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On Cleanup Duty

West Group employees take time from work to participate in the 17th Annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup.

Fifteen tires, four oil drums, a large television and two air conditioning units — these were just some of the things that were pulled out of Scott's Run on Monday, April 3.

"There were also 100 bags of trash," said Keith Turner, vice president of Development Services for West Group. "So there was a little bit of everything, and we even managed to get the big heavy stuff out."

When Turner recently saw an advertisement for the 17th Annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup, he saw an opportunity for West Group to give back to its community.

"We've been here for 45-plus years and a lot of our buildings are next to or back up against Scott's Run," said Turner.

THIS YEAR'S POTOMAC RIVER Watershed Cleanup was sponsored by the Alice Ferguson Foundation, and the theme was "Take Pride in Our Potomac: Trash Free by 2013." Gerald Halpin, President and CEO of West Group, was more than willing to have his company participate in the cleanup — so much so that he agreed to having his employees volunteer on a workday.

"We thought we would have better participation if we did it on a workday rather than a Saturday," said Turner.

It seems that they guessed correctly as approximately 50 employees, or roughly two-thirds, of the McLean-based commercial real estate development company volunteered to spend their Monday morning collecting trash in Scott's Run. The volunteers spent two hours cleaning up the watershed area between Route 66 and the Capital Beltway.

Ed Pickens, president of Fairfax Trails & Streams helped to coordinate the event. In the week before the cleanup, Pickens and his team spent 20 hours wading through the stream and pulling debris up and on to the shore.

"This is the first time that Scott's Run has been cleaned in 20-30 years," said Pickens.

Several other cleaning projects took place as part of the Potomac Watershed Cleanup, but Pickens said he was still surprised by how much debris was picked up at Scott's Run.

"It's very impressive — this is the largest stack of trash I've seen."

BOTH PICKENS AND TURNER said they see this project as a good pre-cursor to the impending development of the Tysons Corner area.

"With the Metro coming in, one of the things that is talked about is making this area more walkable," said Turner. "We would eventually like to connect all of these parks and trails around the Metro station, and we want it to be a nice area."

Halpin said he too was surprised by the amount of trash that was found, and marveled at the changes in Scott's Run.

"Before all of this, there were cows and horses drinking out of it," said Halpin.

Turner says that West Group has always been environmentally minded, and that he was pleased with the company participation in the event.

"When you have been in the community as long as we have, we feel responsible for helping to keep it clean," said Turner.