Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service: “A Day On, Not a Day Off” in Potomac Overlook Regional Park

Photo of volunteers posing with bagged invasive waste

Text and photos Leslie Cameron unless otherwise noted.

Created in 1994 through federal legislation sponsored by U.S. Senator Harris Wolford and U.S. Rep. John Lewis, the National Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service is observed across the country each year and is referred to as “A Day On, Not a Day Off.”  

The Arlington Regional Master Naturalists sponsored several service projects to commemorate the Day of Service, focusing on conservation of our parks and other natural areas and removing non-native invasive plants. 

Originally scheduled for January 17, the Potomac Overlook Regional Park RiP (Remove Invasive Plants) was rescheduled for January 22 because of a winter storm. ARMN member and Volunteer Park Steward Gary Shinners led a group of ARMN and other volunteers who continued the work of removing non-native invasive plants from the park.

Photo of volunteers standing in a circle.
Gary Shinners discussing the work plan for the morning group at Potomac Overlook Regional Park.

With temperatures in the 20s, a group of volunteers gathered to remove several exotic invasives, including east Asian Bush honeysuckle (Diervilla spp.)—which is distinct from our native Northern bush honeysuckle (Diervilla lonicera),—Wineberry (Rubus phoenicolasius), Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica), Multi-flora rose (Rosa multiflora), and Winged euonymus (Euonymus alatus, aka Burning bush), as well as English ivy (Hedera helix). 

English ivy is a very common invasive in Arlington’s parks and in many property owners’ yards.  Learn how this invasive vine kills trees, as well as how to remove it, here.

Photo of two volunteers watching as another volunteer demonstrates cutting a vine
ARMN member and Past-President Marion Jordan explaining to community volunteers how to remove English Ivy from trees.

Early European settlers brought English ivy to North America. As noted, these other invasives were brought from Asia. Once introduced in North America, they escaped cultivation into natural areas and became invasive. Not all non-native plants are invasive, and not all plants that grow aggressively are invasive. Species designated by Virginia as invasive are those introduced by humans into a region where they did not evolve and that cause harm to natural resources, economic activity, or humans. 

What makes a plant invasive? Plants in their native range are kept in check by the predators, herbivores, insects, even fungi, bacteria, and other microorganisms that are part of their ecosystem. Plants outside their native range leave many of these ecosystem partners behind, and there is nothing stopping them from taking over and harming our ecosystems. Residents can help by not buying or planting any species on Virginia’s list of invasives.

In addition to removing invasive species, volunteers at Potomac Overlook Regional Park are planting native plants, as funds are available.

The Potomac Overlook event is one of several conservation projects that ARMN sponsored or participated in to commemorate the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service. (See: ARMN Blog piece listing area MLK Day of Service invasive removal events.) Two of these other projects were at Charles A. Stewart Park in Arlington and at Theodore Roosevelt Island.

ARMN members who lead the Theodore Roosevelt Island invasive removal, from left:  Stephanie Martin (Park Steward), Melanie LaForce, Heidi Moyer (Park Steward), and Maggie Siddle removing invasive plants from the island park. (Park Steward Erica Shifflett not pictured.) Photo by Luis Rodriguez.
Photo of volunteers posing with bagged invasive waste
Invasive removal volunteers at Charles A. Stewart Park in Arlington. Photo by Bill Browning.

While some of the events had to be postponed or cancelled because of adverse weather conditions, many of these opportunities are ongoing, and volunteers are welcome! ARMN has more information on its website on year-round volunteer opportunities in Arlington, Alexandria, Falls Church, and Fairfax County. 

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