Monday, August 24, 2009

The Green Greens

At Pohick Bay Golf Course we had reduce fertilizer use on the fairways to just 10% of the normally recommended levels. The key to this has been getting the soil chemistry just right. The soils are tested twice a year and kept in balance. According to Tony Blevins "we feed it only what it needs." Some of the side affects on using so little fertilizers is less fungus that would need to be treated and less demands on mowing. And because the soils are healthy the grass is very green, and the course looks and plays better than ever.

This year we also put in a new irrigation system at Pohick Bay that controls where and when the water goes much more precisely and as a result water and energy consumption is down significantly.
These are all parts of being an Certified Wildlife Sanctuary by Audubon International. All three of the courses owned by the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority: Algonkian, Brambleton, and Pohick Bay are certified. These were the first publicly owned golf courses in the Mid-Atlantic region to achieve this status. It was a great deal of work to get these courses certified by Audubon International but it was the right thing to do. As a natural resource conservation organization we need to be in the business of demonstrating best management practices in all of our land management.

Audubon International

Another great example of the changes we have made over the last few years has been the Bermuda grass fairways we put in at Algonkian Golf Course. Because of the qualities of this grass we have virtually eliminated the use of fungicides at that course. Since all of our courses are on or near major waterways it is very important to use as little chemicals as possible to protect our water quality.

Next time you want to hit the greens, choose on of the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority courses and know that your green is actually green.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Environment, Exercise, Fun = Bike to Work

Whether it is a better world or a better you that you are looking for. Riding a bicycle to work some of the time may be just what the doctor ordered.

A few weeks ago I gave a presentation to the Green Breakfast Group in Fairfax County about simple ways to reduce your personal carbon footprint, or the air pollution resulting from our lifestyles. I was building on the efforts that the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority has been working on for several years to reduce the carbon footprint of our agency.

Coming from a park agency with over 100 miles of trails, including the famous W&OD Trail that offers a paved rails-to-tails path for 45 miles from the most urban areas of Arlington County to the still rural western areas of the trail, I had to put a plug in for biking as an alternative to some of the trips you would normally take in a car. The W&OD while built for recreation, is increasingly being used as a commuting route for those that are finding the joys of biking to work.

A great article about the W&OD Trail just ran this week in the Leesburg Times:

For the last year I have set a goal of biking to work at least one day a week, so long as the weather is not too extreme. My commute, about 7 miles each way does not include the W&OD trail, but I have found a good route that I think is safe.

In addition to reducing your impact on the environment, cycling is very good for you. Every hour you cycle you are burning around 300 calories, and when you build your muscle mass (become more tone) you increase your metabolic rate so you burn more calories even at rest. How great is that!

And in addition to benefiting the environment and your health, biking is just fun, and a good way to relieve stress.

In terms of gear for commuting on your bike, there are many different approaches. My approach was to take the bike I already had (a mountain bike) and make a few modification to improve its performance as a commuter bike. Here are some of the things I did:

  • Took the bike to a shop for a good tune up.

  • Replaced the knobby tires with smooth tire that have less rolling resistance on the pavement.

  • Added a rear-view mirror on my handlebars so I can see the traffic coming up from behind me.

  • Added a flashing light on the seat post so cars will see me better.

  • Added clip peddles and shoes to improve the efficiency of peddling. This has a remarkable affect improving you peddle power by 10-30%.

  • Added a rack on the back to hold items that you need to carry.

Every spring there is national bike to work day. I would suggest that if you think you have a safe route to take to bike to work, or any other destination of your choice, that you pump up the tires, put on your helmet, and make it happen.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

National Capital Regional Land Conservation Act

There is an exciting bill in Congress that would create a funding source to help acquire more parkland in the greater Washington Metropolitan Area. Bill Dickinson (photo above), who is a Board Member and past Chairman of the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority came up with the idea for this legislation when he was researching some of the funding sources that help create parks in this are in the first half of the 20th Century.

Below is some additional information written by Bill Dickinson on this bill.

National Capital Region Land Conservation Actamendment to the
Capper Cramton Act of 1930 (Chapter 354; 46 Stat.482)
HR 2986 (Sponsor - Moran with Norton, Wolf, Wittman, Connolly, Hoyer, Van Hollen, and Edwards as co-sponsors – introduced June 19, 2009 – referred to the House Committee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands )
S 1525 (Sponsor - Cardin with Mikulski, Webb and Warner as co-sponsors – introduced July 28, 2009 – referred to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resouces)

“The increasing tempo of urbanization and growth is already depriving many Americans of the right to live in decent surroundings. More of our people are crowded into cities and cut off from nature. Cities themselves reach out into the countryside, destroying streams and meadows as they go…people move out from the city to get closer to nature only to find that nature has moved farther from them ….The Potomac River, rich in history and memory should serve as a model of scenic and recreational values for the entire nation” - President LB Johnson – Message to Congress – 2/8/1965


Encourage multi-State and multi government long range cooperative regional planning identifying particular lands in the National Capital Region (“NCR” as defined by the US Census Bureau) to be conserved for a variety of enumerated environmental, cultural, historic and recreational purposes.
Stimulate open space land conservation acquisition and leverage funding by State, regional, and local governments through a Federal cost share grant program designed for the unique requirements of the NCR. Encourage donations, bargain sales, etc. for land conservation purposes.
Revive the partnership between Federal, State, regional and local park, land conservation, planning, environmental agencies and stakeholder groups to focus on land conservation and green open space needs in the region. This process, established under the Capper Cramton Act of 1930 and led by the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) for almost four decades, was disrupted in 1966 when the National Capital Planning Council was abolished by executive order. NCPC’s responsibilities to represent the Federal interests in the region’s planning and development remain. The existing elements of the Capper Cramton Act – last amended in 1958- would be unaltered by the NCRLCA.


The National Capital Region (NCR) includes the District of Columbia, Calvert, Montgomery, Prince Georges, St. Mary’s, Charles, and Frederick Counties, MD, Jefferson County in WVA, Arlington, Fairfax, Prince William, Loudoun, Clarke, Warren, Stafford, Fauquier, and Spotsylvania Counties, VA and all the cities contained within those geographic areas. It also includes the City of Alexandria.
NCR will expand as the Bureau of the Census periodically redefines the Washington DC statistical metropolitan area.
Virtually the entire region is within the Potomac River watershed, an area of national concern given the national status of the Potomac River and the fact that it is one of the primary pollution sources flowing into the Chesapeake Bay.


Increasing public demand for natural area land conservation, green infrastructure and outdoor recreation given the NCR population which is now about 5.3M and expected to grow an additional 3 M by 2030.
The urban planners of the late 19th and early 20th century understood that protecting green open space is most efficiently accomplished by aggressive forward looking regional planning and setting aside by zoning, easement or acquisition environmentally important lands that should be conserved. Between 1990 and now, the regions population grew by 10% and the level of impervious surface grew by 40%.
The outlying counties such as Stafford, Calvert or Jefferson, where much new growth is being experienced, are woefully underserved with publicly protected and accessible green space.
· Opportunities for land conservation acquisition in the NCR region remain including property along the Potomac River and its tributaries, mountain ridgelines, farmlands on which conservation easements agreements are near to expiration, brownfields and old industrial properties.


Authorization of appropriations of up to $50M/year for 5 years from date of enactment for up to 50-50 cost share with State, regional and local land conservation agencies for purposes enumerated in the act.
Funding request would be desired via a line item request in the President’s annual budget for USDI.
In 1930, the Capper Cramton Act authorized $9 M for land acquisition in MD and VA and $16M in DC. The 1958 amendment increased the authorization primarily for the George Washington Parkway extension.
The NCRLCA funding is not anticipated to be offset from Land and Water Conservation Act appropriations given those funds are allocated to the States under a defined formula, awarded to eligible applicants by the States to localities based on the State’s Outdoor Plan priorities and can provide for park facility improvements. NCRLCA would be only for land acquisition.
· A portion of appropriated funds may be used for to covered States, local governments and nonprofit organizations for planning and evaluating acquisition proposals.