The IMA Volunteer Site Leader Program Procedures
Interested Volunteer Site Leaders should fill out and submit the online registration form. Park staff and the interested volunteer meet to discuss potential IMA sites in parks that draw the volunteer's interest. A visit to that park determines whether it is suitable for the IMA program (normally 1/2 acre in size, containing some of the 10 targeted invasive species).
IMA Volunteer Site Leaders are required to attend three types of classes before their first workday; Ecosystems and Species, Volunteers & the IMA Manual, and Plant Identification. Class descriptions are provided below.
Ecological survey & plotting site:
Species are identified and recorded within the potential site and the perimeter is plotted (corners marked with white PVC pipes and flags). Once this is done, the IMA Volunteer Site Leader schedules workdays in coordination with the IMA Volunteer Coordinator. Workdays are posted on the IMA website and on national volunteer databases.
Prior to workdays:
The Site Leader instructs the volunteers to dress appropriately (long sleeves, long pants, sturdy shoes) and to bring water. The IMA program provides gloves and enough tools for 8-15 people. If the Site Leader attracts a larger group, the site leader should ask that the volunteers bring their own tools. Only handheld, manually operated tools, such as loppers and pruners, are allowed on IMA sites.
The Site Leader is responsible for workday training, pointing out the target species to be removed and explaining the proper technique for removal. Studies show if this training is offered in conjunction with further ecological/naturalist information, volunteers have a better feeling at the end of the workday. All volunteers must sign the FCPA Volunteer Sign-in sheets. The site leader returns these forms to the IMA Volunteer Coordinator monthly.
The Site Leader is given a long-sleeved shirt that has the FCPA Volunteer logo on the front and the IMA logo on the back, a Volunteer RMD name badge, a red hat with the IMA logo embroidered on it, and a site plan that is signed by the site leader and FCPA. The "IMA uniform" helps protect Site Leaders from the elements, makes them easily identifiable for the other volunteers, and shows that they are official FCPA Volunteers. The site plan is the official, written permission from the FCPA that proves the Site Leader has permission to perform the specified work within park property.
After each workday:
The Site Leader files an online Action Report. The IMA Volunteer Coordinator tracks the volunteer hours of the Site Leaders as well as those of their volunteers. This number is reported to our funding agency.
We ask that the staff post an IMA sign, which we provide, at the site. This is to direct any IMA questions straight to Resource Management Division. Depending on the species targeted, there is a possibility some debris would have to be picked up from the sites after workdays. We provide the garbage bags. We may ask that some tools be stored at the park, depending on the park and site leaders.
Training Requirements for IMA Volunteer Site Leaders
As a new Invasive Management Area Volunteer Site Leader, you will have the opportunity to have a crash course in Restoration Ecology and Natural Resource Management. All classes are open to any resident of Fairfax County, however space is limited and priority will go to registered site leaders. These are the classes:
Ecosystems and Species: Learn about Fairfax County ecology and what distinguishes local native flora from the invasive plants. Explore in depth the abiotic (non-living) components of our local ecosystems, including soil and water. The native plant community is here for a reason - come find out why.
Volunteers & the IMA Manual (not available in stores): Volunteers are the most important aspect to effective management of invasive pests. This session gives hints on where to find volunteers, how to recruit them for workdays, and how to keep them coming back for more. Information about Fairfax County Park Authority policies and procedures, safety issues, and how to fill out IMA action reports will be covered. Reviewing the IMA Volunteer Site Leader manual will provide an opportunity to learn about the program, an IMA site plan, and the necessary resources for future use.
Plant Identification: Join IMA Volunteer Leaders, past and present, and Park Authority naturalists in an exploration of local flora. Special emphasis will be given to the priority IMA species, but who can help being distracted by the native flora and other resources that might cross our paths? Naturalists will help participants see the difference between healthy and unhealthy habitats and will talk about landscape features that might contribute to the spread of invasive plants.