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Discover Western Prince William April 2018
"Urban sprawl" is a popular
buzzword of late. Although
Washington, DC, lies less than 30
miles from western Prince William
County, the Northern Piedmont region continues to boast
beautiful landscapes. However, some of them owe their ongoing
existence to the steadfast efforts of individuals who strive to
protect our outdoor spaces.
It has been two decades since the county adopted an Urban
Growth Boundary, a designated Rural Area (known as the
Rural Crescent), from which the
Prince William Conservation
Alliance (PWCA) sprouted more than 15 years ago. PWCA
founding member and executive director Kim Hosen explains
that the organization continues to live up to its mission to "protect
and enhance natural areas and healthy communities through
stewardship, recreation, and education."
How do you curb urban sprawl? PWCA's view is that it takes
smart growth planning to ensure neighborhoods that are both
economically prosperous and environmentally sustainable.
This requires people who will stand up to voice concerns about
practices that go against smart growth--and not just periodically,
but for the long haul--because change does not come easily.
For example, one of PWCA's earliest projects was saving
Merrimac Farm, a 302-acre wildlife management area in
Nokesville. Soon after the farm's owner passed away, his family,
along with Marine Corps Base Quantico, the Virginia Department
of Game and Inland Fisheries, and PWCA formed a partnership
with the goal of permanently conserving Merrimac Farm and
opening it to the public. The process took more than six years to
complete, and it was celebrated in April 2008 with the inaugural
Bluebell Festival. This is now an annual Merrimac Farm event
that welcomes spring, celebrates nature, and educates guests
through a variety of naturalist-led tours and activities, while
offering an incredible view of Virginia Bluebells that carpet the
Cedar Run shoreline for nearly a mile.
Prince William Conservation Alliance:
Smart Growth Happens Here!
Kim explains that PWCA has since created a wildlife garden on
about a quarter-acre within Merrimac Farm. This high-quality
habitat is ideal for outdoor education experiences for people of
all ages, and because of its small size, it's perfect for young
children and others who can't walk long distances. Depending
on the season, visitors can marvel at a wide range of butterfl y,
bird, and frog species.
In addition to visiting the garden, guests are invited to participate
in monthly maintenance sessions. "One of our goals in educating
people is to help them reconnect to nature," Kim says. "People
learn more about local fl ora and fauna, and it engages them in a
positive way that often leads to reclaiming their own backyards
as natural areas."
This year's fabulous Bluebell
Festival was held this past
weekend, but there are many
ways to get involved in PWCA
activities--new people are always
welcome! Here are a few upcoming
Volunteer Opportunities:
Buffer Restoration Minnieville Road: Wednesday, April 18
and Saturday, April 21, 10:00 a.m.­noon. Meet in the parking
lot for K9 Gunner Dog Park, near the intersection of Minnieville
Road and Gunner Drive.
Merrimac Farm Wildlife Garden: Saturday, April 28 and May
12, 9:00 a.m.­noon. Meet at Merrimac Farm, Stone House,
15014 Deepwood Lane, Nokesville.
Leisure and Educational Opportunities:
Comprehensive Planning 101: Tuesday, April 24,
7:00­9:00 p.m. at the Clearbrook Center for the Arts,
2230 Tacketts Mill Drive, Woodbridge.
Bird Walk at Merrimac Farm: Sunday, April 29, 8:00 a.m.
Meet at Merrimac Farm, Stone House, 15014 Deepwood Lane,
Butterfl y Walk at Merrimac Farm: Saturday, May 12 and
June 2, 1:00­3:00 p.m. Meet at Merrimac Farm, Stone House,
15014 Deepwood Lane, Nokesville.
Smart Growth Tour--It Can Happen Here: Saturday, June 2,
10:00 a.m.­noon. Meet at the VRE Station, 9451 West Street,
To RSVP to any of these events, call (703) 499-4954 or send
an email to To learn more about
the Alliance and all activities noted above, visit
~ Nancy Griffi n-Bonnaire