Friends of Accotink Creek
Virginia Waterway Cleanup Day
part of the International Coastal Cleanup
September & October, 2021

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 142 bags of trash, 24 tires, and junk ranging from a lawn mower to an electric rental 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.

Our October 9, 2021, stream cleanups:

The skies were overcast, but the weather was otherwise dry with mild temperatures in the 70's all day long. Trash conditions seemed worse than we have become used to lately. The condition of Accotink Creek seems to be declining in ways that are hard to measure. It lacks the sparkle of before and the scarcity of fish and the brown scum that now seems universal on the bottom are not good signs.

Pickett Road was our first site of the day. We had only a handful of volunteers registered, but the arrival of the Northern Virginia Community College biology class brought our numbers up considerably. The NVCC scholars did great work collecting the detailed statistics we need on each item of trash collected for our final reports. Our 21 volunteers collected 30 bags of trash and one tire. Our most unusual find here was a Frisbee, which a volunteer cleaned off and took home. A deeply embedded mattress defied attempts at extraction.

Changes continue since Accotink Creek shifted it course here in 2018. The Hatmark Branch tributary is currently occupying the old main channel, joining Accotink Creek far downstream of where it previously did.

At Barkley Drive, our second site of the day, our 15 volunteers removed 16 bags of trash and 1 tire. Our unusual finds here included a table base and a toy dump truck.

Our attempts to extract a mysterious mechanical object from the streambed only resulted in causing it to begin leaking oil into the water. After debating the seriousness of the oil, we called the fire department to report the spill and they arrived minutes later. Although the oil leak had ceased by then, the firefighters took on the challenge of extracting the object. After a half-hour of frustrating digging and prying, it finally yielded. The object turned out to have been the "tip of the iceberg" - the iceberg in this case being in the form of an intact lawn mower.

Our last site of the day, and of the season, was Woodburn Road. Our 11 volunteers here removed 17 bags of trash and 1 tire. Our most unusual find was a Verizon manhole cover. We felt we had entered the graveyard of the plastic bags. Their miserable tattered remains were everywhere, caught in thorns that made collecting them especially tedious - and painful.

"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

The Halloween season is here - The haunting stare of a golf ball jack-o-lantern

Volunteers return with a haul of tires at King Arthur Road.
Our October 2, 2021 stream cleanups:

A touch of autumn began the day with a slight chill and a slow falling of autumn leaves in one's and two's. The skies were clear throughout the day and warmed through the afternoon into the mid 70's.

At our first site of the day, King Arthur Road, we had 6 volunteers. Together they removed 9 bags of trash and 6 tires. Our most unusual finds here were a drain grate, a coconut, and a whimsical seahorse-dragon toy. The drain grate appeared to be a product made of "downcycled" plastic bags.

We encountered a bowhunter returning from the woods with a deer he had taken. The forests benefit from reduction of the deer population to manageable levels, preventing over browsing and permitting understory plants to regenerate.

At Little River Turnpike, our second site of the day, our small crew of just 3 volunteers collected 6 bags of trash and 6 tires. Some passersby took trash bags to conduct their own cleanups, including a family out on a fishing expedition. Our most unusual find here was a "No Swimming" sign that had gone for a swim in Accotink Creek.

One volunteer was nearly lost to the man-sucking mud as he struggled to pull a truck tire from an inaccessible spot.

A bit of intrigue took place when a passerby left us a mobile phone he had found on the trail. Using a number displayed on the phone's locked screen, we learned that it was a State Department phone. We then began imagining spies lurking behind every tree and signpost.

Our last site of the day was Braddock Road. Here 6 volunteers hauled out 13 bags of trash. Our "Day of the Tire Hunters" continued with two more tires found. Our most unusual find here was a 40-foot length of orange construction safety fence. This was no doubt swept down from the I-66 Outside the Beltway project - the "gift" that keeps on taking.

The State Department dispatched an agent to rendezvous clandestinely with us here. After exchanging secret passwords, we handed off the mobile phone found earlier in the day.

A police bicycle patrol out on training passed by. We learned from them the unfortunate news that Fairfax County is terminating police use of bicycles.

Mound monsters abounded here, former trees and shrubs now completely cloaked in suffocating layers of exotic Porcelainberry vines, a vision of horror befitting the upcoming Halloween season.

"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 25, 2021, cleanups:

The day began with a slight chill in the air, but warmed quickly, giving us pleasant temperatures in the mid-70ís and sunny skies for the rest of the day.

At our first site, Fairfax Boulevard, we had a small crew of 4 volunteers. The volunteers collected 10 bags of trash. The items collected here were all the usual bottles, bags, and Styrofoam. We were impressed by the abundant wild grapes along the trail, ripe, flavorful, and very tart.

The North Fork of Accotink Creek meets the Main Fork at this point. It was disheartening to see the North fork was once again opaque with sediment from the I-66 Outside the Beltway project while the Main Fork was clear. Two days after the last rain, we could only assume the muddy water was being actively pumped out of the construction zone into Accotink Creek. The situation was severe enough to justify a formal report to DEQ. The underwhelming response was "Someone may look at that - Monday.".

As if the I-66 project were not insult enough, this cleanup area is the same location proposed for the George Snyder Trail, another misguided trees-to-asphalt conversion project, ironically financed by community compensation funds from the I-66 project itself.

Our second site of the day was Chain Bridge Road, where just 3 volunteers cleaned up 4 bags of trash. Our most unusual finds here were an umbrella and a shopping cart. Volunteers took the time to collect trash statistics by tabulating each and every item in a sample bag of trash.

Old Lee Highway was our last site of the day. Our 6 volunteers here removed 9 bags of trash. Our unusual finds here included a small electric scooter and a larger electric rental scooter. We advised Fairfax City Public Works of the need for special disposal of these lithium batteries. As usual, we collected huge numbers of golf balls in the creek from the Army Navy Country Club, and one volunteer took them for her neighborhood giving exchange.

The next day, September 26, 2021, 10 members and pastors of the Grace Episcopal Church youth group toured the areas around the church planted in native species over the past few year, they walked along the little nameless tributary behind the church, around nearby Brookfield Pond, and back, collecting trash along the way. The group collected 8 bags of trash.

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.

Hauling an electric rental scooter out of Accotink Creek at Old Lee Hwy

Volunteers pause beside the "Great Falls of the Accotink"
Our September 18, 2021 stream cleanups:

The weather today was still summery under partly cloudy skies, with temperatures starting out in the mid 70ís and rising into the mid 80ís by afternoon. It felt much warmer for most of the day, though, due to unusually muggy air. By midafternoon we got some relief as the humidity at last dropped and a light refreshing breeze came through.

At our first site of the day, Fullerton Road we had just 4 volunteers, who collected 9 bags of trash and 6 tires. The tires were the result of illegal dumping off the edge of the Costco parking lot. As usual, the Costco tire shops took the tires off our hands for proper recycling.

The most unusual item found here was a sardine tin, a bit of a melancholy reminder of how much less often we observe schools of minnows along Accotink Creek than we did in past years.

At Franconia-Springfield Parkway, we had just 2 volunteers, who collected 6 bags of trash.

Our volunteers here were outnumbered by a Fairfax County Channel 16 video recording crew gathering material for the 2021 Elly Doyle Awards presentations. The Friends of Accotink Creek were honored to again be named among the recipients, as we were in 2015

The were no noteworthy finds here, just the usual unclean trinity of tattered plastic bags, plastic water bottles, and crumbling bits of Styrofoam. Much of this was found in a log jam beneath the Cross County Trail bridge. Volunteers ventured out onto the logjam at the risk of falling through a weak spot never to be seen again. Even so, we were taunted by the concentration of trash in a part of the logjam that was too flimsy to access.

Attendance picked up a bit at our last site of the day. Telegraph Road. Here 9 volunteers hauled out 13 bags of trash and one tire. Our unusual finds here included at toy machine gun and a Smurf figurine. Accotink Creek has markedly shifted course here, turning the once-familiar channels and islands into a braided labyrinth.

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