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Moses Hall Descendants Meet – Graves in Beltway Right-of-Way
May 21, 2021
When Pandora White was a young girl, her grandmother Mary White would march her and her siblings along a path in the woods that ran behind 19 Carver Rd. to the Moses lodge and cemetery where she would put them to work. They would either clean up the lodge for some adult function or a funeral or they would tidy up around the family graves. Pandora, 71, still lives on Carver Rd. On April 10, she was back at the cemetery, along with 22 others who have relatives buried in the historic African American cemetery at the edge of Cabin John. The descendants were gathered by the trustees of the newly reestablished Morningstar Moses 88 ownership group to have a tour of the cemetery now that the bamboo and debris have been removed by the state. The other important reason for the meeting was to inform the descendants that in the course of clearing the bamboo, the state found indications of possible gravesites within the right-of-way of the existing Beltway. While Pandora was pleased with the cleanup efforts, she is concerned about the possibility of graves outside the cemetery fence. “I’m very pleased about how it’s been cleared out.” she said, noting that she didn’t realize how far back the graves went. Should the state determine that there are graves in the right-of-way, she wants them left alone. “I don’t think they should disturb the graves, but they should go around them,” turning that land over to the cemetery, she added. Steve Archer, cultural resources team leader at the Maryland State Highway Administration, said they are still completing their archeological investigations of the site for a report that will “provide detailed surface mapping of the cemetery as well as historical research to understand what we can from an archival perspective.” He expects the report to be released this summer. However, the report will not address whether there are gravesites in the Beltway right-of-way. To determine that, Archer explained that they would have to do a two-step investigation. First, they would dig just deep enough to determine if there are any grave shafts. If they find any, they would work with the descendants and the community to determine a proper course of action. Only then, if it is determined that any human remains are to be relocated, would they dig deeper to unearth those remains. Archer gave no time frame for when they might start this investigation. For now, the cemetery remains closed to the public while the state completes its current assessments. The Friends of Moses Hall, a group comprised of descendants, historic preservationists, and Cabin John community members, also requests that the public stay away as they are starting a bamboo remediation project June 7 that requires the use of chemicals to kill the bamboo. In some cases, bamboo that the state cut in January had already sent up new shoots that stand six feet tall or more. The Friends of Moses Hall has another request of the public. They are asking people with any ties to Moses Hall to go through their family photo albums, letters, and other documents. They are hoping that folks might find photographs of events held there, letters that might mention a Moses Hall function, or other documents with reference to the property. Any information, from any source, in any format, that mentions the lodge or cemetery, even if it’s just in passing, would be of interest to the group. Friends of Moses Hall can be reached via email at email@example.com. SUSAN SHIPP, CJCA President ...
A Big Haul at the CJ Creek Cleanup
May 21, 2021
The annual Cabin John Creek cleanup, held April 24, had its best turnout in years with 34 people, including 10 students, scouring the woods and creek from MacArthur Blvd. to at least sandy beach. The Friends of Cabin John Creek organized an additional cleanup for May 2nd to tackle the rest of the creek to Seven Locks. The energetic group on the 24th picked up 21 bags of trash as well as three bags of cans, bottles, and other recyclables. They also hauled up two tires, and some 150 pounds of loose trash that included plastic tree cages, metal pipes, a hub cap, and a tire jack. There was only one scrape requiring a band-aid, and folks wore masks and generally followed social distancing protocols, making the event a safety success as well. Thanks to everyone who came out. GREG GURLEY, Director, Friends of the Cabin John Creek ...
CJ Sign Concept Ready for Unveiling
May 21, 2021
After multiple years and a pandemic, the Cabin John sign committee is excited to be able to share a recommended sign design with the community at the May 26 Cabin John Citizens Association meeting. CJCA officer elections also will be held during the Zoom meeting, which will begin at 7:30 pm. The community endorsed a Cabin John sign project as part of the celebrations for the CJCA’s 100th anniversary in 2019. In addition to civic pride, the idea for a prominent Cabin John sign stemmed from community frustration that, as part of the revamping of the Cabin John Shopping Center at Seven Locks and Tuckerman Lane, the developers decided to rename the shopping center and planned townhouses Cabin John Village. After some debate about how best to plant our flag as the REAL Cabin John, the decision was made to come up with a sign that simply says: Historic Cabin John, established 1912. The only other guidance was that the sign be placed somewhere along MacArthur Blvd. With those marching orders, the CJ sign committee, led by CJCA Vice President Greg Pawlson, has been working diligently, although somewhat sporadically, throughout the pandemic. The group’s work became inspired when Jack Mandel, a stone mason and owner of his own stonework design business, recently joined the effort. Other committee members are Darla Cable, Dallas Harrison, Charlotte and Russ Leighton, and Susan Shipp. Thanks to Greg Pawlson’s efforts, the MacArthur Plaza shopping center has tentatively agreed to allow a Cabin John sign to be installed on the grassy area between the landscaping and the stop sign at the corner of Seven Locks and MacArthur Blvd. The committee hopes that CJ residents will join in the Zoom meeting for the design unveiling and a discussion about next steps, including the additional fundraising that will be needed to make this sign a reality. A link to the meeting will be emailed prior to May 26. 2021 CJCA OFFICER ELECTIONS – 2021 CJCA Officer Elections also will be held at the May 26 meeting. The slate is still being put together, and we are still looking for officers to serve in a number of positions. So, don’t be shy, reach out to Susan Shipp at firstname.lastname@example.org and let her know that you are ready to volunteer your time to give back to our wonderful community. SUSAN SHIPP, CJCA President ...
Local Nature: Pride of Maryland (Woodland pinkroot)
May 21, 2021
In nature’s beauty pageant, what is the most stunning wildflower native to Maryland? There are spectacular candidates like Calypso orchid and Shooting star. But my vote is for a wildflower that shares our state name—Spigelia marylandica—known more familiarly as Woodland pinkroot or Indian Pink. With its spectacular 2-inch-long, crimson-tubed flowers on the outside contrasting with creamy yellow tips, it will stop you in your tracks. The flowering display at the tips is set off against a strikingly symmetrical arrangement of leaves—pairs are born opposite each other and emerge right out of the stems, with the leaves rotated 90 degrees to the pair above or below them. Botanists call this pattern of leaf arrangement “decussate”—a great word for novices to name-drop to show their chops. Such decussate leaves are in turn marked by an elegant venation pattern of deep grooves in the upper leaf surface. Elegant leaves, stunning flowers—this is the kind of plant that can convince doubters of Darwin’s theory that evolution is capable of producing living organisms of extraordinary beauty. The beauty of Woodland pinkroot is perhaps accentuated because it is relatively rare in our area, even though it bears the epithet “marylandica.” In fact, I have never seen it in the wild during my Maryland nature walks, even though white-tailed deer, the notorious native wildflower remover, avoids pinkroot. Woodland pinkroot can be found throughout the greater southeastern U.S., but wherever you look it is never common. Woodland pinkroot prefers rich, moist woods and wooded stream banks. Although in nature it is typically found in partial to full shade, it requires well-drained soil. Plant breeders know beauty when they see it, so Woodland pinkroot has been brought into the garden trade, aided by its long flowering period and ability to tolerate shade. You can even order it online. There are showier cultivars for sale, but I would stick with the original. Some report it can do well in sunny spots, forming dense clumps and exploding with more flowers than the plants stuck under shade. But from personal experience, I suggest heeding the warning of horticulturalists: this species requires well-drained soils. To be able to admire this beauty at home, under the canopy forest in my backyard, I planted five Woodland pinkroots. They flowered prolifically for a few years and then died. My backyard, like many here in Cabin John, is underlain by dense clay, not the preferred soil type for this species. So a rich deposit of deep topsoil mixed with some gravel to enhance drainage might be the ticket. I will try again. There may be a good reason that deer know to avoid Woodland pinkroot. Some botanists put Spigelia in its own family, the Spigeliaceae, but most consider it part of the Loganiacieae, a mostly tropical family. Not familiar with it? Many plants in this family store highly toxic alkaloids such as strychnine in their leaves, repelling herbivores, deer among them. Spigelia was also known as wormgrass because it was once used as a concoction to rid humans, children especially, of worms. The dire consequences of inappropriate doses, however, is well documented, leading to cramps and severe pain in various parts of the body. Spigelia isn’t even a particularly pleasant name for a plant genus, but that’s simply coincidental. Botanists have a penchant for naming genera or species after…fellow botanists, and Spigelia is no exception. None other than famed 18th century botanist Carl Linnaeus, known as the Father of Taxonomy, named this plant in honor of Adrian van der Spigel, a Brussels doctor whose 1606 text described the creation of herbaria using dried plants. Unlike the rest of the plant, the nectar of Woodland pinkroot is not toxic, however, and a favorite of our ruby-throated hummingbirds. So what could be a better occupant of your garden? A gorgeous plant that attracts one of our most charismatic birds, the diminutive hummer. Enjoy the summer with this exquisite pairing of nature and honor Maryland’s name by introducing it to your yard. ERIC DINERSTEIN, Contributing Writer ILLUSTRATION BY TRUDY NICHOLSON...
Reminder: Pay Your 2021 Dues; Payments Lagging
April 16, 2021
Are you impressed with the 2021 Cabin John Directory? Do you appreciate the news you read in The Village News? Are you glad people are advocating on your behalf for quieter skies, a less impactful Beltway expansion plan, and the preservation of CJ’s Moses Hall & cemetery? Then please support the Cabin John Citizens Association by paying your 2021 dues. As of early April, only some 300 CJ households and businesses have paid their $20 dues. That figure represents just a 40 percent participation rate. Show your appreciation for what the CJCA does by paying your dues today. Checks can be mailed to CJCA, P.O. Box 31, Cabin John, MD 20818. Payment is also possible online at www.cabinjohn.org under the Support CJCA tab....
CJ Residents Enthused About Minnie’s Island Non-Profit
April 16, 2021
The CJ founders of a newly created entity that aims to assume control of Minnie’s Island, received near universal support from the roughly 50 people who listened to their plans at the March 24 CJCA Zoom meeting. Minnie’s Island, located in the Potomac River about 100 yards off-shore from Lockhouse 8 on the C&O Canal, is roughly eight acres of wild habitat with a dilapidated wooden lodge and large deck at one end. Led by Pascal Pittman of 80th Place, the Minnie’s Island Community Conservancy (MICC) is being formed to receive ownership of the island from the Potomac Conservancy. The other founding members of MICC are CJ residents Burr Gray, Jack Mandel, and Mac Thornton. A day after the meeting MICC became a registered corporation, allowing it to begin working on its 501(c)(3) status. The organization “is dedicated to the preservation of the ecological, architectural, scientific, and humanist legacy of Minnie’s Island,” according to its mission statement. To achieve its aims, MICC is counting on community awareness, volunteerism, and donations to support the refurbishment of the cabin, the removal of non-invasive species from the island, and on-going maintenance, Pascal told meeting participants. For the structure, he envisions bringing to working order the composting toilet, a woodburning stove, and a well. The addition of solar panels would allow for electricity. It will take a couple of years, he noted. But then the island would be ready to host six to eight people at a time for recreation, educational programs, conservation, and scientific research. MICC also is in discussions with the National Park Service to take on maintenance responsibility for Lockhouse 8. Pascal explained that its role would be two-fold: the lockhouse would serve as a staging area for access to Minnie’s, primarily by enabling the canoes and kayaks needed to reach the island to be stored in its basement. It would also allow the group to schedule more educational programs as they would be able to use the lockhouse as meeting space if inclement weather kept the group from transporting people to the island. Pascal said they are hoping to raise funds initially by having folks donate $250 a year and volunteer time working on island projects. But he stressed that Minnie’s would not be “a Sycamore Island private club” and that its fundraising is not part of a “pay to play” plan. He assured meeting attendees that the public would have access to the island “in a controlled manner.” To find out more about MICC, email Pascal Pittman at email@example.com. By Susan Shipp, CJCA President...
Help Keep MacArthur Blvd. Beautiful
April 16, 2021
After two years of major plantings, the MacArthur Blvd. Beautification effort is shifting to maintenance mode this year. Like any horticultural project, that still means that weeding, trimming, watering, setting stakes, and mulching are needed on a continual basis. While we do appreciate the many “thanks” shouted as people pass by when we’re working, what we need even more are some additional volunteers. Most of the planted areas have a primary caretaker. What’s needed are volunteers that can be called on to pitch in with weeding on occasion or to serve as a substitute waterer when the primary caregiver is out of town. Frankly, any additional help would be much appreciated. Please contact Susan Roberts at firstname.lastname@example.org or 301-320-4451 if you can help out. By Susan Roberts, Coordinator, MacArthur Blvd. Beautification Committee...
Local Nature: Native Plants – Spring Ephemerals
April 16, 2021
Every spring, Mother Nature rolls out her most exquisite carpets for a limited time only. Rarely is it a red carpet, but throws in shades of yellow, blue, purple, and white on a green background are plentiful. There are the displays of Virginia bluebells, the lacy green foliage and peculiar pantaloons-like flowers of Dutchman’s breeches, the sprawl of wood violets. Nature only keeps these carpets out to catch the sun’s rays for a short while: return a month later and they will have disappeared, buried below ground until the next year. Botanists call these spring beauties (an actual common name of a common wildflower called Claytonia) spring ephemerals, ephemeral because the whole life cycle of the plant—emergence of leaves, flowering, fruiting, and dieback of the aboveground tissues—happens in a month or less. The early flowering is triggered by several cues: growing day length and increasing warmth of the soil, availability of nutrients, and the buzzing of pollinators like bees and flies. But most of all, it is sunshine—an abundance of it flooding the forest understory with photons between the Ides of March and the leafing out and closure of the canopy trees by mid-April. As one botanist put it, the spring ephemerals emerge during the short time when the forest is not a forest, but more like a prairie. My favorite spring ephemeral has a shorter time on stage than almost any other— the American trout lily (Erythronium americanum). First come the alluring mottled brown and green leaves, the pattern resembling the sides of a brook trout. Emerging above the splayed leaves is a comely yellow flower with six fused petals. Jump to see this display when you hear of it in the neighborhood because nature doesn’t wait around for your procrastination. For about one week after the first blossoms emerge—which seems to be the duration of flowering—a carpet of yellow on green blankets parts of the Cabin John Creek Trail (the flowers close up at night, so nocturnal botanizing is fruitless). A few days of rainy weather and deep mud on the trail, and all but the most avid hikers can miss this impressive display. Making the carpet of these blossoms even more scarce is the fact that many trout lilies rarely flower until at least four years of age. Even then, sexual reproduction in this plant is rather scant, with less than 10% of the population producing seeds; most spread by underground bulbs branching off from a full-grown plant. Another fascinating challenge is that trout lily puts much more effort into deeper penetration of the bulb into the soil than do other members of the lily family, more than two feet down. Barring blockage by some impenetrable surface, the plant will continue to grow downwards rather than upwards. A tip to gardeners: if you want to force your trout lilies to flower, dig a six-inch hole and place a flat rock at the bottom and fill it with rich soil. Once the plant’s bulb encounters the rock, it sends up a flower rather than trying to force its roots through or around the rock. Trout lilies die back every year, but how long do these perennials live? Some colonies of trout lilies are as ancient as they are vast; some are estimated to be 300 years old. Imagine, wildflowers that far outlive humans. Perhaps the most interesting ecological feature of the trout lily, though, is that this species, like many plants featured in this column and in our flora of spring ephemerals, has evolved to have its seeds dispersed by ants. Attached to each seed in the pod is a fleshy fatty tissue called an elaiosome that attracts several species of intrepid ants. These ants carry the seeds to their burrows, away from seed predators lurking in the colony, and give the seeds a safe spot for germination. In return for their labors, the ants feed the fatty tissue to their larvae. Mother Nature rolls out her trout lily carpet each spring but not exactly like clockwork. Climate change is likely altering the emergence time of spring ephemerals and possibly the life cycles of the pollinators—flies and bees—and seed dispersers, the ants. Scientists, naturalists, and citizen scientists are closely monitoring the timing of ecosystem cycles of germination, flowering, and the arrival of pollinators to study how climate warming may be affecting their synchronization. Japan reported last week that its famous cherry trees blossomed this year on the earliest date in 1,200 years. Will we see trout lilies and other spring ephemerals appear earlier in the calendar? Will the bees be there to greet them? By Eric Dinerstein, Contributing Writer Illustration by Trudy Nicholson, Contributing Artist...
Reminder: Please Pay Your CJCA Dues
March 21, 2021
Everyone should have received the 2021 CJCA dues letter, which was mailed earlier this month. Please remember to pay your dues ASAP. Thanks! WAYS TO PAY: Pay using the online form. Pay by check. Mail checks to:CJCAPO Box 31Cabin John, MD 20818 Pay via paypal:www.paypal.me/cabinjohn...
Moses Hall and Beltway Expansion Seeing Action on Many Fronts
March 21, 2021
Some 60 people, mostly Cabin John residents along with members of Carderock’s citizens association, a smattering of activists, and a couple of government officials joined the Feb. 24 CJCA Zoom meeting that provided an update on the flurry of activity surrounding the intertwined efforts of the preservation of the Morningstar 88 Moses Hall & Cemetery and the state’s massive Beltway Expansion plans. Charlotte Troup Leighton, CJCA vice president for advocacy and a founding member of the Friends of Moses Hall, provided a detailed and insightful update. One of the important takeaways was that the State Highway Administration’s selection of Preferred Alternative 9, which calls for two managed toll lanes in each direction on I-495 and I-270, as well as its choice of a pre-development public-private partnership (P3) partner, now shifts the focus to the state’s Board of Public Works (BPW) and its upcoming vote to approve the pre- development partner and the next phase of work. The swing vote on the board is Comptroller Peter Franchot, who has announced his candidacy for governor in 2022, and Charlotte suggested that a writing campaign to him may at least force more stipulations in the BPW vote. Her full presentation, which details numerous other efforts and points of interest, is linked to this story on the Cabin John website. Meeting participants also benefited from the wisdom of Carol Rubin, Special Project Manager for the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) dealing with the Beltway expansion, who joined the call to hear more about the community’s concerns. In February the M-NPPC voiced opposition to the state’s selection of a preferred alternative that does not use any tolls to fund mass transit. The commission has also raised a wide range of environmental concerns about the expansion plans. At the meeting, Rubin answered a host of questions about the massive project’s potential impacts. She noted that the National Park Service is “just as upset as we are at this point” and mentioned specific concerns they have about the Clara Barton Parkway and Plummer’s Island. She believes any P3 contractor that comes in should be told they have “to respect the church and the cemetery,” adding that she wants developers to create an interpretive walking museum at the cemetery. The community will have the chance to meet again with Rubin later in March. The Cabin John Citizens Association and the Friends of Moses Hall also will be participating in a March 10 meeting with state officials concerning a preliminary draft of how it intends to minimize or mitigate any impacts to historical and cultural resources as part of the Beltway Expansion project. Stay tuned… By Susan ShippCJCA President ...
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