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Natural Retreats

Mason Neck National Wildlife Refuge

Mason Neck National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1969 for the protection of nesting, feeding and roosting habitat for the Bald eagles.

The refuge, situated along the Potomac River on the Mason Neck peninsula, consists of 2,277 acres of oak-hickory forest, freshwater marshes and has 4.4 miles of shoreline. The refuge has the largest freshwater marsh in Northern Virginia; the largest great blue heron nesting area in the Mid-Atlantic region, with over 1400 nests; and hosts over 200 species of birds, 31 species of mammals and 44 species of reptiles and amphibians.

Eagles use the mature forests for shelter and nesting sites and the marshes, bays, and river for foraging and hunting. Seven bald eagle nests occur on or adjacent to the refuge along with an eagle roost and a wintering population of 50-60 birds. The refuge was listed as one of the top ten sites in the country for viewing bald eagles.

Pohick Bay Regional Park,

Mason Neck State Park

<lst>Mason Neck is also the location of Pohick Bay Regional Park, which is operated by the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority for active recreational pursuits, and Mason Neck State Park, which has an environmental education center and facilities for passive recreation. The archaeological site of the colonial port of Colchester is on the western edge of the peninsula.

The Friends of Mason Neck is a private, nonprofit organization that draws its membership from residents of Mason Neck, as well as other parts of the Washington metropolitan area. Despite a wide range of backgrounds, the members are united by their firm desire to further the protection and enhancement of the natural and historic resources of Mason Neck. Founded in 1983, Friends of Mason Neck is dedicated to:

* Monitoring developments and activities proposed for Mason Neck and contiguous land and water areas;

* Providing a source of labor and expertise in keeping with the function of an outdoor classroom;

* Acting as a communications link between the members, residents, government agencies and other interested parties;

* Serving as a forum for citizen input to resource management decisions affecting Mason Neck.

The group holds periodic meetings where invited guests may give presentations on a variety of subjects pertaining to Mason Neck. Members may also be involved in field trips, nature walks and data collection activities. Join the Friends of Mason Neck and develop a greater appreciation for the natural and historic resources found there. Annual dues are $5 per individual, and includes a subscription to 'The Guardian,' the official newsletter of the Friends of Mason Neck and community 'Action Alerts.'

E-mail: wesi@tidalwave.net

Hours: Refuge trails are open dawn to dusk year-round.

Entrance fees: No fee or permit required to use the two refuge trails.

Huntley Meadows Park

3701 Lockheed Blvd.

703-768-2525

Nestled in Fairfax County's Hybla Valley, Huntley Meadows Park, is a rich, natural island in the vast suburban sea of Northern Virginia. Its 1,424 acres harbor majestic mature forests, wildflower speckled meadows and acres of wetlands bursting with life. It is ideal wildlife habitat for beaver, otter, heron, ducks, deer, many songbird and butterfly varieties, as well as a host of other animals.

Operated by the Fairfax County Park Authority, Huntley Meadows is preserved in a natural state for hiking, biking, wildlife watching, relaxing and discovering.

Facilities include a Visitor Center with exhibits and auditorium, a 1/2 mile boardwalk wetland trail, 2-mile interpretive trail system and wildlife observation tower.

Founded in 1985, Friends of Huntley Meadows Park is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the protection of Fairfax County's premier wetland wildlife sanctuary. The more than 400 members represent an active influential voice for the Park and for open space throughout the county. Visit www.friendsofhuntleymeadows.org.