By Laura Van Pate | firstname.lastname@example.org
Friends of the Mount Vernon Trail is a nonprofit organization helping the Alexandria community by keeping the beloved trail clean for all to enjoy.
The organization was created in September 2018 after a group of people realized work needed to be done on the 18 mile-long trail after visiting. During the pandemic, the Friends signed a philanthropic partnership to officially be recognized as a nonprofit by the George Washington Memorial Parkway.
“A couple of Alexandrians and I started Friends of the Mount Vernon Trail because we wanted to make the trail as beautiful as we could,” Judd Isbell, president and one of the founders of Friends of the Mount Vernon Trail, said. “We wanted to both clean up the trail and create new features to it that could enhance its use. We … noticed how much work the trail needed after people started complaining about the maintenance of it at trail stakeholder meetings that were conducted by the Parkway.”
A pillar of the Friends’ activities is removing invasive plants, including bush honeysuckle and English ivy. These plants prevent the growth of new trees and pollinator plants. The Friends also ensure the roads are clear and safe for visitors who either bike or walk. Volunteers trim overgrown branches, remove grass and dirt from the edges of the road, and remove potholes.
The organization also tries to make the trail appealing to the eye by removing graffiti and trash left on the trail.
Years of dedicated volunteers have contributed a total of 7,482 hours and fixed 604 issues this year alone, according to Isbell. Since 2018, almost 3,000 volunteers have donated their time and the organization has nearly 200 financial supporters.
“Alongside the 3,000 volunteers we have, we also have six Board of Directors and a group of 14 people that lead our weekly volunteer trail maintenance events,” Cameron Taylor, a two-year volunteer leader for Friends of the Mount Vernon Trail, said.
The Friends’ work is being noticed by Alexandria residents, as they won the 2023 Ellen Pickering Environmental Excellence Award, which is an award given to those who contributed most to environmental work in the city.
Isbell said anyone can volunteer with the organization to move toward the Friends’ goal.
“Volunteers really help out this group with its mission. The only limit on how much better the trail can be is the number of people who show up,” Isbell said.
Taylor said the group is communal in nature.
“Many of our volunteers have found a community through volunteering as well,” Taylor said. “One of the best things about this group is seeing life-long friendships that have formed between volunteers that wouldn’t have happened if not for Friends of the Mount Vernon Trail.”
The organization also aims to one day clean up other beautiful sights in the community.
“Right now we’re focusing on the Mount Vernon Trail, but we do hope to help out other places such as the Jones Point Lighthouse because that’s also another beautiful historic sight in Alexandria,” Isbell said.
Isbell also said the Friends support other organizations that do similar work along the same stretch of land.
“We also help support our sister organizations that work on the Potomac Heritage Trail and the 9/11 Memorial Trail because both of those trails and the Mount Vernon Trail are a part of the 3,000- mile East Coast Greenway,” Isbell said.
Most of the organization’s volunteer work is conducted on Saturdays. Those interested in volunteering can register for their events at mountvernontrail.org/events.