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FODM Summer Quarterly Membership Meeting September 10, 7:30 p.m.

Virginia sea level

The sea level could rise several feet in Southeast Virginia over the next hundred years. Graph courtesy of VIMS.

The Friends of Dyke Marsh will hold their summer quarterly meeting Wednesday September 10, 7:30 p.m. at the Huntley Meadows Park Visitor Center, 3701 Lockheed Boulevard, Alexandria, VA 22306.  The meeting is free and all are welcome.

    TOPIC: Wetlands and Climate Change: How Do Wetlands Protect Us?

    SPEAKER: Ms. Molly Mitchell, Virginia Institute for Marine Science

Virginia Is In the Hot Seat - Climate change is here now. You can learn how it is affecting Northern Virginia, how wetlands like Dyke Marsh and other natural resources of Northern Virginia will be affected and how Northern Virginia can respond at FODM's September 10 program, 7:30 p.m.

Molly Mitchell, a wetland scientist with the Virginia Institute for Marine Science will examine the impact of climate change and sea level rise on the Potomac River, the role of tidal wetlands like Dyke Marsh in buffering storm energy, absorbing floodwaters and performing other ecological services. She grew up near Dyke Marsh and has expertise in wetlands management and upland water interface.

How is Climate Change Affecting Virginia?

  • The mid-Atlantic sea level will rise between four and twelve inches by 2030.
  • Virginia "could suffer more impacts of climate change than other states because of its latitudinal location." -- Virginia Commission on Climate Change.
  • The Chesapeake Bay is rising twice as fast as the global average. The Potomac River could rise by two feet by 2050, flooding riverside communities and infrastructure.

This program is sponsored by the Friends of Dyke Marsh, Sierra Club, Mount Vernon and Great Falls Groups.

Plastic Pollution -- Join Us in Viewing the Film, "Plastic Paradise", October 17, 7:30 p.m.

Midway Trash

 Many Pacific island shorelines are littered with plastic debris.  Photo by PlasticParadise LLC.

    Plastic is everywhere, a major component of litter in our waterways and along our streets, even accumulating in a huge gyre known as "the great Pacific garbage patch." Birds and other animals often mistake plastic debris for food and ingest pieces, which can be deadly. It can take hundreds of years for some plastics to biodegrade.
    Join us on October 17 to see "Plastic Paradise," a film about the ubiquitous presence and effects of plastic pollution in our environment. In this independent documentary film, journalist/filmmaker Angela Sun goes on a journey of discovery and meets scientists, researchers and volunteers who shed light on the effects of our plastic consumption and learns that plastic is more pervasive -- and more harmful -- than most imagine.
    This program is free and is open to the public. Watch the movie trailer here online. For more information, contact Glenda Booth,, 703-765-5233.
    The film will be shown Friday, October 17, 2014, 7:30 p.m. at Huntley Meadows Park Norma Hoffman Visitor Center, 3701 Lockheed Boulevard, Alexandria 22306, and is sponsored by: Friends of Dyke Marsh; Mount Vernon Unitarian Church, Green Sanctuary Task Force; Alice Ferguson Foundation; Sierra Club/Mount Vernon Group; Friends of Little Hunting Creek; Friends of Fort Hunt Park.

Fall Colors and Clouds Nature Walk at Dyke Marsh, October 25, 1:30 p.m.

Sweetgum tree
    The colors of the marsh in fall include the garnet red of Virginia creeper, the multi-colored tapestry of sweet gum foliage (photo left by G. Booth), the magenta stems of pokeweed, and the gold and purple of late-lingering wildflowers. And don’t forget the colors of the sky and clouds!  Please join the Friends of Dyke Marsh for our annual fall colors walk, which will be led by FODM board member Pat Salamone. In addition, Barry Sperling (FODM member and amateur meteorologist) will tell us about the current weather and how it manifests itself in the clouds we see.
    The walk is free and open to all. We’ll meet at the entrance to the Haul Road (the walking trail that goes through the Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve), south of the Belle Haven parking lot.  We hope you will come along!

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


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

GW 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 2014 - Glenda C. Booth

    It's been a “ping-pong” spring weather-wise, but an interesting one. We've seen screech owls mating, a woodcock doing courtship flight displays and a red-necked grebe in breeding plumage.

    FODMers in River Towers have been captivated by killdeer, tundra swans, Cooper's hawks, beavers, foxes and more. Ned Stone spotted two beaver lodges in Hog Island Gut, with tell-tale sapling trees cut nearby on April 1. Ospreys made a glorious return up and down the river and “our” marina boat ramp pair returned. They “star” in a 13-minute video titled “Osprey Love Nest” by William Young, an Arlington writer, who shot the footage and wrote the script. Ashley Bradford, an artist who lives near Dyke Marsh, narrates. It describes the behavior, anatomy and field marks of the pair, as well as their interactions with other birds Visit FODM's homepage for a link to this video and Bill's other video featuring egrets, coots and eared and horned grebes in the area.

Other news:

  • We are pushing for completion of the final draft restoration plan this fall and elated about the $27.2 million available to finally restore Dyke Marsh.
  • George Washington Memorial Parkway Assistant Superintendent Jon James has moved to a new superintendent job at Manassas National Battlefield Park. Thank you, Jon, for all of your tremendous help and best of luck to you.
  • Over 70 friends cleaned up trash on April 5.
  • In addition to our Sunday bird walks (thank you, leaders), we've explored Dyke Marsh with Alexandria Walkers, Girl Scouts and school groups.
  • Over 70 people heard Chris Hobson's excellent talk on frogs and toads at our March 2 meeting. His Frogs and Toads of Virginia Guide, describing Virginia's 27 species and their calls on a CD is available for $9.95 at The Department of Game and Inland Fisheries website.
  • Don't miss Ed Eder's beautiful photos and more on our Facebook page.

Destroying Bird Food

    For the second year, we expressed concerns about Fairfax County's helicopter spraying to “suppress” fall cankerworms in their larval stage. FODMers met with officials on March 25 at which Board member Katherine Wychulis made an excellent presentation, stressing that the pesticide, Btk, kills all moth and butterfly caterpillars, not just cankerworm caterpillars, when warblers and other birds are migrating through our area. Caterpillars are a major food source for many birds, especially birds feeding their young. Entomologist Doug Tallamy has said that more than 550 caterpillar species can feed on a native oak tree. We and our colleagues from the Audubon Society of Northern Virginia, Friends of Huntley Meadows Park and Friends of Mason Neck State Park urged the county to take another approach. Since then, the Northern Virginia Bird Club has joined the effort. FODMers also maintained that the helicopter noise, proximity and spraying could adversely affect Dyke Marsh's two bald eagle nests.

    The National Park Service (NPS) does not spray or allow this spraying on their properties. A map of the areas targeted is on the Fairfax County website. For information, contact Joan Allen,

Congressman Dingell to Retire

    Michigan Rep. John Dingell, the longest-serving lawmaker in congressional history, announced that he will not seek re-election to the U.S. House of Representatives this year. He helped write many major bills, including the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, Endangered Species Act, Affordable Care Act and Medicare. Few know that it was Congressman Dingell's 1959 bill that added Dyke Marsh to the national park system. In 2009, he attended our 50th anniversary event commemorating enactment of the bill. Best wishes, Congressman Dingell.

Bigger Picture

    Congress is now considering President Obama's proposed budget for fiscal year 2015, which would restore $55 million in funds for NPS after several years of cuts. Virginia's national parks generated nearly $1 billion in economic benefits through more than 23 million visits in 2012, reported Ralph Berrier, in the March 3 Roanoke Times.

    Department of Interior Secretary Sally Jewell has said that she is in the “forever business.” So are we. Advocating for conservation and restoration is a noble cause. Thanks for all that you do.

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

    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.



Many Signs of Spring on FODM's April 19 Walk

Mary Ellen Freesland
Rat Snake
Beaver damage
Alonso Abugattas

    The Friends of Dyke Marsh April 19 spring walk turned into a delightful snake walk. Led by Arlington County Natural Resources Manager Alonso Abugattas, the group had two sightings of a northern watersnake and three sightings of the Eastern rat snake. It was a beautiful day, with spring emerging.

Here are a few highlights, tidbits from Alonso:

Clockwise from right by Glenda Booth

    Redbuds were showing off their bright pink blossoms.

    Beavers are at work in Dyke Marsh. While people usually express concerns about trees that beavers chew down, these rodents do make ponds by building dams, Alonso pointed out.

    Alonso Abugattas shows an introduced or invasive "mystery snail" that is commonly seen all up and down the Potomac River shoreline.

    Several eastern rat snakes were basking in the trees and one slinked for cover under the wooden bridge. It feeds on rodents, birds' eggs, salamanders and lizards.

    The cleavers or bedstraw plant has whorled leaves and will stick on anything, like FODMer Mary Ellen Freesland. It was once used to make bed ticks or mattresses.


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 or FODM Vice-President at

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. 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 ( and entered the new names into the Geographic Names Information System, the official repository (

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, or contact Elizabeth Ketz-Robinson or Don Robinson at 703-768-1344.

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