Making a Difference: Mason Employee Paddles Her Way to Watershed Conservation

April 29, 2010Print-Friendly Version


By Tara Laskowski

Mary Zamon turned her kayaking hobby into conservation activism. Photo courtesy of Mary Zamon

The first time Mary Zamon put a kayak in the water and went out by herself, she was terrified. Now it is a regular hobby for her and her husband — so much so that they’ve devoted many hours of volunteer time to trying to protect some of the streams and rivers they navigate.

Zamon, associate director of Institutional Assessment and a Mason graduate (PhD Education ’09), is the chair of the Occoquan Watertrail League (OWL), an organization designed to assist in providing long-term stewardship of the trail and work with volunteers, government agencies and landowners to promote resource awareness, encourage environmental stewardship and improve access along the water trail.

“The people involved are fantastic,” she says. “We all love being out where we can see nature, take pictures and just get away from the craziness of life.”

Zamon says that OWL members try to improve safety on the water trails and help build awareness of the watershed. They are involved in petitioning for better signage along the water routes and general maintenance of the areas.

One of the most important goals, says Zamon, is increasing public knowledge.

“We really try to educate people on how to treat nature — responsible recreation — which includes leaving things the way they were when you came.”

Zamon is chairing the OWL’s biggest event to date: a watershed event on May 22 for the entire community. The Occoquan River Conservation Day will celebrate the river and all its resources with nature walks, conservation talks, displays and family activities.

The event is free, and participants can choose from activities such as paddling from Lake Ridge Marina to Fountainhead, a ghost tour of Occoquan, a Fairfax County Fire Department water pumping demonstration and a tour focusing on the history of the region.

Mason environmental scientists Chris Jones and Dann Sklarew will also be involved in the day by providing opportunities for citizens to do scientific testing such as water quality and stream life monitoring.

Zamon thinks that this event will help build awareness of the beautiful natural areas in the Washington, D.C., region.

“There are many places just minutes away, and people don’t even know they’re there.”


3 Responses

  1. Cathy says on:

    Dr. Zamon has a determination that won’t quit, and when she takes on a cause, it gets done! This is an extremely vital cause not just for the local area but for every area in the country. FIRST, there should be no pollution – “leave as arrived, or better” means if someone left something, pick it up and take it out. Make it better is to monitor the health of the rivers and lakes for quality,find sources of pollution and fix them.

    Those of us in FL have dealt with quality issues for decades and applaud the work done in our nation’s capital area. OWL must keep people aware, and I know if Dr. Zamon is involved, it will!
    WAY TO GO

  2. Ann says on:

    We are very proud to have family members involved in such a relevant and important issue. Those of us in Michigan are always promoting taking care of our waterways. Congratulations, Mary! The article was great and keeps us informed about OWL’s activities.

  3. Dann Sklarew says on:

    Dr. Zamon is indeed a powerhouse of enthusiasm and action! We are all very lucky to have her leading the way to increase our communities awareness, appreciation, exploration and stewardship of all the natural beauty along the Occoquan River and its shores. The event described above brought together so many groups who share her passion and sense of purpose; it was truly inspirational. Under her leadership, OWL also hired summer interns, including from Mason, to work with volunteers to map out potentially new recreational opportunities and access points along the river and reservoir. I can personally attest to the delightfulness of participating by paddleboat in this wonderful recreational-conservation activity. Thank you, Dr. Zamon!

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