the Alice Ferguson Foundation's 8th Annual Trash Summit on October 18, 2013. Lori Arguellles, Executive Director of the foundation, lauded Ned's untiring efforts to remove trash from the Potomac River and the Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve. “Whether he's cruising along Belle Haven Marina in his kayak with DC Surfriders or making upgrades to the Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve, he graciously works to mold a future generation of environmental stewards,” she commented. She also cited Ned's work to control invasive plants and lead nature walks.
     The Trash Summit is a forum of elected officials, government agencies, non-governmental organizations, businesses and citizens gather to develop approaches to reduce litter and waste in the Potomac watershed.
     Congratulations Ned!

Virginia's Wetlands

FODM President Glenda Booth has written an article published in the September-October 2012 Virginia Wildlife magazine titled "Virginia's Watery Wonderlands" describing wetlands in Virginia. Read the entire article.

FODM Presents Dyke Marsh Photo to Senator Tim Kaine

Sen. Kaine   

Dorothy McManus, Ned Stone, Trudi Hahn and Glenda Booth present Dyke Marsh photo to Senator Tim Kaine.

  
FODM presented pictures of the Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve to our federal elected officials, in appreciation of their support of our efforts and the preserve: Senators Mark Warner and Jim Webb and Congressmen Jim Moran, Gerry Connolly and John Dingell. On August 1, FODMers Glenda Booth, Ned Stone, Trudi Hahn and Dorothy McManus met with Senator Tim Kaine and gave him a photograph of the marsh, taken by Ned Stone.

Dyke Marsh Islands Get Official Names

Dyke Island
 

The largest island in the marsh is now officially called "Dyke Island."  Photo by T. D. Hobart.

 

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.

Surface Elevation Table
 

A Surface Elevation Table used to evaluate gain or loss of sediments.  Photo by Ned Stone.

 
Some weather conditions can produce unusually high water levels, bringing sediments onto higher ground. On the other hand, heavy rain in the local area can produce strong outflows, and will wash some of this sediment back out. Also working against building up the marsh are two long-term effects: sea level rise and the general subsidence of the entire Maryland-Virginia area. Several different techniques are involved in evaluating the gain or loss of sediments. One, deployed by the National Park Service, is called a SET (Surface Elevation Table) (see photo). Researchers have installed a dozen of these in the marsh in the last decade. Other techniques involve collecting deposits on ceramic tiles and radioisotope sampling as a function of depth. These measurements were made at approximately 24 sites in locations throughout the marsh. Results on several time scales - month, season, year, and decade - are presented in the paper. This research by Palinkas and Walters is not yet complete. Also, the sediment results vary considerably from place to place in the marsh. For those reasons, it is not yet possible to draw any firm conclusions about gain and loss over the whole marsh. Reading their report, however, suggests that while the marsh is generally gaining in deposited sediments, it may nonetheless be losing to subsidence.

 

Dyke Marsh
 

A beautiful array of fall colors at Dyke Marsh.
Photo by Dave Davis.

 

National Treasure Right Here

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.

Don Robinson

FODM member Don Robinson identifies and removes invasive plants in the marsh. Photo by Ned Stone.

FODM Members Remove Invasive Plants

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 nedstone@verizon.net, or contact Elizabeth Ketz-Robinson or Don Robinson at 703-768-1344.
 

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