Dyke Marsh: Everett Clocker
Years ago when the assault was first started on Dyke Marsh, much of that area was owned by the Smoot Sand and Gravel Co. That caused the start of the Potomac Valley Recreation and Conservation Consult and that was the focal point. Later on after I got here I was named to represent the people from Alexandria and Southerly on that Consult.
I'm a retired forester. When I was in the National Forest I had a great deal of experience in this field. Problems got to be so intense that we (the consult) were meeting one night a week, then two nights a week, and so on. I had been through three coronaries before I came here. I used to break down doors when they wouldn't open, and sleep when I could so I finally paid for it, but it's hard to keep your nose out of things. The doctor told me, "No more." Well, I left the job in the Potomac Valley Recreation consult.
The next assault on Dyke Marsh was in the early 1950's, when this Belle View apartment group were gonna put up twenty story apartments. When you put up that kind of stuff you had to put down piling. Since you had to put piling down. the more stories you could get on it, the cheaper! Then they were going to pump the field. That's when the fight was renewed. They wound up with these three white apartments you see down there now. That was just the first step. The next step was to go right out and make it look like Rio de Janiero, all the way.
Then the local radio station, WPIK, wanted to put a tower where they put this highway, Interstate 495. Of course that would have gone up hundreds of feet. So we mustered everyone we could to fight that, including the Airlines Pilot Association. It was a hazard to them, sticking up right down there. We finally got rid of that, but in the mean time I was prodding to get that land into public ownership. We didn't have the authority. If you don't have the authority you get it. So we got two or three congressmen interested. One of them was a woman from Ohio. Sometimes you get a knowledgeable woman like that in her position, they get a lock on something, and they're gonna get it done. That's the kinda people I like to deal with. She went down there, looked at it, walked through all that and finally got the authority to make a trade with Smoot. That's the way that area was eventually saved.
It (Dyke Marsh) starts to the south of the bridge in Hunting Towers, on the riverside of the Parkway. When I came here there were houses there. They got rid of those, got that into public ownership. Those houses were not high quality, but people lived there and probably would have liked to stay, but there are times when you have to give way to the public's interest.
To the north of the Hollin Hall Shopping Center directly across the parkway on the river side is private land. As far as I know, that's still private. They were gonna build high rise apartments there a few years ago. There is some public land in front of it to the north. That's about the south end of Dyke Marsh.
When I built up on the hill there was nothing between me and the river except the parkway. It was all forest. I had all the snakes and birds and mammals in my yard. I had a mail box out in the street and I gave that up every summer 'cause the bluebirds used it. Who see's any blue birds anymore? The mailman and I decided that we were outranked, so we made other arrangements through the summer. I have over sixty species of birds in my yard. I feed and water them. I have three bird baths which I keep fresh all the time. I fan 'em and change their diapers. I have 'em through the winter and summer.
The remnants of them now are down at Dyke Marsh. That area in there is perfect for that but to anyone else that area is worthless. These are critical areas in the life cycle and the food chain of water life. The corps of engineers wants to give up some field down there and some of the old stuff Smoot Sand and Gravel dug out. We have to be very careful that we fill only up to a certain depth from the surface down in order to retain our water bird life in there. They're willing to do that. They're very progressive In spite of what you read about the Corps Engineers - very progressive outfit.
Dyke Marsh is the center of every thing around here. Last year we had the big-horned owl. Every body had to go down. I have that same owl in my yard. Went home one evening and my wife said, "My gosh, here's our friend." She was sitting on the power line into the house. Dyke Marsh you'll find that is a fascinating laboratory. To look at it from the uneducated eye it looks like a lot of waste land that'd be better if we could put some dispossessed people there and some high rise apartments for the rich. Everything is worthless until people start looking at it with the right eye and using it the way it should be used. Then it is invaluable.
Once in a while I walk down in the swampy area. Sometimes I get up to my knees. I like to see what's happening. I always see my pets, my deer tracks down there. Now that dogs are supposed to be penned up, why they're probably doing quite well down there where there's plenty of food for them.
We had some of the migrating geese nest down there now, every summer they stay here. They don't go any farther north. They like that down there. It's close to the White House. They have nice views! After the corn and small grain harvest it's loaded with food that the water birds just love. That's the reason there's hunters to the south of us, in the Carolina's specially, and further south that haven't liked this because the migrating ducks and geese have been staying here. The water's open, food's good in the fields, so they haven't gone down there to be shot like they used to. Well, Dyke Marsh is a pretty popular place for quite a few of those birds.
In a community the most of the people never know. They never know until it's too late. How do you get word to them? You contact the media to try to get them to advise people. All people don't read either. They don't pick up a paper except to read the funnies. Public meetings - but who goes to public meetings? Then you try to go to doors with handouts. You'll find a gathering of some, who are saying, "I'm not gonna put up with this," and then you start putting the pressure on. Get your facts. You can go down there and get in front of the bulldozers and all that all you want to and the media'll come take your picture, but that's not the best approach. Get your hard facts and then stand on them and force them to put theirs on the table.
What is Dyke Marsh? Who knows? Find out. Go to the public records and see their maps and charts. Find out what has been done. Who do I want to join up with? If there isn't anyone to join up with, do I want to go out in front and start laying the stuff on the line and get people to join up with me?
I'm really tired. I'm in my 70's and I am so busy I haven't had time to go back on that old history. I got the looking glass out.