Volunteers Tackle Invasives at County Park

(Conservation Currents, Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District)

“Environmental degradation is the biggest problem we face at this time,” says Lisa Bright, founding member of Earth Sangha, an environmental organization that adheres to the principles of Buddhism—nonviolence, tolerance, self-awareness, and compassion for other living things. Although not all of the Earth Sangha members are Buddhists, they all have in common a commitment to practical environmental action. To this end, Earth Sangha, with its 100 members, has adopted a Fairfax County park to manage its natural resources.

The adopted park is Wilburdale, located off of Backlick Road, just north of Braddock Road in Annandale. The 14-acre park includes the most upstream reach of Backlick Run, which becomes Cameron Run at the confluence with Holmes Run in the City of Alexandria.

About 30 community groups have agreements with the Fairfax County Park Authority under its Adopt-A-Park program. Groups select from a list of activities such as cleaning up litter, maintaining a trail, or building a bat box.

The Earth Sangha agreement is the first of its type to go beyond routine maintenance. The group will take an inventory of the exotic and native species at Wilburdale. Then it will tackle the park section by section, removing the undesirable species and replacing them with the native seedlings they have grown. The group gathers seeds from around the County and nurtures them in a garden plot at Franconia Park. Earth Sangha will also work to stabilize the eroded banks of Backlick Run where it passes through the park.

woman and boy build plant enclosure

Earth Sangha leases several adjacent plots at a community garden in Franconia Park. Almost every Sunday, 8-12 members assemble to build enclosures to protect the plants from animals and excessive sun. The group buys all of the wood, wire, and burlap and pays an annual fee of $840 to the Fairfax County Park Authority for use of the plots. Pictured are Heather Clagett and Matthew Bright.

seedlings grow in enclosures

The seedlings in the enclosures are the products of seeds Earth Sangha gathered last fall from native plants around Fairfax County. The burlap “roofs” shade the plants from too much sun. “We’re replicating their native environment because these plants grow under the shade of the forest canopy,” said Earth Sangha member Brian Marano.

“We want to make and keep this small piece of land ecologically sound,” said Bright. “Hopefully, our replanting efforts will make it a better place for animals, fish, and people.

Wilburdale does have one playing field and a picnic area, but the park is mostly forested.

Wilburdale Park is part of the group’s Potomac Native Forest Project. Lisa Bright’s husband Chris, who spearheaded the project, is an analyst with Worldwatch Institute, an environmental think tank in Washington, DC. He is the author of Life Out of Bounds, a book about how globalization has moved exotic plants and animals into virtually all of the Earth’s ecosystems.

Learn more about Earth Sangha.

To find out how your group can adopt a County park, visit the Park Authority's Adopt-A-Park web page.

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