Recreation Management Rec Report - The Newsletter for Recreation, Sports & Fitness Facility Managers

Feature Story

January 2018

Arlington County 'Pulls Together' to Remove Invasive Plants

By Chandler Garland

Arlington County received a $140,000 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation's "Pulling Together Initiative" to identify and remove invasive plant species along the Washington and Old Dominion Trail. The 45-mile paved trail is popular with cyclist, runners and horseback riders. It stretches through many Northern Virginia counties.

Beginning in September 2018, the project will seek to inventory invasive plant species and infestation levels along the trail. The county will then develop a five-year plan to clear these invasive plants, improve techniques and training to manage the inventoried plants, and educate nearby homeowners on curbing nonnative plant use. The grant will also support Arlington Parks and Recreation's development of a Cooperative Weed Management Area.

Because invasive plants are nonnative, they have no natural predators and therefore spread easily, pushing out native species. They also provide poor and unnatural habitats for local animals and insects, which in turn can harm these populations. Common invasive species to the Virginia area include English ivy, kudzu, Japanese honeysuckle, and bamboo.

Unique to this invasive plant removal initiative is its cooperative approach and partnership with local jurisdictions, state and federal agencies, nonprofits and for-profits to encourage the community to stop the spread of invasive species and restore natural habitats. The plan will bring together the counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, and Prince William; the cities of Alexandria and Falls Church; the towns of Herndon and Leesburg; the community of Reston; the Virginia Department of Forestry; the National Park Service; NOVA Parks; Dominion Energy; and nonprofits Master Naturalists, Earth Sangha and Friends of the W&OD.

"Invasive plants don't care if they grow on public or private land or whose jurisdiction they are in," said Alex Sanders, Arlington County project coordinator. "By working together, we will better manage the invasive plants in our area and help homeowners join in the effort."

Local cooperative efforts in Arlington County are already making a difference. Last spring, Dominion Energy mowed green space beneath the power line along the W&OD Trail. This helped the county combat Japanese honeysuckle and multiflora rose. Since the mowing, the trail has seen a return of a mix of native species including common milkweed, dogbane and sensitive fern.

Another recent success is the Magnolia Bog in Bancroft Park. This rare habitat was overtaken by invasive plants, but thanks to the efforts of volunteers and staff, the bog has an increase in the appearance of native species such as little wood satyr butterflies, rusty blackbirds and gray fox, along with bloodroot and wood anemone.

"Better coordination, improved techniques and enhanced community education are really the one-two-three punch needed to make an impact," said Sarah Archer, Arlington County natural resources specialist. "Our partners have ongoing efforts to remove invasive plants and restore habitat. Working together, our unified approach is sure to have a greater impact in the next five years and far-off future."

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