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ArlingtonArlington celebrates work of park volunteers

Arlington celebrates work of park volunteers

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Arlington County Board members on April 20 recognized Elaine Mills and Glenn Tobin as recipients of the Bill Thomas Park Volunteer Award

Both local residents “embody the spirit of this award,” County Board Chairman Matt de Ferranti said.

“You can see real results of their work – they are role models for us all,” he said.

The award is named after a long-time park volunteer. Because no award was presented in 2020 due to the pandemic, Mills was designated the recipient for 2019 and Tobin for 2020.


Mills is a Master Gardener, and works to educate the public about best practices for landscaping.

Using her personal library of 10,000 plant photos, she creates fact sheets, presentations, social-media and online 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 also is 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 has been a member of Arlington Regional Master Naturalists since 2016 and a trail-maintainer with the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club since 2015, combining his interests to enhance local parks and natural spaces.

Shortly after joining Master Naturalists, he worked 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 and porcelain berry, among others.

In 2020, Tobin worked with the trail club 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 www.novanaturalcommunity.com Website to make his findings accessible to a wide audience.

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