The following information was taken from the NC Plan of our neighboring civic association, Donaldson Run.
Zachary Taylor Park
Donaldson Run Civic Association has three County owned parks totaling approximately twenty-two (22) acres of land. The largest of the parks is the Zachary Taylor Park, located in the heart of our Civic Association area. This fifteen acre park borders Taylor Elementary School, which sits on fifteen acres of land, some of which is wooded and blends in with the wooded parkland. Taylor Park also borders a County maintained bike path, which runs from Military Road up to North 26th Street at Marymount University. Much of the land bordering this bike path, although privately owned, has been left in its natural wooded state. Signs at both ends of the park incorrectly identify this as Zachary Taylor Nature Center.
Zachary Taylor Park was named after the twelfth President of the United States. Zachary Taylor (1784 1850) was born in Orange County, Virginia, the son of a Revolutionary War officer. His family moved near Louisville, Kentucky, in 1785. Zachary Taylor became a national hero in the Mexican War, and died only sixteen months after becoming president.
Zachary Taylor Park was created as one of Arlington's finger parks around two streams that merge in the center of the park and feed into Donaldson Run at the northern corner of the park. The majority of the rainwater falling within Donaldson Run Civic Association's footprint flows into one of these two streams. Several storm sewers empty into these streams, carrying not only rainwater, but also anything else that may be on our roads, such as oil or trash. There is also some concern about the effect of water runoff from the County mulch pile stored at the source of one of these streams.
Tulip poplar, oak and beech dominate the variety of species of trees within the park. The wildlife regularly seen roaming the park includes white tailed deer, red foxes, raccoons, opossums, squirrel, chipmunks and mice. We also have a large population of crows, woodpeckers, and occasional owls and hawks. The underbrush is dominated by English ivy, poison ivy, mayapple and Christmas fern.
Our citizens have passionately expressed two concerns over the future care of this park. First is the protection of the natural woodlands within and around the park. We recognize that Northern Virginia is one of the fastest growing population areas in the country, and that Arlington County is one of the most urbanized areas in Northern Virginia. As the pace of life around us becomes more and more hectic, there is need for a place of sanctuary for people to experience the freedom of nature. These parks provide more than just a safe habitat for our local wildlife; they provide an unequalled place of peace and relaxation for our human residents. Many have learned that just a fifteen minute walk through this wooded paradise is good for the soul as well as the body. It is with this in mind that we encourage the County to protect the existing wooded natural areas used by so many.
The second large concern of our citizens is proper maintenance of the existing parklands. Our community regularly gathers for park clean up days. These efforts collect litter, cutback vines, and clear paths from fast growing shrubs. We rely on the County to clear paths of fallen trees, and protect stream banks from further erosion by use of large rocks placed in the outer corners of the stream walls. The County also maintains the four bridges within the park. Should a dead tree be found leaning dangerously over a trail, for safeties concern, we believe that it should be cut down. Otherwise, dead trees should not be toppled, or cut up and stacked in the woods as if in a landfill. Other than cutting a segment out of a log to clear the trail, fallen trees should be left in the woods in a natural state.
Lee Heights Park
Lee Heights Park is a 2.5 acre land parcel surrounding a secondary tributary that flows into Zachary Taylor Park, where it eventually joins Donaldson Run. This park is one block long, and surrounded on two sides by North Taylor Street. Lee Heights Park was named after the subdivision that created several of the local property lots (i.e. Deed 1524, page 136, Lee Heights subdivision, Section 6, Arlington County, Virginia).
Marcey Park is a three acre park located at the end of Marcey Road. This County park is surrounded on all sides by Potomac Overlook Park, part of the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority property. This park is isolated from nearby housing due to the natural wooded environment of Potomac Overlook Park. Marcey Park consists of three acres of manicured lawn with tennis courts, a basketball court, a covered gazebo, and a park bench. Some residents pointed out that the tennis courts are run down and in need of repair.
Although the official name of the park is Marcey Park, a sign in the park identifies it as Marcey Road Park. The Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Resources has indicated that it will have the sign replaced with one showing the correct name.
This park is named after James Marcey, one of the original settlers of our neighborhood. In 1843, James Marcey bought one of 26 lots (26 lots plus 43 quarry lots) created in 1836 by subdividing all of the bankrupt George Mason properties. James and Lewis Marcey bought lot 24, totaling 93 acres (in 1842, his neighbor, Robert Donaldson, bought the 98 acres of lot 25 for $1,225).
Donaldson Run Park
Bordering our Civic Association area is Donaldson Run Park, a 29 acre park extending from Military Road, following and including Donaldson Run Stream towards the Potomac River, until meeting US Federal Park land purchased for the construction of the George Washington Memorial Parkway. This park is thus the western border of Potomac Overlook Park. Sitting within this park property at Military Road is a County pumping station.
Prior to the Civil War, Donaldson Run was the primary point of access into these parts. The Donaldson family initially transported their farm produce for sale in Georgetown via the Potomac River by using this stream. After the Civil War (and the creation of Military Road), overland transport became more frequent. In the late 1800s, this stream was both a popular swimming hole and boat landing. This stream was first named Rock Run in the early 1800s and after the Civil War it was renamed Swimming Landing Run. The County map of 1900 shows that the name of this stream was changed to Donaldson Run, named after the Donaldson family that populated the land above and east of the stream. If you walk along the trail next to Donaldson Run, you will see remnants of a stone wall that was used to dam an area of the stream for swimming. It is believed that this stone wall was built in the late 1800s. Farther upstream there are also remains of a cement dam and small bathhouse with pipes for showers fed by stream water believed to date from the early 1920s.
There is a small section of mowed lawn at the entrance to this park on Military Road. The rest of the park has been left in its natural wooded state. There is a trail (blazed with yellow paint) that follows and crisscrosses the streambed down to the riverfront. It connects with several trails in Potomac Overlook Park and the Potomac Heritage Trail at the riverfront and is primarily maintained by the Potomac Overlook Park Ranger and his crew of volunteers.
Arlington County has paved over the streambed from the pumping station upstream under Military Road for approximately 30 yards into Zachary Taylor Park and has also recently reinforced the streambed at the 30th Street entrance with a cement retaining wall. Although we believe that both of these projects were done with the best interests of the park in mind, we would like to encourage the County to preserve the natural surroundings of these park settings as much as possible.
Potomac Overlook, Northern VA Regional Park Authority
Our Civic Association shares a common border with Potomac Overlook Park. The Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority purchased 67.5 acres of wooded parkland in the late 1960s. Potomac Overlook Regional Park was created in 1971 by a planning team from the National Audubon Society in order to create an urban nature sanctuary within Arlington County. "Potomac Overlook Regional Park was designed to fulfill a threefold mission: (1) preserve the land in its natural state to promote the health of our environment and safeguard the diversity of species; (2) educate the public on natural and cultural history, stressing the interrelatedness of all living organisms with the environment and the need for all humans to be caretakers of the Earth; (3) provide a natural setting for recreation and exercise". A Field Guide to Potomac Overlook Regional Park, May 1998.
The Nature Center opened in 1974 and offers a variety of displays and live animal exhibits. A wide variety of community events are scheduled, such as summer and winter concerts, Junior Naturalist camps, and education oriented nature hikes. Potomac Overlook Park has a full time park ranger or naturalist living on the park grounds.
Potomac Heritage Trail on US Federal Park Land
The Potomac Heritage Trail is part of a 700 mile corridor designated by Congress in 1983 to connect outstanding natural and cultural features of the Potomac River Basin in Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Washington DC. Our local section of this trail winds along the riverfront from Theodore Roosevelt Island for 10 miles ending just beyond the American Legion Bridge. The federal land containing miles 2.5 to 3.0 of the Potomac Heritage Trail borders Potomac Overlook Park. The citizens of Donaldson Run have an easy walk through the woods of Donaldson Run Park to find themselves at the river front, with a rugged, natural 10 mile hiking trail at their disposal with outlets such as Turkey Run Park, Ft. Marcey Park, and Theodore Roosevelt Island park. Volunteers from the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club maintain this section of hiking trail. It connects to the 17 mile Mount Vernon bike trail as well as the 184.5-mile Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Towpath ending in Cumberland, MD. Access to park resources such as these are of great importance to our neighborhood and should be supported and strengthened by our County.
(Although NOT included in the DR Plan, info on Gulf Branch is provided below):
Our Civic Association shares a common border with Gulf Branch Nature Center. The Nature Center, located at N. 36th and Military Road, sits on over 37 acres of natural wooded park land. This nature center is one of two County operated Nature Centers (Long Branch is the other).
The stream running through the center of this park, Gulf Branch, was named Powell's Run (1861 Civil War map), and then later Falls Branch (1907 Map of Alexandria County, VA).
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