Friends of Accotink Creek
Virginia Waterway Cleanup Day
part of the International Coastal Cleanup
September & October, 2019

Thanks to all the Friends of Accotink Creek who joined the International Coastal Cleanup along our 12 adopted stretches of Accotink Creek this cleanup season. Thanks to all their efforts, we together removed 335 bags of trash, 22 tires, and junk ranging from a microwave oven to an e-scooter.

See all our cleanup photos on our SHUTTERFLY page!

The Vision: Legions of volunteers sweeping over the length of the creek and tributaries, clearing trash before them like swarms of locusts, then pressing on as zealous missionaries to spread the message far and wide to take responsibility for stopping litter at the source.

The right footwear for a stream cleanup!
October 26, 2019, Cleanup:

By special request of the students of the Fairfax High School Leadership Class, we supported one more cleanup for the fall season. Thank you Leaders!

We had overcast skies, but mild temperatures in the mid-60's. A dozen or so tiny raindrops fell, but barely enough to notice.

The students chose our Pickett Road site, where they brought out an impressive total of 45 volunteers. Although we were there to support the students, they clearly were well prepared on their own. When we arrived at 9:00 to set up, we found that a "Dawn Patrol" of student volunteers had already come and gone, having started at 6:30 with their own supplies.

We needn't have worried that our October 5th cleanup at the same location might have left the students with a scarcity of trash. They managed to bring out 51 bags of trash, eight tires, and odd items including a three-wheeled shopping cart and a plastic lawn chair matching the one found at the same location October 5th.

The enthusiasm of the volunteers was evident from the number of them who returned from the stream with soaked shoes and clothes coated with mud.

We were grateful at the number of students who bravely filled out the trash data forms, logging each individual piece of trash collected.

"Last year, the US used enough plastic water bottles to stretch around the world over 190 times." - How many of them ended up in Accotink Creek?

Our October 5, 2019, stream cleanups:

We had a chilly, but sunny, start to the day. Temperatures rose into the mid-60's by midday as overcast and clouds took over the sky for the afternoon.

Pickett Road was our first site of the day. The Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions was with us, providing most of our 48 volunteers. The members of Oakton High School Green Club also joined us, along with our returning team of indefatigable Falls Church High School students. Thank you, Faith Alliance, Falls Church H.S., and Oakton Green Club! Our volunteers collected 80 bags of trash and 3 tires. Our unique finds here included 2 lawn chairs, a child's tricycle, and a radio/TV tuner.

After many weeks with hardly a trace of rain, Accotink Creek was a sad trickle. The Hatmark Branch tributary here was showing no flow at all.

We found a set of car keys here and puzzled how to find the owner - a solution appeared at our next site.

At Barkley Drive, our second site of the day, we had 22 volunteers. Our Falls Church H.S. team returned. Thank you, Falls Church H.S.! The volunteers removed 30 bags of trash and 1 tire. Our most unusual finds here were a plastic toy machete and a squash racquet. Volunteers used the racquet and an empty bottle for a game of "trashball."

A bicyclist appeared, inquiring if we had found car keys. So we had, and reunited them with their owner.

Our last site of the day, and of the season, was Woodburn Road. Here we had 6 volunteers. The Falls Church H.S. team was with us again. Thank you, Falls Church H.S.! We collected 9 bags of trash and 3 tires. Our most unique find was some bits of unidentifiable metal framing.

Here we were at the other end of the trail paving project we had encountered last week at King Arthur Road. We were disappointed with the careless way large piles of soil were left unsecured on the streambank, ready to run into Accotink Creek at the first rain. We spent considerable effort removing debris from the construction from the creek - a metal concrete form, an orange safety barrel, and many yards of silt fence that was supposed to be protecting the creek, but instead was polluting it forever. We were forced to leave behind even more silt fence too tightly entangled in tree roots in deep water.

"Consider the cost to engineer a water amenity like Accotink Creek compared to the cost of preserving what nature has blessed us with." - Donald Pless

Remember to remind your groups of the importance of proper cleanup during and after all outdoor activities.

Reduce, Recycle, Reuse!

In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous. - Aristotle

Young volunteers display their prizes from the creek.

Volunteers discover the right way to carry heavy tires.
Our September 28, 2019 stream cleanups:

The day began with overcast skies that by noon darkened enough to seem to promise a drought-breaking shower. Instead, the sun and the heat came through in early afternoon, with the temperature rising to near 90 degrees. A bit of overcast returned later in the afternoon.

At our first site of the day, King Arthur Road, we had 28 volunteers. Together they removed 27 bags of trash and 4 tires. We were joined by groups of volunteers from St Ann's Catholic Church, Furnace Record Pressing, Falls Church High School, and Venture Crew 1018. Thank you, St. Ann's, Furnace Records, Falls Church H.S., and Crew 1018!.

Our usual setup location was occupied by construction machines engaged in the paving of the Cross County Trail. We managed to find an alternate spot to squeeze into, with our tent sticking out into the street. We feared that construction in progress might pose a challenge, but the stream of dog walkers, runners, and bikers using the trail let us know the way was clear.

Our unusual finds here included a vacuum nozzle, and two trash can lids. We also found a Fairfax County Police orange safety cone, which we shall return to the police.

At Little River Turnpike, our second site of the day, we were joined by groups from Northern Virginia Community College, the National Junior Honors Society of St. James School, and again, Falls Church High School and Venture Crew 1018. Thank you, NVCC, St. James, Falls Church H.S., and Crew 1018! The scholars of NVCC and St. James undertook the challenge of cataloguing each piece of trash collected on Ocean Conservancy tally sheets.

Our 23 volunteers collected 36 bags of trash and 5 tires. Two of the tires were identical and clean, clearly recently dumped. Our unusual finds included a microwave and a shovel, both battered beyond salvation.

Our last site of the day was Braddock Road. Here 18 volunteers hauled out 24 bags of trash and 3 tires. The volunteers of Falls Church High School returned. Thanks again, Falls Church H.S.! Our unusual finds here included a child car seat - a case of throwing the baby out with the creek water. We also found a difficult-to-identify metal cylinder that may have once been a CO2 cannister.

A squadron of large dragonflies circled overhead to close the day as the volunteers trudged home.

"If half of American lawns were replaced with native plants we would create the equivalent of a 20 million acre national park - nine times bigger than Yellowstone, or 100 times bigger than Shenandoah National Park." - Dr. Doug Tallamy
Our September 21, 2019, cleanups:

A sunny, hot, and breezeless day gave us decent, but somewhat wearying conditions today. After weeks without rain, the creek flow is low and sluggish, creating conditions favorable to mosquitos that were prevalent.

At our first site, Fairfax Boulevard, a crew of 6 volunteers collected 12 bags of trash. We had a first today - our first E-scooter found in the creek - but we may expect it will not be the last. A group of students from Falls Church High School were the majority of our volunteers, and the same group stayed with us the whole day. Thank you, Falls Church H.S.! Other unusual finds here were a rusty auto fender and a rosary.

Our second site of the day was Chain Bridge Road, where 17 volunteers cleaned up 12 bags of trash. Our most unusual find here was a garden hose. We also found a one-dollar bill that will become a small contribution to Friends of Accotink Creek. Volunteers were subjected to a test of courage by being challenged to taste the wild grapes growing in abundance next to our meeting place - rich sweet flavor, but also very tart.

Old Lee Highway was our last site of the day. Our 15 volunteers here removed 21 bags of trash. Our unusual finds here included a TJ Maxx shopping cart. More unusual was the racquetball racquet with a branch growing through it. Even more unusual was the heavy orange lumber cart from the nearby Home Depot some vandals had taken the trouble to risk back strain by lifting over the railing of the pedestrian bridge.

Our September 22, 2019, cleanup:

Like yesterday, the weather was sunny, hot, and breezeless, but a slight breeze toward the end provided some relief.

Eight volunteers from Temple Adat Reyim removed 8 bags of trash. Thank you, Adat Reyim!It was all routine stuff here - water bottles, plastic bags, and Styrofoam.

How many ways can the message of personal responsibility be expressed?
No littering! No Dumping! Pitch in! Put trash in its place!
We all benefit by being reminded!

GET YOUR BRAIN WET! Think about your creek.

Volunteers about to undertake the struggle to get this heavy lumber cart out of the creek

We found it still ticking, but is time running our for our watershed?
Our September 7, 2019 stream cleanups:

The weather was with us today, beginning with mild breezes and a cloudless blue sky that gradually became dotted with puffy white clouds by day's end. Temperatures climbed from the low 70's to the low 80's through the day.

At our first site of the day, Fullerton Road we had 11 volunteers. Together they removed 14 bags of trash and 3 tires. Our unusual finds here included an artificial Xmas tree branch, 1/2 of a fishing rod, and a still-ticking wristwatch. One volunteer struggled to collect 100 feet of a cassette tape unraveled from its spools.

The upstream portion of this site in the Accotink Gorge is becoming less and less accessible as exotic Chinese wisteria vines become so thick they make movement a real challenge.

At Franconia-Springfield Parkway, our second site of the day, we had few volunteers signed up, but were pleasantly surprised by a nice turnout of 17, including neighbors and a group from Northern Virginia Community College Annandale Honors Society. The Honors Society scholars all readily agreed to the onerous optional task of cataloging each piece of trash collected, reciting their motto "No such thing as too much data". Thank you, Honors Society! We collected 12 bags of trash here, the most unusual item being a length of rusty heavy steel cable.

A passing neighbor collecting trash long the roadside left his bag with us and lamented the innumerable tiny pieces that will be mistaken for food by wildlife.

The Honors Society brought donuts and left a few behind for the rest of us. This was fortuitous, for as we were packing up, a famished bicyclist traveling the Cross County Trail from Occoquan to Annandale came by and was able to refuel with the last donut.

The section of the Cross County Trail here has been in disrepair for years. Renovations are currently underway, but it was a mystery why the new footbridges are misaligned with the existing trail.

Our last site of the day was Telegraph Road. Here four volunteers hauled out 9 bags of trash. We usually direct volunteers to ignore the sad sight of the trash-strewn concrete ditch they must pass on their way to the stream here, but one intrepid volunteer could not look away. He spent the entire time cleaning the ditch, where he found our most unusual items, IV tubing and part of a window frame.

Despite all the wonderful volunteers who have turned out to help, we are still outnumbered by the litterbugs. Your club, school, business, or other group is welcome to join Friends of Accotink Creek in next year's Potomac Watershed Cleanup in April & May, and the International Coastal Cleanup in September & October! Volunteer site leaders and coordinators are needed!

Follow the Friends of Accotink Creek motto and "Find just one other person who cares".

See all our cleanup photos on our SHUTTERFLY page!

The International Coastal Cleanup is the world's largest volunteer data collection effort devoted to the marine environment. The Ocean Conservancy compiles the data received from sites around the world, and prepares a summary report to be used by citizens and policy makers in evaluating our progress in dealing with this serious form of pollution.

GET YOUR BRAIN WET! Join Friends of Accotink Creek in next year's International Coastal Cleanup in September and the Potomac Watershed Cleanup in April!

Learn more about Clean Virginia Waterways