About Us

Who We Are

Photo: ©Philip Bogdan

We’re friends of the Creek

We started out as “two people and a letterhead,” a small group of genuinely concerned citizens ready to take action to protect Little Hunting Creek for people and wildlife.

We got our start because Little Hunting Creek was overwhelmed with an appalling amount of trash.  Our first trash cleanup was in 2002 and we have conducted annual cleanups ever since.The  Friends of Little Hunting Creek incorporated in Virginia in November 2012. The current version of the Bylaws of the Friends of Little Hunting Creek is available here. We are a 501(c)(3) organization.

Why does a creek need friends?

Little Hunting Creek flows through a densely populated and developed part of Fairfax County. Everybody lives downstream from somebody, and what people do upstream matters. We speak up to give a voice to the creek, and the creatures it shelters and supports. We derive meaning and purpose from our activities.

So, a creek needs friends, and the friends need a creek.

Meet the Board

Most board members got their start with the organization by leading cleanups in their own neighborhoods along the creek.  Our current board members live in Stratford Landing, Gum Springs, First River Farms and Williamsburg Manor. Click a photo or name to learn more about each of our board members.

Betsy Martin

Betsy Martin

President

Celia Boertlein

Celia Boertlein

secretary

Paul Siegel

Paul Siegel

Treasurer

Bryan Birch

Bryan Birch

Member At Large

Greg Crider

Greg Crider

Member at large

Mimi Friedman

Mimi Friedman

Member At Large

Linda Hosler

Linda Hosler

Member At Large

Persistence: Why We Keep Picking Up Trash

We have cleaned up Little Hunting Creek every year since 2002. 

Over 2,000 volunteers have collected thousands of bags of trash and recyclables, hundreds of tires and shopping carts, and tons of bulk trash. Why do we keep doing this?

A graph of our efforts over time tells the story…

Early on, we focused exclusively on sites south of Richmond Highway, in Riverside Estates, Gum Springs, First River Farms, Stratford Landing, Stratford on the Potomac, and Wessynton. They were trashy enough, but in 2011 we ventured north of Richmond Highway for the first time, to attempt to clean up the overwhelming amount of trash near Janna Lee Avenue bridge. That turned out to be a years-long effort.

The appalling amount of trash inspired (if that’s the right word!) then-Delegate (now Senator) Surovell to begin organizing his own cleanups in trash hotspots north of Richmond Highway in 2012. Thanks to his efforts, the number of cleanup volunteers almost doubled and the amount of trash pulled out of the creek reached truly heroic levels from 2012 through 2016, as shown in the graph above.

In 2012, we discovered a shopping cart graveyard downstream of the Janna Lee Avenue bridge, where 149 Walmart shopping carts had been dumped and were embedded in the creek bottom. 

Each one had to be winched out of the mud and hauled out to the road (thanks to Robert O’Hanlon) where it could be hauled off by the county’s big crane.

The huge team effort involved in removing discarded shopping carts from the creekbed included winching and a lot of pure elbow grease and determination.
A Fairfax County crane works to remove the mountain of shopping carts we pulled from the creekbed in 2012.

What progress has been made?

During all this time we have not picked up trash and litter year after year without complaint. Far from it. We began to advocate for county and state actions to reduce the amount of litter getting into the creek in the first place. Other groups also advocated for improvements; in 2011, the Mount Vernon Council of Citizens Associations adopted a Citizens’ Action Plan for Litter Prevention.

Our elected representatives introduced and eventually passed bills to ban single-use plastic bags (Senator Ebbin and Delegate Lopez) and to permit the county to remove abandoned shopping carts and charge the owner for the cost of disposal (Senator Surovell), although the county has yet to implement the law by adopting an ordinance. The state litter tax was increased (Delegate Krizek). The county took steps to reduce litter, by installing a trash trap behind Mount Vernon Plaza, and by instituting Operation Stream Shield, a program that hires shelter residents to clean the trash out of streams. Operation Stream Shield has made a large and visible difference in the amount of trash we see in the creek.

These new laws and programs have helped reduce the amount of trash in Little Hunting Creek. We are very grateful to our elected representatives for taking steps to restore Little Hunting Creek to its natural (untrashed) beauty. We who live along the creek can see the difference, and the graph above confirms that trash is declining.

The improvement shows up in sites that were once trash-filled, but are no longer.  For example, every year volunteers used to pick up dozens of bags of trash each in the Little Hunting Creek Preserve (in Stratford Landing) and in Little Hunting Creek Park (First River Farms), but no longer. As a result, volunteers have turned their attention to removing English ivy, Wintercreeper, Japanese honeysuckle, and other exotic invasive vines that threaten trees and displace native plants, and to projects to improve creek access to nearby neighbors.

What’s left to do?

Pass a bottle deposit law!   

Volunteers are still collecting over a hundred bags of trash a year, on average.  That is a great improvement compared to five to ten years ago, but it’s still too much trash.  Most of what we collect is water bottles, beer cans and soda bottles. For years the Friends have advocated for a deposit on beverage containers. Evidence shows that a deposit provides an incentive to return the container rather than discard it.

Let’s do it, and get out of the litter cleanup business altogether!

What We’re Working On

Here are some of our ongoing initiatives for improving Little Hunting Creek. Click a photo to learn more about what we are doing and how you can help!

Join Us!

Friends of Little Hunting Creek is a grassroots, volunteer-led organization that began as a group of genuinely concerned neighbors living near the creek. We need your help to protect this beautiful place – join us today!

Our vision is a beautiful, healthy creek that supports wildlife living in it and along its shores, and provides recreation and respite to humans that live nearby. We envision a shared sense of community responsibility for the health of the Little Hunting Creek watershed and appreciation for its beauty.

Photo: ©Philip Bogdan