Friends of the Occoquan (FOTO) is a non-profit organization of local citizens who preserve and maintain the natural integrity of the Occoquan River, other watersheds, and promote pollinator habitats and species.
Vision of Friends
To energize individuals, community, and business groups to take on the challenges of keeping Virginia’s and the nation’s reservoirs and rivers clean, by controlling excessive sedimentation and pollution through the use of rain barrels and community gardens. This message will be brought to schools, civic groups and community organizations, as well as local and federal government agencies.
Coordination of our management efforts and programs.
Open communications and develop cooperation among intergovernmental jurisdictions.
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 environment.
Encourage and educate the community on the benefits of native plants and food gardens to help increase the food supply for pollinators.
Education and Coordination
FOTO is working with community groups, schools, federal, state and local governments to promote watershed preservation and pollinator habitats and species.
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 environment 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 has rain barrels for sale. Visit the Rain Barrel section to find out more.
“Occoquan Riverfest and Arts Show”
A sunny blue sky and a slight breeze sent many people outdoors to celebrate the ongoing “Occoquan Riverfest and Arts Show” along the beautiful Occoquan River. The Friends of the Occoquan (FOTO’s) recyclable arts booth was at the Occoquan Regional Park, where children created fish, turtles, or birds from old CDs. Boats, kayaks, and a few yachts were in the water while anglers were trying to catch fish and a quinceañera party was celebrated at the River View Venue.
Rain Barrel Workshop at Fred M. Lynn Middle
Tuesday, April 19, 2022
Upon an invitation by Kimberly Davis and Life Science teacher Andrew Grupp, including several educators, Friends of the Occoquan were delighted to conduct a rain harvesting system workshop at Fred M. Lynn Middle School. Under the guidance of FOTO project member Sonia Monson, the devoted gardening students eagerly assembled the five barrels for their future vegetable garden. The five barrels will used to create a drip irrigation system for the water to run freely when needed without human assistance. These amazing young students started their plants in a greenhouse and will plant them in the raised garden beds outdoors.
Springing Into Action- FOTO River Clean Up 2022
River heroes care about water preservation and conservation
On Saturday, April 9, 2022, 156 devoted volunteers helped FOTO clean up the Occoquan River and Reservoir despite cold and windy weather and spring break for students.
Boy Scout Troops 505, 1373, 1396, Cub Scout Pack 1906 came in full force. Kirk Yeager & NOVAGO Kayakers had difficulty keeping afloat in the windy conditions. One kayak turned over, and a jonboat got stuck in the mud. Glenn Richman brought trash from a cove with his truck.
American Water, Fairfax Water, and SEVTech1 employees, church members, the Rotary Club of Gainesville, many families, and their children filled 36 recyclables and 98 bags of trash collectively. Several rusted pipes, soccer and tennis balls, trash cans, plastic trays and buckets, tires, and several wooden deck boards were pulled from the river. There are still a few trash-filled coves left that couldn’t be accessed due to the heavy winds.
A big “Thank you” goes out to all the volunteers, the station workers, the park managers and staff, and our sponsors.
Actions Speak Louder- Interview with Dominion Energy
FOTO's Presentation to the Centennial Master Garden Club of Manassas
FOTO's Presentation to the Centennial Master Garden Club of Manassas
FOTO thanks Jane Dvonch, President of the CMGC, and the Master Gardeners, an organization devoted to the beautification of local areas by encouraging the planting of native flowers, plants, shrubs, and trees, invited the Friends of the Occoquan to talk/show information of FOTO's river cleanups and environmental-inspired programs and projects.
FOTO's spring cleanup event of the Occoquan River/Reservoir will be held on Saturday, April 9, 2022, from 9:00 AM to 12:00 Pm. Flyers with pertinent information are forthcoming.
October 19, 2021
FOTO Members Alex Vanegas and Sonia Monson had the opportunity to have a Zoom meeting with the Science National Honor Society students at Forest Park High School lead by Environmental Science teacher Tabatha Zarkauskas. The six students asked FOTO members questions pertaining to Friends of the Occoquan’s programs, how its members got involved with environmental work, and other water and land conservation questions. Discussions included small acts that students can take to preserve and improve local water quality, decrease soil erosion, build healthy soil, and ways to reduce, reuse and recycle. Recommended activities included planting pollinator gardens using native plants, planting trees, building soil through composting and using rain barrels.
* 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. Thank you to Tony Rigolizzo for the American Water goodies for the young ladies.
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!
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
Panther Fresh Community Garden- Norfolk, Virginia
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!
November 6, 2020
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.
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