Joan Horwitt (individual winner) and the Rock Spring Garden Club (group winner) have been named 2011 Bill Thomas Outstanding Park Service Volunteers Award winners for their contributions to Arlington’s natural resources and public spaces.They will be honored at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 24 at the recessed Arlington County Board meeting in the County Board Room, 2100 Clarendon Blvd., 3rd floor.
Horwitt, founder of the Lawns 2 Lettuce 4 Lunch initiative, wanted to give Ashlawn Homework Club students she mentored a hands-on learning experience about soil composition. So, she took them outside to garden where they could see, feel and analyze the soil. The lesson grew into a much larger vision of planting lettuces and other greens not only around the elementary school, but in yards and gardens in nearby neighborhoods. The main theme of Horwitt’s healthy food-growing mission is sustainability, education and community-building, which includes a bi-annual salad-eating celebration for students and staff.
She is also chair of the Reevesland Learning Center steering committee dedicated to the rehabilitation of the Torreyson-Reeves farmhouse located near Bluemont Park. The house once featured an iconic vegetable garden that had turned to grass. In 2011, her group’s proposal to build eight raised growing beds in the former garden was approved and Horwitt and Reevesland neighbors got to work.
Before she launched the Lawns 2 Lettuce 4 Lunch initiative, Horwitt taught Spanish for Arlington Public Schools, was a food writer for The Washington Post, and been involved in civic activism.
The 1953 undertaking was to save three stately oak trees in what was then a grassy area near Rock Spring. Since then, the Rock Spring Garden Club (RSGC) has myriad achievements in the area — the most prominent being the establishment of Rock Spring Park.
RSGC member Florence Taylor spent several months of meetings with the Arlington County Board in 1970 to turn a dream into reality. The RSGC wanted to turn what was a continuation of George Mason Drive into a beautiful, well-maintained park. Since the park was founded in 1970, the club has worked to plant thousands of daffodils, crocus, and many native plants, shrubs and trees. Two years ago, RSGC’s Civic Development Committee decided that they would focus on planting only native plants in the park, furthering the sustainability of the plantings.
In 1994, member Emily DeCicco proposed the addition of a "tot trail" to introduce the joys of walking in the woods. Recently, member Kathy Diggs donated a Dawn Redland and a Japanese maple to the park just before she died. The group also works with Marymount University and Arlington Public Schools students as well as neighbors in the Rock Spring Civic Association and the Yorktown Civic Association on educational and clean-up projects.
The Bill Thomas Outstanding Park Service Volunteer Award was established to pay tribute to lifelong parks volunteer Bill Thomas, and to honor and encourage those residents who demonstrate a dedication and support for park programs, natural resources and public open spaces.