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.
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.
FOTO's Fall River Clean Up 2021
A big Thank You to 389 River Heroes who volunteered for FOTO's Fall Cleanup
On Saturday, October 16, 2021, 389 volunteers helped the Friends of the Occoquan (FOTO) relieve the beautiful Occoquan River and Reservoir of 2.4 tons of trash (4,660 lbs. in bags and 202 lbs. miscellaneous material) at the Bull Run, Fountainhead, and Occoquan Regional Park/Marinas in Fairfax, and the Lake Ridge Park/Marina and the Town of Occoquan in Prince William County, VA.
Don Martin (Good Neighbor Services LLC) provided two barges during this cleanup, including captains along the Bull Run and Fountainhead marinas. Billy & Rima Vesilind of Brownie Troop 54063 came out to Bull Run with their pontoon boat, and at the Lake Ridge Marina, Andrea Chekon, with her Girl Scout Troop 3268, pulled trash from the river.
Among the volunteers were students and their leaders from Forest Park High School Science Nat’l Honor Society, Lake Ridge Middle and Elementary School, Patriot High School, Osborn High School, and JROTC of Woodbridge Senior High School. Organizations such as American Water, Bull Run Rotary, Optimist Club, Burke-Fairfax Chapter of Jack & Jill of America, Boy Scout Troops and Packs 1369, 1365, 501, 1373, and Girl Scout Troops 3268, 2767, and Brownie Troop 54063, and JROTC cadets from Woodbridge Senior High School. NOVA GO with ten kayakers and Glen Richman brought a truckload filled with trash collected from the reservoir. Great job everyone. Thanks to all the Park Managers and their staff for being so helpful in disposing of the debris.
FOTO thanks their site captains, Julie Little, Town of Occoquan, Sonia Monson, Fountainhead, Steve Hunter & Diane Schimp-Meetre, Bull Run, Alex Vanegas, Occoquan Regional Park, and Renate Vanegas, Kimm and Brenden Barry, Lake Ridge Park/ Marina. Thank you go out to all the Park Managers and their staff and our sponsors.
* 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!
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.
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.
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.
INSIDENOVA Article on FOTO's Spring 2018 Cleanup click here
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!
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