Friends of 
Mason Neck State Park


  • 01 Oct 2018 2:24 PM | Thomas Blackburn (Administrator)

    October 2018 Newsletter

    Owls Enchanted the 
    Friends of Mason Neck State Park

    Nearly 100 people spent a fascinating evening at Gunston Hall, as Secret Garden Birds and Bees presented a program on the owls that live in Northern Virginia in the winter.  

    Everyone in the audience had an opportunity to get close-up views and pictures of a Barred Owl, Barn Owl, Great Horned Owl and two Screech Owls.   

    We also learned about the Snowy Owls, Long-eared Owls,Short-eared Owls and Saw Whet Owls that migrate into the area during cold weather.

    Secret Garden Birds and Bees rehabilitates injured owls and other birds and brings owls that cannot be released back into the wild to audiences who want to learn more about these seldom-seen creatures.  

    For many people, the Eastern Screech Owl, 
    a 4-ounce cutie, was the star of the show.  

    Friends of Mason Neck State Park Supported the National Public Lands Day Cleanup

    The Friends of Mason Neck State Park provided refreshments and helped to organize the 34 volunteers who showed up to spruce up the Park on National Public Lands Day.  

    The large amount of rain that fell during the summer contributed to an unusually large amount of trash washing up on the shoreline of the Park.


    Intrepid paddlers braved thick mats of vegetation and stiff winds to clean the shoreline in areas that were inaccessible by foot.

    Those who were not able to walk the shoreline helped spruce up the Visitor Center by weeding the new gardens.  

    The volunteers cleaned up 734 pounds of trash, making this one of the most successful Park cleanups in recent history.

    Come to Park After Dark 
    at Mason Neck State Park 
    on October 20

    Visitors will have a rare opportunity to experience the Park after the sun goes down on October 20.  From 6:30 pm until 9:00 pm, adults and children alike will learn about the park at night.  

    During Enchanted Forest hikes, children will visit with costumed characters representing animals who live in the Park and learn about their lives.


    Adults and older children can take guided "no lights" hikes to learn how vision and other senses change in the dark and experience the woods at night.  

    And of course there will be a campfire, complete with a storyteller, and the Friends of Mason Neck State Park will supply drinks, marshmallows to roast and s'mores to enjoy.

    So come on out to the Park for a unique experience!  There's no need to register, and no charge for the event (although standard Park admission fees apply). 

    The Park also needs a few volunteers to help make sure the event runs smoothly.  If you are interested in helping, please email the Park staff at Volunteer for Park After Dark and put "Volunteer for Park after Dark" in the subject line.    

    Save the Date for 
    the Friends of Mason Neck State Park's
     Holiday Program

    The Friends of Mason Neck State Park will hold their annual holiday  event on Sunday afternoon, December 2.  We'll meet at the Jammes House in the Park, which is normally closed to visitors, but will be decorated for the event.

    We'll have a wonderful array of good things to eat and a special presentation from Ashley Kennedy, a PhD candidate in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware. This fascinating program, "What Birds Eat", can help us establish ideal bird habitats not only in our own backyards but on a much larger scale to promote avian conservation. Learn  which insects are the most important in birds’ diets and which plants you can include in your garden to support various bird species.  Stay tuned; registration for this event will open shortly, and it always fills up quickly. 


    We would love to have you join the Friends of Mason Neck State Park!  Memberships fund the many Park activities we support each year.  And for as little as $20 per year, you will enjoy monthly newsletters, emails about special events and priority registration for special events such as our members-only Owl Moon in September, and Swanfall in December, and other activities during the year. You can sign up right here:  Join the Friends of Mason Neck State Park 

  • 17 Jun 2018 2:54 PM | Thomas Blackburn (Administrator)

    June 2018 Newsletter




    More than 4300 people enjoyed a perfect day and interesting activities at Mason Neck State Park's annual Eagle Festival. 


    Crowds filled the Wildlife tent for a full day of live animal shows, including Buddy the Eagle, reptiles and raptors.  


    More than 20 environmental organizations presented information and activities.

    The Friends of Mason Neck State Park raised the funds for the Festival, recruited the 27 volunteers that helped the Festival run smoothly and provided drinks and snacks for the volunteers and exhibitors.


    A heartfelt THANK YOU to our generous sponsors who made the Festival possible:

    Third-Year Sponsors

    George Mason University's School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution 

    Hallowing Point Association

    I-95 Business Parks Management 

    Mason Neck Citizens Association

    Wegmans Food Markets

    Second-year Sponsors

    The Carly and Frank Fiorina Family Fund

    Chaney Enterprises





    During the Eagle Festival, Park Manager Reinhardt Gray unveiled the Visitor Center’s renovated Exhibit Hall.  In a ceremony, Reinhardt announced that the exhibit hall has been named The Charlotte and Gary Knipling Hall, in recognition of the Kniplings' long-term commitment to Mason Neck State Park and their willingness to help the park in any way they can.




    More than 25 photographers aged 4 to 15 entered the Eagle Festival Junior Ranger Photo Contest.  Each of the five winners  received a backpack filled with prizes and a free place in Mason Neck State Park's Junior Ranger program. 

    Here are the contest winners:

                                          Shayan Ahmed - Age 8

      Stephanie Arroyave - Age 11



     Alejandro Arroyave - Age 5

    Kierlyn Sherman - Age 11

                                          Jasmine Sklarew - Age 10




    At a ceremony at the Eagle Festival, Dan Storck, Fairfax County Supervisor for the Mount Vernon District, received the Mason Neck Citizens Association Man of the Year award.  Dan received the award for his efforts to protect the environmental resources and maintain the bucolic nature of Mason Neck.  




    Can you help us keep the Chesapeake Bay clean?  Volunteers will participate in the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's annual Clean the Bay Day by removing trash from the shoreline at Mason Neck State Park on Saturday, June 2 from 9 AM until noon.  Trash floats down the Potomac and Occoquan Rivers and some of it washes up on the Park's shoreline.  

    You can help make the Park more beautiful and also ensure that the trash doesn't end up in the Chesapeake Bay!   Friends of Mason Neck State Park will be there to provide drinks and snacks to help you along.   Most of the volunteers will walk along the shoreline, but some of us will be paddling canoes up to Sandy Point to clean trash there too.  If you would like to participate in that part of the cleanup, please wear shoes that you don't mind getting wet.





    We would love to have you join the Friends of Mason Neck State Park!  Memberships fund the many Park activities we support each year.  And for as little as $20 per year, you will enjoy monthly newsletters, emails about special events and priority registration for special events such as our annual Swanfall in December and other activities during the year. You can sign up right here:  Join the Friends!

  • 04 Apr 2018 1:52 PM | Thomas Blackburn (Administrator)

    About thirty people participated in members-only tours of the colonial-era Lexington Plantation archaeological site on March 31.  George Mason V, the son of George Mason of Gunston Hall, was the first owner of the plantation, which is located in an area of the Mason Neck State Park that is normally closed to visitors.

    We had a pleasant walk through the early spring woods to the site, thanks to the Park Staff, who had cleared fallen trees and leaves along the way; there is no established trail.  

    Three of the Friends related the history of the plantation and explained the buildings, ice house and unique falling gardens at the site.  

    No buildings remain at the site; the residence burned to the ground in 1879.  However, the cellar hole and rubble from the two chimneys are still visible, as is debris from the office, dairy, kitchen and smokehouse.  

    The outlet from a massive ice house and the well are still visible.


    The site, which was once cleared, is now becoming re-forested.  However, heirloom "Van Sion" double daffodils, which were originally planted when the plantation house was inhabited, are still visible at the site, as they are elsewhere on Mason Neck and other old homesites.  



    To preserve the archaeological site, access to Lexington is prohibited except on formal tours, which are scheduled once every year or two.  

  • 05 Jan 2018 2:48 PM | Thomas Blackburn (Administrator)

    Despite frigid temperatures, there was a good turnout to hike at Mason Neck State Park on January 1.  It was a cold but brilliantly sunny day, and Belmont Bay was full of ice.  

    The parking lot was nearly full, as more than fifty people showed up to hike on their own or participate in one of the Park's three guided hikes. 

    The Friends of Mason Neck State Park provided hot refreshments, allowing hikers to warm up a bit before or after their excursions.  Hot chocolate was especially popular among the younger hikers.  

  • 10 Dec 2017 9:56 PM | Thomas Blackburn (Administrator)

    "Spirit of America", the life-sized Bald Eagle Sculpture commissioned by the Friends of Mason Neck State Park, was unveiled and dedicated at a ceremony on Sunday, December 10. 

    The sculpture was created by noted sculptor 

    Mike Curtis of Sagle, Idaho.

    More than 50 people showed up for the ceremony, including Delegate-Elect Kathy Tran, Delegate Dave Albo, and Supervisor Dan Storck.


    Guests enjoyed delicious refreshments, including specially-commissioned  Bald Eagle cookies.  

    Mason Neck State Park is the only State Park in Virginia with a sculpture that reflects the image and purpose of the park. 

            "Spirit of America" will greet visitors to the park for many years to come.  

  • 06 Dec 2017 1:53 PM | Thomas Blackburn (Administrator)

    David Stapleton, who has served as Mason Neck State Park's Assistant Manager for 25 years, retires at the end of December.  David spent 34 years with the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, including stints at Holiday Lake, Hungry Mother, Pocahontas and Douthat State Parks, before coming to Mason Neck State Park in 1992.  Friends, family, Park Staff and DCR personnel celebrated David's service to the Park at a luncheon at the Jammes house on December 2.  The Friends of Mason Neck State Park provided a barbecue lunch and cake and gave David a book of Randy Streufert's photographs of the Park's wildlife so he won't forget his furry, feathered and scaled friends.  

  • 04 Dec 2017 11:35 AM | Thomas Blackburn (Administrator)


    The Friends of Mason Neck State Park’s

    Swanfall 2017 Was Completely Sold Out!

    More than 60 guests attended Swanfall 2017 on December 3, 2017.  The Jammes House, a former hunting lodge on the banks of Occoquan Bay in Mason Neck State Park, was decorated for the holidays, and guests enjoyed a delicious buffet in this unique home.  

    Paul Baicich, the co-author of the recently-published book “The Crossley ID Guide: Waterfowl" and President of the Friends of the Migratory Bird/Duck Stamp, spoke about the effect of changing demographics on waterfowl populations, efforts to acquire and preserve waterfowl habitat, and the habits and habitat of cavity-nesting waterfowl such as the Wood Duck and the Hooded Merganser.  

    A silent auction featured the stunning photographs of Randy Streufert, whose stunning pictures of wildlife on Mason Neck have graced the cover of Virginia Wildlife magazine and the walls of the Park’s Visitor Center.  


    And guests enjoyed a stunning sunset as they left the James House.
  • 23 Oct 2017 10:37 AM | Thomas Blackburn (Administrator)

    The Friends of Mason Neck State Park and other volunteers helped make the Park's annual Park After Dark event a success.  Volunteers were costumed characters for the childrens' Enchanted Forest walks, helped guide the Enchanted Forest walks and the No-Lights Night Hikes, told stories around the campfire and served cider and the ingredients for s'mores.

  • 02 Oct 2017 1:39 PM | Thomas Blackburn (Administrator)

    Twenty-four volunteers helped to clean up the Belmont Bay Shoreline for National Public Lands Day on September 30.  The Friends of Mason Neck State Park were on hand to help register the volunteers, hand out gloves, provide refreshments and water and coordinate the cleanup efforts.  Volunteers collected bottles, cans, styrofoam, plastic, and pieces of decking and planks that had washed up over the summer.  The cleanups, which are scheduled three times a year, are vital to maintaining the appearance of the Park and the health of the environment.

    Special thanks to eMotion Dance of Reston, whose ten volunteers were a big help in cleaning up the shoreline.  


  • 24 Sep 2017 4:48 PM | Thomas Blackburn (Administrator)

    Sixty-five people turned out for the Friends of Mason Neck State Park's Owl Moon event on September 23.  Two speakers from Secret Garden: Birds and Bees briefed the audience on a typical year in the life of Screech Owls, Barred Owls, Barn Owls and Great Horned Owls.  They also brought with them a Barred Owl, a Barn Owl and a Great Horned Owl for the audience to see and photograph.  

    Everyone enjoyed the program and the opportunity to view these seldom-seen birds up close.  But the highlight of the evening was watching the Great Horned Owl seize and devour a mouse.  



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