Water Protectors empowers community leaders!

In 2023, Nature Forward completed the 3rd year of our Water Protectors of Little Hunting Creek outreach, working with communities along the Route 1 Corridor in the Hybla Valley area of Fairfax County, VA.).

Thanks to funding from Virginia Environmental Endowment and in partnership with United Community, Northern Virginia Soil & Water Conservation District (NVSWCD), and Defensores de la Cuenca, individuals and families joined us to celebrate Latino Conservation Week in a variety of ways. Community members helped label storm drains and took a field trip to Huntley Meadows to see how wetlands clean our water. 15 lucky participants joined us for a series of six training classes specially designed to empower them to effectively speak up for a healthier environment.

Labeling storm drains

Many people don’t know there are “secret passageways” underground and all around us. Storm drains carry water away, but too often, the pollution they pick up along the way goes directly into our local streams.

Through a partnership with NVSWCD, residents discovered where water goes when it rains and how to apply labels to storm drains to help educate others, too. Community members in Sequoyah and Audubon Estates came out in force to label over 150 storm drains.

All Fairfax County residents can virtually explore an interactive map of the storm drain system to see which stream receives water via the underground pipes from storm drains near their home!

Field trip to Huntley Meadows

Participants enjoyed a bright sunny day exploring the wetlands of Huntley Meadows Park. With a nature scavenger hunt in hand, kids and parents alike used their observation skills to find various plants and animals that call the park “home.”

Park staff and interpreters talked with participants about how the wetlands clean our drinking water and the connections between a healthy wetland ecosystem and the people who live nearby.

Training to be Environmental Champions

Making your voice heard is one of the most powerful things you can do to influence decision makers as they consider development and redevelopment proposals. The Route 1 area will experience significant changes in the coming years as a new bus rapid transit (BRT) system is built and redevelopment occurs in support of the Embark Richmond Highway Comprehensive Plan.

Nature Forward, Defensores de la Cuenca, and NVSWCD organized a six-training-class program that took place over four weeks. Classes combined advocacy training and hands-on watershed experiences including tree planting, plant identification, cutting back invasive vines, learning to use a mobile app to identify birds by the sounds they make, and visiting Fairfax County’s only trash trap situated on Little Hunting Creek.

Graduates received materials to use for leading outreach events in their own communities, including resource books on plant identification, a Spanish language nature guide, and a Spanish-language interactive decomposition game.

What comes next?

In early 2024, we will plant dozens of trees in the Sequoyah and Murraygate communities thanks to a generous grant from the United States Forest Service! These trees will not only help clean our drinking water, but they’ll offer shade to community members while mitigating heat island effects and supporting nature!

We look forward to our continued collaboration with United Community and other partners in the area to support and protect the environmental health of communities for the good of nature and people!

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