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

Posted: April 29, 2010 at 1:02 am, Last Updated: April 28, 2010 at 8:05 pm

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.”

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