Friends of the Occoquan is a non-profit organization of local citizens who preserve and maintain the natural integrity of the Occoquan River and other Virginia and nation wide watersheds by promoting community awareness through public and private partnerships.
Vision of the Friends
To energize individuals, community and business groups to take on the challenges of keeping Virginia’s and the nations reservoirs and rivers clean, by controlling excessive sedimentation and pollution. This message will be brought to schools, civic groups and community organizations, as well as local and federal government agencies.
Coordinate watershed management efforts and programs.
Open communications and develop cooperation among intergovernmental jurisdictions regarding the rivers and watersheds.
Provide decision makers, policy makers, and citizens with accurate information.
Develop public and private partnerships focused on maintaining the natural integrity of drinking water sources.
Engage the community, including the Spanish speaking population, to become stakeholders of our rivers and streams.
Education and Coordination FOTO is working with community groups, schools, federal, state and local governments to promote watershed preservation.
FOTO continues to expand contacts with other groups to enlarge watershed stakeholders. Installation of international signs along the watersheds is one of our projects.
FOTO is proceeding to engage the Spanish speaking community to become stakeholders of our watersheds and become active in maintaining clean and safe our rivers. In addition to the bilingual signs described below, we will be installing other bilingual signs in DC, Fairfax and PrinceWilliamCounties. Also we are preparing videos, literature and some TV programs.
FOTO's Fall River Clean Up 2021
Sign Up Information
How to Sign Up for the FOTO Fall River Clean Up
1. Choose a location
Lake Ridge Marina 12350 Cotton Mill Dr. Lakeridge, VA 22192 Renate Vanegas 703-674-6659
Town of Occoquan 314 Mill Street Occoquan, VA 22125 Julie Little 703-491-2168
Bull Run Marina 12619 Old Yates Ford Rd. Clifton, VA 20125 German Vanegas 703-624-7124
Fountainhead Park 10875 Hampton Rd. Fairfax Station, VA 22039 Sonia Monson 703-581-5487
Occoquan Regional Park 9751 Ox Road Lorton, VA 22079 Alex Vanegas 703-674-7847
2. Select a sign-in time. Note this is only to sign in. You can clean up until 12pm.
D. If you are in need of a community service letter please include the following:
1. Name of individual
Thanks for Volunteering!
* GARDEN TALKS * Sponsored by Friends Of The Occoquan (FOTO)
This weekend, our community gardens will hold gardening workshops:
Saturday, 21 August at 10AM in the Park Place Peace Garden, across from Monroe Elementary School--529 29th St, Norfolk: "Planting a Fall Garden" - with Atsuko Biernot-Community Gardener
Sunday, 22 August at Lindenwood Elementary School--2400 Ludlow St, Norfolk: "Frugal Gardening" - Sharon Barnes-Community Activist & Gardener.
These workshops/talks are free & open to the Public. We hope you can come!
Planting a Fall Garden Workshop
Planting a Fall Garden
Location Park Place Peace Garden
August 21, 2021 10 AM
FOTO member Atsuko Biernot presented a Planting a Fall Garden Workshop at Park Place Peace Garden in Norfolk, VA. Enthusiastic attendees came with their umbrellas and hats to prepare themselves for heat or rain predicted for that morning.
Workshop topics included regenerative gardening, permaculture, taking care of the soil, year around gardening and Lasagna gardening. Atsuko advised them that climate change makes traditional gardening norms less reliable and encouraged gardeners to experiment and keep a journal
Hand outs included:
List of vegetables that can be planted in the Fall in Virginia
Atsuko went over the difference between tender, semi hardy and hardy vegetables and how to calculate the likelihood of planting successfully.
Local Garden Help through the Virginia Cooperative Extention Master Gardeners. Each city has their own, but the focus was Chesapeake, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Virginia Beach
Suggestions for Planting which included a short list of flowers: perennials, annuals and bulbs
The workshop ended with a brief Q&A session and then attendees toured the garden. Thank you to Atsuko Biernot for her love for our environment and her community.
Frugal Gardening the Cheapstake Way
On Saturday, August 22nd in Norfolk, VA, Sharon Barnes did a FOTO sponsored workshop on Frugal Gardening the Cheapskate Way. Attendees learned that gardening at home shouldn’t cost more than buying produce from the local grocery store. Sharon explained the whole idea is to beat the system—better quality food at lower cost. Realistically, you won’t be able to supply all your fruit and veggie needs for the entire year, but you should be able to make a dent in what you have to import, especially if you’re buying organic. Frugal gardening is a mindset; an extension of the concept, frugal living. Conscientious effort is given to reusing, repurposing, recycling, sharing, etc. to avoid paying any more than necessary for necessities and any luxuries. Imagination is a crucial element to frugal gardening as one must be able to see the potential uses for discarded items, as well as, envision a way to maximize savings for purchases. After the brief talk participants took a tour around the Panther Fresh Garden at Lindenwood Elementary School where they were able to see firsthand how items that normally would make their way to the landfill were repurposed into the garden. Examples Included (pictures below):
Real Wood Dresser as planting boxes
Air Conditioner condensation is used to fill a rain barrel and buckets for watering
Metal chair frames used to support tomatoes
Old Leaky boots get a new life as planters
Wooden Pallets serve as raised beds
Wheel barrow with bowls are repurposed for plantings
Scour the curb on trash days for all your garden needs. Not the shed composted wheelbarrow and garden cart were all rescues from the doom of the landfill
We thank Sharon Barnes for her commitment to both the environment and her community!
ECO Art at the Workhouse Art Center
FOTO member Sonia Monson had an opportunity this summer to teach the students at the Workhouse Summer Art Program what it means to be an Eco Artist. Children participated in many activities that involved recycling, plant art, tree art, and more.
The Honey Bees are Here!
May 19, 2021
The FOTO Homestation Garden welcomes our newest neighbors the Honey Bees. Thanks to a grant from Dominion Energy, Friends of the Occoquan was able to purchase all the necessary equipment to create two Honey Bee hives. It has been quite a learning experience and much more entailed than we could have ever imagined. The first step of the journey was locating the Bee Store in Tackets Mill in Lakerdige, VA. They have all the supplies a bee enthusiast beginner or experienced bee keeper could want. We began by taking most of the courses that the Bee Store offered. Next, with the help of a very knowledgeable staff we were able to begin to purchase our supplies for the two hives. These items included, 4 deep boxes, frames for those boxes, hive tools, bee suits, screens, feeders and more. The next step was finding a local bee source (nucs).Thanks to Mick Schallar of Uncle Bill's Bees we were able to get local honey bees with two queens. Mick and his son came over to help our hives get established and since that time have made a few visits to ease our worried minds. As of 8/10/2021 our hives are doing excellent and to prepare for the fall and winter we will soon be doing our first mite inspection.
Pink Space Theory and Rain Barrels
On April 28th, 2021 FOTO had the opportunity to work with a group of young ladies that are part of the Pink Space Theory whose mission is to expose, engage, and empower underserved and underrepresented youth with STEAM learning experiences to prepare them for their future career paths and passions.
Activities included talking about the impacts of erosion on our soil, making a rain barrel and planting seeds. They even got a sneak peak of the baby birds in our greenhouse! Thank you to Dominion Energy, American Water and the staff of the Pink Space Theory!
Friends of the Occoquan Spring River Clean Up 2021
Friends of the Occoquan River/Reservoir Spring Cleanup 2021
The saying, “Many hands make light work,” applies to FOTO’s Occoquan River cleanups on April 10 and 17, 2021. With COVID-19 restrictions in place, two hundred sixty-five volunteers participated at the Bull Run, Fountainhead, Lake Ridge Parks, Occoquan Regional Park/Marinas, the Town of Occoquan, and our newest site at the Occoquan Harbor Marina. They removed 1.6 tons of debris from the River’s shore and Reservoir, the source of drinking water for 1.2 million people in Northern Virginia.
Families came out with their children, among them 30 employees from American Water, several members of the Bull Run Rotary Club, JROTC cadets and their leaders from Woodbridge Senior High School, NoVAGO kayakers and Boy Scout Troops 1369, Cub Scout Pack 1369, 1373, Girl Scout Troops 295, 6881, and 18060. Glenn Richman of Lake Ridge with Lt. Col. (Ret) Burnette and cadets brought a truckload of filled trash and recyclable bags from the shorelines to the Marina.
Among the items were 110 filled trash and 46 recyclable bags, a kid’s pool, six PCV pipes, two lawn chairs, two metal rods, an oil barrel, rusted garden shovels, one six-foot iron beam, two trash can lids, one tire, two golf clubs, one plastic crate, several metal & plastic containers, one 8-ft bench, a large net filled with trash, several buckets, five board boxes and one container with hazardous material.
A big thank you to our Sponsors, NOVA Park managers and their staff, and the Town of Occoquan’s team.
Thanks to Friends of the Occoquan volunteers Dianne Schimpf-Meetre, Jessica Meetre and Susan Kilby Hylton aka the A-Team, for helping us get this trash to land! Thanks to the management and staff at Fountainhead Regional Park for their help and support.
Everyday Use Your Power For Good!
Panther Fresh Community Garden- Norfolk, Virginia
Panther Fresh Garden in Norfolk, Virginia Update
Sharon Barnes writes:
We meet up at the garden weekly on Tuesday evenings at 6 pm to beat the heat. Watering is a top priority at this time of the season. While rain storms are seeming to mostly evade us, we have the rain barrel positioned underneath an air conditioner drain pipe. The condensation drip fills the barrel. I just started a simple compost bin and am asking garden volunteers to bring fruit and veggie scraps from home to get it going. Over the spring and now summer we have harvested blueberries, Swiss chard, peas, lettuce, zucchini squash, ikra, beans and corn. There are 4-5 baby watermelons and at least one cantaloupe on the vines and sunflowers galore. I hope to get informational signage installed before the end of summer. It is a labor of love! I'll keep you posted. Thank you FOTO for your continued support.
TO OUR WONDERFUL FOTO VOLUNTEERS---Once again we have to cancel our Occoquan River cleanup scheduled for May 30th, due to the continued restrictions in place because of COPID19. As soon as we are permitted to go to the parks and on the water by boat, we'll let you know. Our beautiful river is waiting! STAY SAFE!
Kudos go out to Matthew McKinnon who added eight more hours to earn his "Citizen in the Nation Merit Badge" by picking up eight bags of trash along the Occoquan and Chesapeake bay area.
Earth Day Wednesday April 22, 2020
April 22nd is Earth Day! Since we were forced to cancel our April 18th river cleanup due to COVOID19, I would like to remind our wonderful volunteer that they can still do small things to help in water preservation by picking up small trash items when walking or jogging along the roadways. Even a candy wrapper or a discarded cigarette will end up in the water. Other activities might include:
Take a walk and observe nature
Plan a food or pollinator garden
Plant a tree
Try a recyclable art activity
Watch an environmental video
Make a bird feeder
Look for Wildflowers
Take nature inspired pictures
Draw or paint nature inspired themes
Commit to taking care of your planet!
Yesterday on my evening walk I ran into this trash warrior picking up trash alongside a residential road with her mom. Her name is Senna and she is a Daisy member working on one of her environmental badges. What a great eco friendly activity for parents and their children. Thanks for your hard work Senna and Mom!
Rain Barrel Workshop Freedom High School
FOTO members Sonia Monson and Renate Vanegas conducted a hands-on rain barrel workshop at Dr. Jessica Doiron's Pre AP/Biology class at Freedom High school's Center for Environmental/Natural Studies. About 20 enthusiastic students assembled four 50 gallon pickling barrels into rain harvesters to be used for water conservation and runoff.
Stop Mowing and Start Growing!
February 8, 2020
Stop Mowing, Start Growing was the theme for the symposium on Native Plants, sponsored by various agencies of Prince William County, VA Cooperative Extension, Plant NOVA Natives Plant, and many others. 🌲, Native 🌱 for 🐝 , 🦅 and butterflies 🦋! Keep our 💦 clean👍 @ Northern Community College Woodbridge Campus.
FOTO Anniversary and Awards Program 2019
KUDOS to all the FOTO Volunteers and Participants On Saturday, September 14, 2019, FOTO celebrated its 20th Anniversary of cleaning up the Occoquan Watershed. Pat Conway, the former mayor of Occoquan invited FOTO to conduct their 1st cleanup. As FOTO grew, with the help of 10,000 volunteers, 90+ tons of trash was removed from the River and Reservoir. The present mayor of the Town of Occoquan, Dr. Ernie Porta provided the beautifully restored Town Hall for the event. After a light lunch, Alex Vanegas and Sonia Monson presented the well-deserved awards to 30 participants who so generously helped FOTO over the years.
INSIDENOVA Article on FOTO's Spring 2018 Cleanup click here
Friends of the Occoquan would like to thank the Krieg Family from Norfolk, Virginia for opening their home and garden to us. A big thank you to Isabelle Krieg for teaching FOTO all about raising Swallowtail butterflies. So much to learn from our Eco Kids! Note from Isabelle's Mom: Isabelle was interviewed by Friends of the Occoquan for her work with Butterflies 🦋 This was such an amazing experience for Isabelle.....she has worked very hard and gained so much knowledge about Black swallowtail butterflies.How to raise and care for them🦋🦋..it's so cool for her to be able to share what she does to help Mother Earth🦋
Photo credits- Kelly Krieg
Make a Contribution or Donation:
Please send a check or money order payable to FOTO to the address below:
or pay with credit card using paypal by clicking the link below:
Friends of the Occoquan P.O. Box 1452 Woodbridge, VA 22195-1452 Tel. (703)624-7124