Below the Beltway

Clean Up Little Hunting Creek on April 10!

Betsy Martin, president of Friends of Little Hunting Creek, talks to the Zebra about an unusual situation they are facing this year.

The setting sun makes a pretty picture where Little Hunting Creek meets the Potomac River. (Photo: Susan Fleischman)

Alexandria, VA – Betsy Martin, president of Friends of Little Hunting Creek, laughed a little at her unfamiliar predicament. “We have an unusual situation,” she said, about preparations for the clean-up day scheduled for Saturday, April 10. “We have found very little trash in most of our normal sites. It’s much less than usual.”

Little Hunting Creek is a tidal tributary of the Potomac River in Alexandria and Fairfax County. George Washington’s Mount Vernon was originally called Little Hunting Creek Plantation. The name was changed in the mid-1750s when George’s half-brother Lawrence owned the property.

Some 150 shopping carts were pulled out of Little Hunting Creek on a clean-up day in 2012. (Photo: Betsy Martin)

Martin credits less trash to two efforts that Fairfax County put in place over the last two years. First is Operation Stream Shield, a pilot program launched in October 2019. It endeavors to meet two objectives: clearing litter out of our waterways and providing homeless people with meaningful paid work. Five months after the program launch, more than 17 tons of litter had been collected, and the county extended the program for five years. The second reason for the reduction in trash is the success of a floating litter trap installed in the creek in May 2020.

There is still plenty for volunteers to do. Clean-up day will focus on legacy trash near Riverside Estates and various other sites. The nonprofit group also plans to improve access to the creek in surrounding neighborhoods. They are keen on creating low-impact, environmentally friendly access points for neighbors to enjoy all that this beautiful watershed has to offer.

Betsy Martin gives new meaning to the term bottle cap. (Photo: Betsy Martin)

Martin was a founding member of Friends of Little Hunting Creek some 20 years ago. Discouraged at seeing all the litter in the creek, she got together with friends and neighbors to begin clearing it out. The group grew, and after several clean-up days at an increasing number of sites, they filed for 501(c)(3) status and became a nonprofit to preserve, restore, and improve the quality of the creek and its environs, and promote better stewardship and recreational enjoyment by neighbors and the public.

As many people have found over the last year of social distancing and quarantine, Martin felt that being outside in nature helped her cope. “People need to be outside,” she said. “The pandemic laid bare what matters to us.”

The creek and its surrounds seem to breathe easier without any garbage lying around. (Photo: Betsy Martin)

For more information or to volunteer, please visit or email [email protected].

Dyke Marsh Needs Help Too

If you to help improve and protect our incredible natural resources, open spaces, and waterways, the Friends of Dyke Marsh ( have opportunities:

Help Save Trees on the GW Parkway, April 3 and 17

Join the Friends of Dyke Marsh on Saturday, April 3 and 17, 10 a.m. to noon, in socially distanced sessions to remove English ivy from trees. Register at [email protected]; put “English ivy control” in the subject box and indicate your preferred date(s). They are working in several locations. Once you’re registered, they will let you know where to meet. FODMers will train volunteers to identify ivy and remove it.

The group will practice COVID-19 protocols. Wear a mask, sturdy shoes, long pants and sleeves, gloves, and sun protection. Bring clippers and water. The event/s will be canceled in the case of lightning or severe storms.

Clean Up the Shoreline

Join FODM and the National Park Service on April 10, 10 a.m. to noon, to pick up trash along the Potomac River shoreline. Meet in Belle Haven Park’s south parking lot for supplies. Register at Meet at the registration table near the Belle Haven Park south parking lot. NPS and FODM will provide some gloves, tools, trash bags, and hand sanitizer. Wear a mask, sturdy shoes, long pants and sleeves, gloves, and sun protection. Bring water. Everyone will follow social distancing protocols. The event will be canceled in case of lightning or severe storms. This event is part of the annual Ferguson Foundation Potomac River Trash Cleanup.

ZOOM Presentation: The Potomac River, May 26, 7 p.m.

On May 26, FODMers can learn all about the Potomac River in a Zoom presentation. Hedrick Belin, president of the Potomac Conservancy, will discuss the river’s history, recent grade, and problems like deforestation, stormwater runoff, and climate change. Visit to register for this Zoom presentation. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email.

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