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Mason Neck State Park’s Pollinator Gardens Need TLC

Photo: Margaret Fisher

Mason Neck State Park
7301 High Point Road, Lorton VA

The Park has three pollinator gardens filled with native plants that attract and nourish pollinators. All three gardens need some help. The Park needs volunteers to help weed and mulch the gardens and to keep the more aggressive native and invasive plants  under control. Can you give the gardens some help on a continuing basis or just once on a workday?

Send them an email at FriendsofMasonNeckStatePark@gmail.com and they’ll connect you with Friends and Park Staff who are working to keep the gardens beautiful.

Help Restore the Health of the Potomac and Chesapeake, Grow Underwater Grass

Photo courtesy of Friends of Mason Neck State Park

Mason Neck State Park Visitor Center
7301 High Point Rd., Lorton VA
Various dates for orientation.
Register by calling (703) 339-2380 or email MasonNeck@dcr.Virginia.gov

Orientations on:
January 15, 1 PM
January 22, 11 AM
January 30 1 PM
February 5, 11 AM
February 6, 11 AM
February 12, 1 PM
February 13, 1 PM

You can help restore the health of the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay by participating in Mason Neck State Park’s Grasses for the Masses program. Volunteers in the program grow wild celery, an important underwater grass, in their homes and then plant it at the park to help bolster aquatic grass populations. Underwater grasses are a vital part of the health of the
Potomac and the Chesapeake. They provide food for waterfowl, oxygenate the water, filter pollution, reduce erosion and provide safe spaces for newly-hatched fish.

To participate in the program, all you need to do is attend an orientation session at the park and pick up your supplies. There is a $25 charge for each Grasses Kit. You’ll grow your grasses at home, then plant them at the park on Planting Day, May 22. All supplies must be returned to the park on May 22.

Registration for the orientation programs is required, and there is a maximum of 10 persons for each orientation.

Restoration of the American Shad in the Potomac River, February 12th

Photo:  Courtesy of Friends of Mason Neck State Park

Friends of Mason Neck State Park’s Annual Meeting
Saturday, February 12, 2022
2 pm
Online. Free.
Register here.

The Friends of Mason Neck State Park will hold their Annual Meeting via Zoom. They’ll have a brief business meeting at which they summarize their activities for the year and elect a Board of Directors. Following the business meeting, they’ll have a presentation by Jim Cummins, a biologist and river ecologist who has played a key role in the efforts to restore the Potomac River’s shad population.

The American shad was once one of the East Coast’s most abundant and economically important fish. Unfortunately, by the 1970s water pollution, over-harvesting, and the blocking of spawning habitat by dams led to their decline. In 1983 a harvest moratorium on American shad was put into effect on the Potomac River but over a decade later, even with a much cleaner river, the shad population was still showing no signs of recovery. In 1995, the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin (ICPRB) began an 8-year American shad restoration program, with the assistance of local watermen from Mason Neck and the involvement and support of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services.

Jim Cummins’ talk will cover the success of that effort, the current status, how the Potomac contributed to subsequent and ongoing shad restorations in many other rivers in the midAtlantic, the involvement of regional schools, and a special description of the historic importance of Mason Neck to the Potomac’s remarkable shad fishery.

 

First Day Hikes at Mason Neck State Park

Photo courtesy of Friends of Mason Neck State Park

7301 High Point Rd.
Lorton VA
Saturday, January 1, 2022
9:30 am, Noon, or 2:30 pm

Start the New Year off right with an invigorating hike at Mason Neck State Park. The Park’s rangers will lead hikes for adults and children throughout the day. You can join them for a 2-mile round-trip walk to see the Tundra Swans at 9:30, noon or 2:30.

The Tundra Swan hikes leave from the parking lot for the Woodmarsh Trail at the Elizabeth Hartwell Wildlife Refuge, about a quarter mile before you reach the Contact Station. The Friends of Mason Neck State Park will provide hot beverages at the start of the hikes. There will be telescopes at the shelter overlooking the marsh so you can get a better look at these magnificent birds, which spend the winter here after their long migration from far northern Canada and Alaska. Parking is limited at the Woodmarsh Trail, so you’ll need to register for the hikes by calling the park staff at 703-339-2380 or emailing them at masonneck@dcr.virginia.gov.

Admission to the Park is free on January 1, and there is no charge for these hikes.

Friends of Mason Neck Wintering Waterfowl Program, December 5th

Photo:  Barbara J. Saffir

Gunston Hall’s Ann Mason Room
10709 Gunston Rd., Lorton
Saturday, December 5, 2021
2 pm buffet; 3 pm program
$15 per person for members; $20 nonmembers
Register here.

You’ll hear a presentation on Wintering Waterfowl of the Potomac River.  A wide diversity of geese, ducks and other waterbirds spend the winter in Northern Virginia. Mason Neck, including both the state park and the wildlife refuge, play an important part in sustaining them through the winter.  You’ll learn about the lives of the birds, citizen science studies and the conservation needs for birds and people along the river.

The presenter is Greg Butcher, the Migratory Species Coordinator for the U.S. Forest Service International Programs. He is a PhD. ornithologist who has worked for the National Audubon Society, American Birding Association, Partners in Flight, Birders World Magazine and Cornell Lab of Ornithology. He is also Vice President of Audubon Society of Northern Virginia. Greg is a recognized public speaker and interpreter for bird conservation and ecology worldwide.

They are taking special precautions this year because of the pandemic. The Ann Mason Room can hold 125 guests, but they’re limiting attendance to just 75 people so there is ample room for everyone to spread out. They’re also asking everyone to wear a mask except when actively eating or drinking. They’ll have hand sanitizer at numerous places around the room, and you’ll be able to choose from a variety of pre-plated, delicious offerings from the buffet.

If you aren’t a member or your membership has lapsed, you can join the Friends here.

Shoreline Cleanup, Mason Neck State Park, September 25th

Photo: Jerry Nissley

Mason Neck State Park
7301 High Point Rd., Lorton, VA 22079
(Meet at the Visitor’s Center)
Saturday, September 25, 2021
9 am

Can you help keep Mason Neck State Park looking good? The Potomac and Occoquan Rivers bring trash of all kinds to the shores of the Park. The Friends of Mason Neck State Park will lead a cleanup of the shoreline on National Public Lands Day (Saturday, September 25). They’ll have gloves, trash bags and a few “grabbers” to help you pick up the smaller stuff. Please bring waterproof shoes or boots. The tide will be high that morning, and you are almost certain to get wet.

For those who are experienced paddlers, they’ll have canoes, paddles and life vests available so you can collect trash that is not acessible from the shore. Thanks to the generosity of Prince William Marina, we’ll have snacks available to keep your energy levels high while you clean up the park.

Friends of Mason Neck Virtual Eagle Festival, May 8th

Photo (c) by Barbara J. Saffir

Saturday, May 8, 2021
2 pm
Register here.

The Friends of Mason Neck State Park will host a virtual program featuring Buddy the Bald Eagle in lieu of the Park’s annual Eagle Festival. Buddy has appeared at several previous Eagle Festivals. This year, Lauren Edzenga, the Outreach Educator for the Wildlife Center of Virginia, will join us in a Zoom program during which she will show Buddy live and on-camera while she discusses the lives of Bald Eagles.

The Friends of Mason Neck State Park are presenting this program without charge, thanks to the generosity of our donors and members.

Friends of Mason Neck Swanfall: All About Foxes, December 6th

Photo from Friends of Mason Neck State Park

Sunday, December 6, 2020
2 pm
Webinar
$5 per family
Register here.

Swanfall, the Friends of Mason Neck State Park‘s annual holiday celebration that traditionally is held at the Jammes House in the Park, will be held online. Erin Thady, a Wildlife Biologist with Fairfax County, will entertain and inform with a presentation about the secretive lives of foxes.

Northern Virginia is home to a diverse assemblage of mammals that cohabit our suburban communities. Foxes are among the mammals that have adapted to an increasingly urbanized landscape and have learned how to successfully coexist alongside humans. Although foxes can be elusive, they are often commonly observed throughout our communities.

Erin will discuss the natural histories of red foxes and gray foxes and their unique adaptations for survival in a dynamic landscape. She will also discuss fox characteristics and identification tips, diet and habitat preferences, population dynamics, and ways that humans successfully coexist with foxes.

Friends of Mason Neck State Park Owl Moon Program, Zoom session October 17th

Saturday, October 17, 2020
7 pm
FREE
Register here

It’s nearly time for the Friends of Mason Neck State Park’s annual presentation of OWL MOON! This year, they will be bringing the event to you right in your own home using Zoom.

You will meet and learn about all the owls from raptor rehabilitator Secret Garden Birds and Bees, their favorite presenter. A special treat will be the introduction of Phantom – a beautiful barn owl. Find out what makes him unique as you also explore the life of a barred owl, great horned owl, and screech owl.

You will be able to ask questions about all the raptors in the program.
Get the whole family together. This event is appropriate for all ages and is open to the public. Registration is only $10 per person or family, which will help to offset the cost of the program. Don’t miss it!

After you register, they’ll provide you the instructions you’ll need to join the program.

“Audubon at Home” program presentation, Mar. 21st

Jammes House
Mason Neck State Park
Saturday, March 21, 2020
2 pm

The Audubon Society of Northern Virginia and Plant Nova Natives will present “Creating a Wildlife Sanctuary on Your Property: The Audubon at Home Program” at 2 PM on March 21. The program will explain the importance of native plants to restoring and maintaining a balanced ecosystem and give guidance on how to do it.

The program is free and is open to everyone. The Friends of Mason Neck State Park, which is hosting the program, will provide light refreshments. Registration for the program will open on February 15. Space will be limited, so be sure to register as soon as you can.