A determined and energetic group of allies put their hearts, souls, and backs into transforming a tangled, rocky slope into a smooth bed ready for native plants on Saturday August 17th. Their combined efforts transformed a large embankment alongside the W&OD Trail in Arlington where it runs past Bon Air Park. Project coordinator Patrick Wegeng, the Environmental Landscape Manager for Arlington County Parks and Natural Resources Division, had put out a call for help to the Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia, Tree Stewards, Remove Invasive Plants (RIP), Virginia Native Plant Society, and Arlington Master Naturalists, who responded in force, and with gusto!
Patrick and his crew had already removed invasives and re-planted the ornamental garden on the opposite side of the Trail, where Boy Scouts and a large corporation had lent their hands in order to protect the riparian buffer of Four Mile Run Stream at that site. But the new planting was threatened by a constant influx of invasive seeds from the embankment nearby. This part of the trail is right off Wilson Boulevard, where it gets a lot of public traffic. People noticed the improvements that were made and had shown a lot of interest in the project, so completing both sides of the trail seemed like a good use of time and funds.
The Park and Natural Resources crew prepared the site by cutting down 20 foot high invasive Japanese honeysuckle and porcelain berry plants while preserving the natives that had been marked. On Saturday our task was to clear the embankment of dead stems, branches, vines, and roots – many of which were still deeply embedded in the ground – as well as rocks and trash. Working on the steep slope was a real challenge!
County landscape staff was on hand to help, and the county provided tools, equipment, and trucks as well. A system of ID, mark, rake, and remove was quickly established. As the piles of debris grew at the bottom of the slope, wheelbarrows were filled, pushed to the dumpsters and emptied. While the work went on, the volunteers made good use of the time multi-tasking by sharing information and networking. Who knows what future collaborations may be springing from ideas exchanged on that slope?
By the end of the morning, two dumpsters were completely full, and the entire section had been cleared. A job well done!
Patrick explained that the first planting will consist of annual and perennial rye grass in order to complete the eradication process. He said that if the eradication was sufficient, it was possible for the next phase to begin in October. His eyes sparkled as he described the bank’s new look: “drifts of native wildflowers and grasses; broom sedge, milkweed, little blue stem, black-eyed susans.” Instead of porcelain berry and honeysuckle. Thanks to all!