Sugarland Run Spring Cleaning

Sugarland Run Spring Cleaning

Residents clean Runnymede Park and Sugarland Run to mark spring's arrival.

Approximately 175 Herndon residents collected 4,000-pounds of trash this weekend from the Sugarland Run stream and Runnymede Park area.

Intiated in 1987 to help Runnymede Park maintain its natural beauty, the Spring Clean Up event has gained continued support over the years.

"There was obviously a real community awareness and need developing at that time to improve the local environment," said Dave Swan, president Friends of Runnymede Park. "And to create an area that people could see and experience a native habitat in Herndon."

Currently a majority of the clean up volunteers consist of cub and boy scouts wanting to earn badges — and play in the stream — but there are others like first-time volunteers Marilyn McAll and her son Sean McAll, who came out to enjoy the wildlife.

According to Swan this year and 2003 were the largest turnouts and pick up volumes to date, with roughly two-tons of trash being collected — enough to fill an entire 40-foot long trash container.

"I just like being in the woods, this is a great excuse," said Marilyn McAll. "We're lucky we have a wonderful day."

This year Swan and other volunteers agreed they were fortunate to be working in the sunshine.

"Last year we had drizzle all morning and had a smaller turnout than normal," said Swan. "Approximately 100 people cleaned up about 2,000 pounds last year."

In addition, Swan said the group expanded their clean up this year to include the area between the Stuart Woods Apartments.

"By cleaning the area upstream of the park," he said, "we're able to limit the amount of older trash flowing downstream into the park."

Harlon and Midge Reece — founding members of the Friends of Runnymede Park — said the most common items picked up each year are plastic bags and bottles, aluminum cans, glass bottles and Styrofoam packing materials.

"You can't imagine how much trash is there in the stream and in the park," said Midge Reece. "You'd be surprised at some of the things picked up."

OVER THE YEARS the couple said they have seen everything from a mattress and a bicycle to a vicious animal trap.

"Unfortunately the vast majority of our trash volume seems to be trash daily flowing or blowing off the local streets and parking lots into the storm drains that flow directly into Sugarland Run," said Swan. "Only the town's citizens and businesses can prevent this influx of trash."

Swan said the clean up is slated for March for many reasons, but primarily because poison ivy has not yet leafed out — making it easier to find trash without getting poison ivy rashes — and because it is good to clear the trash out before the spring rains flush even more downstream into the Potomac River, which leads to the Chesapeake Bay.

Susan Alger, Virginia State Game Warden, said this is her third year of the clean up, although her first year cleaning up the stream, and as the resident of the house in Runnymede Park, it's important to her that her "backyard" stay clean.

"This is our way of giving back for living here," she said. "The stream's in great shape, during the NatureFest they shocked the water and found seven to eight fish last year."

Alger said since an oil spill that occurred a number of years ago, the stream has finally begun to return to its natural state.

"The clean up was extensive," she said. "But they're still remediating some of it — it's in good shape now."

Through the course of the morning cleaning crews were able to pick up everything from wet phone books, pieces of glass, miniature car toys and the more common plastic bags and cans to a snapping turtle shell found by 6-year-old cub scout Matthew Kim.