Overgrown holly bushes dominated the island on Backlick Road in front of Lynbrook Elementary School that stands as the entrance to Springfield. After years of neglect, Tawny Hammond, park manager, and her maintenance crew from nearby Lake Accotink park saw this neglect as an opportunity to beautify the area, give newcomers a good impression, and welcome people to Lake Accotink; they adopted it with shovels in hand.
"The median is the first thing they see when coming to Lake Accotink and Springfield. It was an eyesore. The reason Lake Accotink got involved was a combination of the Springfield Civic Association and Lake Accotink, teaming up to do some beautification projects," Hammond said.
IN THE 1950S when the community of Crestwood was built, developers used these brick-wall signs throughout the Springfield area to recognize the various neighborhoods. North Springfield has a similar sign on Braddock Road. Although the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) maintained the islands, mostly concentrating on mowing, nature got out of control. On Backlick, the island became dominated by holly bushes that grew so big they concealed the sign.
Lynbrook Elementary School administrator Marge Besachio had a view of the island out of her window. She also lives in the Crestwood community.
"They had these huge bushes. You couldn't see the sign. I'm very happy that they cleaned it up. It looks much better," she said.
Justin Stanifer grew up in Crestwood as well, attending Crestwood Elementary and graduating from Lee High School. He now works for the Fairfax County Department of Parks and Recreation at Lake Accotink and assists with the maintenance of the island.
"It was just one of the areas where they [VDOT] just mowed the grass, and that's it. Anything like this is positive. It's better than just leaving it alone," he said.
STANIFER WAS AMONG a crew that went out to check up on the island recently. Though the lack of rain has left the ground dry and some of the ornamental grasses they planted went dormant, they watered and went over plans for the island. One bypassing motorist praised the efforts.
"Yea, we can see the sign," she said.
Ed Miller, a 15-year park employee, has a neighbor who donated some greenery, called "lariope," which they have in pots but are not planting due to the drought.
"We transported it in his truck," Miller said, pointing at Ken Fulling, who was digging a plot by the sign.
Hammond looked at the importance of water and welcomed any assistance.
"There's a downside to it. The negative is our resources are limited. Any citizens that want to help us with watering can come with buckets," she said.
Hammond talked with Fairfax County executive director Tony Griffin.
"The county executive feels very strongly about community partnerships. It's a service issue," she said.
Griffin looked at volunteering on all levels, including the volunteer fire department, library assistants, park volunteers and auxiliary police officers.
"They make a significant difference in the quality of life. It's very valuable," he said.
The island is in Lee District, which is under supervisor Dana Kauffman's purview. Kauffman's administrator, Linda Waller, is familiar with the island on Backlick Road.
"That particular piece of land fell through the cracks. We're always very happy when a local group adopts a spot. It helps," she said.
ADOPT-A-HIGHWAY is a similar program with more structure than Lake Accotink used. It is orchestrated through VDOT and rules include a minimum of a 2-mile route, groups must have one safety meeting a year, and they must clean it on a quarterly basis, according to Lee Democratic Committee member Liz Murphy. She is in the process of adopting the stretch of Frontier Drive from Franconia Road to the Springfield-Franconia Metro station.
"There's a formal application process, it's about two pages. My understanding, it's any community group," she said.