The Arlington County Board will recognize two winners of the Bill Thomas Park Volunteer Award at its Board meeting on Tuesday, April 20.
Elaine Mills and Glenn Tobin will be recognized for their dedication and support of Arlington County natural resources and public open spaces. Mills is the winner for 2019 and Tobin is the winner for 2020.
The Bill Thomas Park Volunteer Award pays tribute to lifelong parks volunteer Bill Thomas and serves to honor and encourage park volunteerism in Arlington. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic there was no ceremony in 2020.
“Both Elaine and Glenn embody the spirit of this award,” said Arlington County Board Chair Matt de Ferranti. “Their dedication to reclaiming our natural lands and educating the public on the importance of removing invasive plant species continues to improve our natural landscape and is consistent with Arlington’s joining the biophilic communities network. You can see real results of their work in our public spaces where native flora is returning and attracting wildlife not seen in Arlington for years. They are role models for us all.”
The award ceremony will take place virtually no earlier than 6:30 p.m. as part of the 2021 April recessed Board meeting that will be live streamed on YouTube.
Master Gardener Mills Educates the Public on Best Gardening Practices
With more than 8,000 volunteer hours under her belt, Mills uses her wealth of knowledge of native plant species developing content to share with the community on best landscaping practices.
Using her personal library of 10,000 plant photos, she creates fact sheets, presentations, social media and web posts to cover topics ranging from identifying 45 different species of invasive plants to climate-conscious gardening techniques. At the Glencarlyn Library Community Garden, she developed an easy-to-understand labeling system to educate the public about what grows well in Arlington and also helped facilitate an Audubon At Home certification.
Mills is also responsible for getting hundreds of native plants into the hands of residents each year by way of local plant sales. Her efforts are helping to change Arlington’s landscape with more native plant species that attract local wildlife.
Tobin Helps Reclaim Windy Run Park and Adjacent Potomac Waterfront
Since becoming an Arlington Regional Master Naturalist (ARMN) in 2016 and a Trail Maintainer with the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC) in 2015, Tobin set out to enhance our local parks and natural spaces.
Shortly after joining ARMN, he worked tirelessly to remove invasive plant species from Windy Run Park and the adjacent Potomac River waterfront in the George Washington Memorial Parkway, including kudzu, oriental bittersweet, multiflora rose, porcelain berry and others. Thanks to the combined efforts of Tobin and other volunteers, significant natural areas are recovering and becoming more beautiful and biodiverse.
Tobin’s work was not limited to Windy Run. Last year, he worked with the PATC and the National Park Service to rebuild a stone stairway connecting the park trail to the Potomac Heritage Trail, improving access for pedestrians. Based on his success removing invasive plants from Windy Run and his desire to help translate significant science about natural plant communities into practical guidance for ecological restoration activities, Tobin created the novanaturalcommunity.com website to make his findings accessible to a wide audience.