Carrying on the tradition of environmentalist legend Ellen Pickering, 88-year-old Montie Kust, resident of the city for 53 years, received the second annual Ellen Pickering Environmental Excellence Award last Saturday at Ben Brenman Park.
Kust has always treated her three-acre property as a nature preserve, even until 2006 when she created a conservation easement over her property that officially protected the land. She has also continuously opened her property to the public as en educational tool for students, environmentalists, birdwatchers and anyone interested in touring her numerous and various gardens of fruits, vegetables and ferns to name a few, a recreated magnolia bog and wildflower patches.
Her urban preserve maintains wildlife, too. Box turtles, whose numbers are declining throughout the state, thrive on Kust’s land and are supported by wild apple trees.
Kust also progressed efforts by the Virginia Native Plant Society to control invasive species. She worked with her fellow neighbors and environmentalists to ensure that a proposed erosion-control project in the Monticello Park creek was natural, and later planted ferns and tulip trees in the area.
Sponsored by the city’s Department of Transportation and Environmental Services, Environmental Policy Commission and the Alexandria Sanitation Authority, the award’s namesake derives from longtime environmental activist and Alexandrian Frances Ellen Pickering, who led efforts to maintain and preserve nature in the city throughout her lifetime.
Kust, who was introduced by Pickering’s daughter, had a tree planted in her name at Ben Brenman Park.