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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...
Native Plants Series: 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 ...
CJ Creek Cleanup COVID Edition Set For April 24
March 21, 2021
Spring is just around the corner and that means it’s time to collect the plastic bags, cans, and other trash that has collected along the Cabin John Creek since our last effort. We need a lot of volunteers this year as we are expanding the cleanup to include the new 1.3-mile forest trail that runs between Seven Locks Rd. and the park by the one-lane bridge. Co-sponsored by the Friends of the Cabin John Creek and the Cabin John Citizens Association, this year’s cleanup will be held Saturday, April 24 from 2 pm to 4:30 pm. (If inclement weather forces us to cancel, we will try again on Saturday, May 1.) Due to COVID, all participants must pre-register. Pre-registration will be done through the county’s volunteer website. You will need to create an account and complete a COVID-19 waiver form. Unfortunately, due to contact tracing and other requirements, we cannot allow people to participate who have not pre-registered. The CJCA will send out an email with the signup link as soon as it’s available. The deadline for pre-registering is April 23 at noon. If you are under 18 years old, you still need to pre-register on the website, print out the COVID-19 waiver, have your parents sign it, and bring it to the park. This event is preapproved for SSL hours. Children ages 12 and under must be accompanied by an adult. Please plan to meet at Cabin John Local Park by the one-lane bridge at 1:45 pm. The clean-up, held rain or shine, is messy and old clothes are recommended. Sturdy shoes that you don’t mind getting wet are also a good idea. Masks are a must, and a personal water bottle is highly recommended. Gloves will be provided, but to ensure a better fit you may want to bring your own. Once you are signed in you will be given some trash bags and a portion or the creek or trail to clean up. There is a lot of creek and trail to tackle so we will have no trouble maintaining the required six feet between people of different households. For more information, please contact Greg Gurley at email@example.com or Susan Shipp at firstname.lastname@example.org. By Susan ShippCJCA President Greg GurleyDirector, Friends of the Cabin John Creek...
Alex J. Yowell, The Self Proclaimed “Successor to John of the Cabin”
March 20, 2021
While we’ve all become armchair travelers this past year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, many of us take daily strolls across what was once a must-see tourist destination, the subject of postcards, photographs, and letters. At the turn of the 20th century, the Cabin John Bridge was on the itinerary of the capital’s visitors and locals alike. “We went to Cabin John Bridge,” wrote Mabel Hubbard Bell to her “darling Alec” in 1899. “We really had an awfully good time, and the heat was tempered by breezes and clouds.” Leisurely drives to the Cabin John Bridge were mentioned on several occasions in Mabel’s correspondence to her husband, Alexander Graham Bell, when they lived in Washington D.C. The industrious photographer Alexander J. Yowell took every advantage of this popular tourist attraction and moved to the area in 1891. He set up his photography studio in a rustic wooden house under the elegant bridge, where one could purchase “a beautiful photogravure of Cabin John Bridge sent to any part of the world, post paid, for 15 cents, or a photograph for 30 cents.” In a stroke of marketing genius, Yowell deemed himself “Successor to John of the Cabin” after the legend of the mysterious stranger who lived along the creek. He put out a twelve page pamphlet entitled The Cabin of John: A World-renowned Architectural Structure, A Famous Hotel and Pleasure Resort in which he described the history and specifications of the Cabin John Bridge. The pamphlet recounted in great detail the story of “John” the squatter, clothed in animal skins, who lived in a cabin in the woods and from whom Cabin John and its creek, bridge, and hotel all derived their names. It praised the first class reputation of the Cabin John Hotel resort and included a page of “Questions Answered” that covered any curious query a tourist might have had. Designed by Montgomery C. Meigs and completed in 1864, the Cabin John Bridge was the world’s largest single arch span bridge with a span of 220 feet. Sightseers flocked to the spot to view the bridge and enjoy the hotel. Yowell concluded, “I will cheerfully give any information I can, and will accord you every courtesy that will tend to make your visit profitable and pleasant, and should you desire to have a picture of yourself taken under the largest stone arch Bridge in the world, rest assured that you will be fairly and honorably treated.” Who wouldn’t pay 15 to 30 cents after such a sales pitch? There may be many images by Alex J. Yowell out there—in his pamphlet he noted the “thousands of specimens” of his work around the world. Perhaps Yowell’s most widely recognized photograph, at least by Cabin John residents, is a view downstream with the photographer’s quaint cabin on the right side of the frame, the arch of the monumental bridge containing the tranquil scene. Richard Cook has two wonderful examples of Yowell’s tintypes in his private collection. Tintypes were popular throughout the second half of the nineteenth century and commonly used by open air and street photographers. The negatives were applied to black enameled metal plates, so the image could be processed within moments and handed to the customer on the spot. One image shows three gentlemen in waistcoats and ties, holding their bowler hats while posed below the bridge’s arch. Another tintype, dated 1893, depicts four young women perched on a bench in a classical pose against the stonework of the bridge. Wearing long dresses and decorative hats, one of the women holds a parasol; another raises a piece of fruit in her hand, plucked from the upside down hat in her lap, the hat perhaps that of the nearest young lady in the foreground. Each of the tintypes are mounted in a mat paper frame that included Yowell’s calling card of sorts: a description of the Cabin John Bridge and its impressive dimensions, compliments of the photographer. Alex J. Yowell was born on April, 15 1857 in Virginia. He and his wife Sarah had five sons. His eldest, Leroy, was also a photographer in 1900, and perhaps helped run his father’s studio. After the heyday of the bridge and hotel, Yowell remained in Washington D.C. where he worked as a printer and was a member of the Freemasons. He died November 22, 1939. By Rachel Donnan Contributing Writer ...
Native Plants Series: Ground Cover
March 19, 2021
Protecting precious topsoil by avoiding erosion is the guiding principle of every responsible farmer. Gardeners should heed the same commandment. In bright sunlit gardens, a wide variety of plants can effectively shield the exposed earth from washing away in a heavy rainstorm. But because much of Cabin John is still covered by trees, the challenge emerges when the canopy shades out sun-loving plants. In these spots the soil surface sits bare, exposed to heavy rains and wind, unless you find a shade-loving ground cover. Fortunately, native plant species in our area have evolved to thrive under a dense tree canopy. Two such species could become the foot soldiers in an effort to repopulate the gardens of Cabin John with native vegetation that offer beautiful flowers, lush evergreen foliage, or both. And each has a fascinating ecological story to tell. One of the most interesting species in our entire native flora is wild ginger, sometimes known as Canada wild ginger (Asarum canadense). It bears no taxonomic relation to the cultivated ginger plant of the tropics or to its relative, turmeric—both members of the Zingerberaceae, the true ginger family. Canada wild ginger belongs to the Dutchman’s pipe family, a group largely tropical and known for its bizarrely shaped flowers that resemble deep-bowled curved tobacco pipes. Many members of this family (Aristolochiaceae) are vines or lianas. Canada wild ginger grows solely prostrate and in the dense shade in areas along Cabin John Creek, covering the ground layer with heart- or kidney-shaped leaves. But it is the flowers that are most amazing: dark, mysterious, hairy, purple blossoms with three petal-like structures that are tapered at the tips and fused at the base to form a cup. Right out of a dark fairy tale. After pollination, a pod emerges inside the flower that splits open upon ripening to expose seeds covered in a fatty tissue. That fatty tissue is attractive to ants that carry off the seeds to their lairs, feed the fatty tissue to the larvae, and thereby disperse the seeds unharmed. Wild ginger is but one of the p to 25% of our early spring ephemeral wildflowers in our area that rely on ants to disperse their seeds (these were covered in the April 2015 Local Nature column entitled Ants in our Plants). Now you can bring this star of local nature into that shady spot in your yard. A companion of wild ginger in the shadiest parts of our Cabin John Creek trail is partridgeberry. It’s easy to spot in winter, a ground-hugger with evergreen, opposite leaves that sport white stripes down the mid-vein of each leaf. In winter there is often a bright red berry, tasteless to us but gobbled down by wild turkey, partridge, quail, and other overwintering birds, and even foxes, skunks, and mice. Partridgeberry is one of our most diminutive plants but spreads beautifully and would make an excellent garden- border plant mixed with an edging of rocks. Partridgeberry is one of the few temperate-zone plants, along with bedstraw and buttonbush, that belong to the tropical family Rubiaceae, known also as the coffee tree family. The miniature flowers of the partridgeberry even slightly resemble the much larger flowers of coffee and its allies in the family. Quinine is another famous plant that belongs to the Rubes (as botanists affectionately call them). The Rubes contain some of the most beautiful flowering trees in the world, including my favorite, a species called Captaincookia, found only on the island of New Caledonia. There’s not much to eat on a partridgeberry, so don’t grow it for its fruit. Canada wild ginger, in contrast, was sought out by Native Americans for the underground tubers that served as a spicy seasoning. Not recommended these days as further biochemical research shows that the plant contains some noxious chemicals. However, the Native Americans gave Canada wild ginger an important place in their natural apothecary. They treated a variety of ailments ranging from urinary tract infections and tuberculosis to convulsions with its roots. But it’s that ant-bait that really intrigues me. I have yet to do this, but someday, this spring while waiting for the pandemic isolation to lift, when the ant-attracting seeds are out, I am going to lay prone and be eye-level with the wild ginger I have in my backyard forest and wait for the ants to arrive. Even in 2021 you can still feel like Charles Darwin about to encounter an evolutionary spectacle in miniature. By Eric Dinerstein Contributing Writer Illustrations by Trudy Nicholson Contributing Artist...
February 14, 2021
Cabin John Goes to the Dogs, Cats and Rabbits During Pandemic Like the rest of the country, the pandemic has prompted residents of Cabin John to adopt dogs, cats, and other pets. Here are some of the furry friends that have joined families in the neighborhood over the past year. Buster joined the Gibbons family on 75th Pl. and is curled up in his fur beanbag, one of many favorite pandemic nap spots.Degie, a goldendoodle, joined Amy Ross and Bob Wilkoff on Macarthur Blvd. in August when he was three months old. He is very goofy and is amazed by how many of his long-lost “doodle” cousins also live in the neighborhood. One individual not so happy that he’s joined their household is Ms. T, a very spoiled 10-year-old cat.The Thomas family of Cabin Rd. adopted two rescue bunnies (sisters!) in June from the House Rabbit Society. Their names are Tia Tofu and Gigi.Seventy-fifth Place is also the new home of Maise, a rescue pup from Louisiana adopted by the Harris family in late December after being fostered by the Holland family of 79th Place. Foster mom Jill brings her dog Dexter for the occasional visit with Maise and mom Helen.In July, goldendoodle Ellie joined mom Maybe and the Cohen/Liebman family of 79th Pl. and enjoys playing with all her neighborhood puppy pals.Andy, Meredith, Tenley, and Phoebe Fishburn of Tomlinson Terr. adopted Boxer puppy Taffy in April. Taffy has a lot of energy, so she is out and about on at least three walks a day. She says “woof woof” to all her new doggie friends.Rocky was adopted by Tom Wilmarth of 75th Pl. in June 2020 when he was eight weeks old. He and Tom split their time between Cabin John and Arizona.Harry is a six-month-old coonhound adopted in November by the Shirzad family of Seven Locks Rd. He is an energetic and playful puppy, and they feel very lucky for him to be part of their family.Diane Dompka of MacArthur Blvd. adopted pandemic sidekick LuLu on March 20 from the Humane Rescue Alliance. She has been the best stay-at-home pal one could wish for. She looks and acts like Diane’s former pet LuLu.Marlene Beckman and Ken Speckler of 79th St. welcomed a new “grand pup,” Stella. Their daughter had been fostering puppies for Lucky Dog Animal Rescue prior to the pandemic, and her four previous rescue pups were immediately adopted. She met Stella and knew she was “the one.” The two of them live in Vienna, VA.On 83rd Place, the Patt-Corner family’s six-year-old pup Julian had become lonely during the pandemic, so they adopted nine-month-old rescue Aussie, Koda, through SOHO Dog Rescue, which saves herding dogs and mixes. They became fast friends. Koda is a delight! By Loretta Devery IngallsVillage News Content Editor...
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