Gary Shulman has only lived in Arlington for about three months but has created a popular Facebook group all about the warm and wonderful feelings the county evokes.
Shulman, a retired early education specialist and published poet, was already using his outreach and advocacy skills to connect with Arlington residents in the Facebook group, Arlington Neighbors Helping Each Other Through COVID-19 after he moved to Rosslyn in April.
Without even realizing it, that page became the “Gary Shulman Show,” he said, where he would post all of his and his partner Marc’s adventures. The intention of the page was not for it to become the “blog” of one user. So, others encouraged Shulman to begin a new Facebook page — a page that could remind Arlingtonians what makes the county special.
He started Arlington Through the Eyes of a Newbie on May 13 and gained more than 600 followers within the first day. Now, he has over 700 members that follow his and Marc’s day-to-day life, as well as share helpful tips and suggestions. Shulman and Marc have been able to discover nitty-gritty information — where the best dermatologist is, allergist, dentist, even barbershop.
As he’s explored Arlington, members of the group have recognized him, as if he’s a local celebrity. Some stop and take photos with him to share on Facebook.
“There is a wonderful and caring network [in Arlington] and in many ways, reminds me of my early days in East NY and Canarsie Brooklyn where a sense of community was in every fiber of every neighbor. They all cared,” Shulman posted on his personal Facebook account.
Shulman always fantasized about living in Mayberry, the setting of “The Andy Griffith Show,” where people care about each other, garden, have beautiful homes, and enjoy the simple pleasures of life, he told ARLnow. His Facebook page reminds Arlingtonians to look on the ground and take in their (and others’) neighborhoods, places they pass daily.
He and Marc enjoy trying new restaurants, like Brass Rabbit, and Guajillo, where a post shows them trying out one of its “sangritas.” They also like finding beautiful parks and neighborhoods like Bon Air Memorial Rose Garden and Lyon Village and meeting new friends (especially dogs). Shulman sometimes shares some of his published poems.
Shulman and Marc had only moved to Arlington a month before he started his Facebook group. They spent two years and eight months in Palm Springs, where they had originally thought they’d spend retirement.
However sitting in their Palm Springs home, outside temperatures reaching 120 degrees with 0% precipitation, the COVID-19 pandemic trapped Shulman and Marc inside.
“When it’s 120 degrees, you can’t go any place — you’re a prisoner,” said Shulman. “Something was happening to my mental health. Covid happened, and then everything closed down.”
Since moving to Arlington, they’ve been able to get out and about.
It’s no doubt that Shulman’s “fans” know him and Marc to be walkers. Most of his posts begin with some form of “a stroll through…,” “our goal was to walk…,” or “just a short 3 miler today… .” Shulman explained that walking is good for his health and redirects his brain.
As he walks, he appreciates the beauty of people’s gardens and neighborhood homes. He stops and smells the roses. Talking with ARLnow, Shulman emphasized, “the small things are the important things.”
Now, after making a move from Rosslyn to their Ballston apartment in June, Shulman sees his Facebook page as a way to showcase how wonderful Arlington is and bring Arlingtonians together. It is a mix of Brooklyn, New York, and Palm Springs, California, with a close community and liveable climate.
Shulman and Marc hope “people will get off their behinds to start walking,” Shulman says. “Just learn and appreciate what Arlington has to offer.”
Arlington officials are asking residents to keep an eye on the Bon Air Rose Garden in Bluemont after a brazen bush burglary.
“Last Thursday, about a dozen rose bushes were removed from Bon Air Rose Garden,” Susan Kalish, the Public Relations Director for the Dept. of Parks and Recreation, told neighborhood leaders in an email yesterday. “It’s sad enough when someone cuts a bloom or two, but this act of vandalism is very disheartening.”
“As you know, Bon Air Memorial Rose Garden is a cherished Arlington institution with more than 120 rose varieties,” Kalish added. “Can you help us by asking everyone to report suspicious activity to the Arlington County Police Department non-emergency number 703-558-2222 or call us at 703-228-6525. This sort of vandalism should not be tolerated in Arlington.”
One civically-involved Arlingtonian who forwarded the email, which was then forwarded to ARLnow, called the caper “more criminal craziness.”
“Probably a good idea to keep an eye out for plants in other Arlington parks,” she wrote. “These looters may not yet be done.”
Arlington residents can now register to receive a free tree for their yards as part of an effort by the Department of Parks and Recreation to increase the county’s tree canopy.
Registration opened today (Tuesday) for young, slender trees known as “whips.” The whips are in two-gallon containers ranging from 2-4 feet in size.
“This annual program is very popular and has yielded many beautiful trees and benefited our community,” said the county. “The trees you plant are part of our mission to expand and enhance Arlington’s urban tree canopy.”
Residents will be able to pick up their trees at Bon Air Park or Barcroft Park in late October. County landscape staff and members of the Arlington/Alexandria Tree Stewards organization will be on-site to help residents choose their trees, answer questions and share tips on caring for them.
Available tree species include:
- Black Gum
- Red Cedar
- Fringe tree
- Sweetbay Magnolia
- Red Maple
- Red Oak
- White Oak
- River Birch
The first pickup day is Saturday, Oct. 23 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the parking lot of Tucker Field at Barcroft Park (4208 S. Four Mile Run Drive). The second is Tuesday, Oct. 26 from 4-6 p.m. in the rose garden parking lot at Bon Air Park (850 N. Lexington Street).
One tree is offered per residential property.
Union soldiers stationed at Bon Air Park will offer a tour of their fortifications and military lifestyle tomorrow (Saturday) as they keep a watch on Confederate skirmishers to the south and west.
The Civil War reenactors will be posted at the park along Wilson Blvd and Four Mile Run from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. to honor the 158th anniversary of the Ball’s Cross Roads Skirmish, part of a series of small battles along the defenses of Washington, D.C. in the wake of the First Battle of Bull Run.
An article from the New York Times cited one Union death and two wounded, and up to 15 Confederate casualties.
“The companies under the command of Capt. Todd and Capt. Dingleday, of the Twenty-third New-York Regiment, conducted themselves heroically, returning the enemy’s fire, which evidently told upon them severely, and repulsed them, and after the rebels had retreated, fell back to the Cross Roads in good order, after which the pickets were again advanced to their original position, and there remained,” the New York Times reported. “Too much credit cannot be given to the officers and men, as each man behaved splendidly.”
The event is free to the public, and will include military drills, a photography exhibit, and various camp displays. One word of warning: the bathrooms at Bon Air Park remain inoperable due to storm damage, which will presumably lend the camp more mid-19th-century authenticity.
More from the event page:
During the war the area near Ball’s Cross Roads and Upton hill was host to tens of thousands of Union and Confederate troops. From June to October of 1861 Arlington’s Four-Mile Run Valley was witness to several Civil War skirmishes. One of the largest occurred on the afternoon of August 27, 1861. Several hundred Union soldiers from the New York 23rd were performing picket duty east of the railroad, which was then called the Alexandria, Loudon & Hampshire. The Union skirmishers were fired upon by Confederates from the 11th Virginia.
The military engagement, as documented by the New York Times, lasted several hours and involved close to 900 soldiers spread out along both sides of Wilson Blvd. including Bon Air and Bluemont Parks. Recent research, including written first hand accounts, suggest the skirmish may have been part of a much larger military operation conducted by the Confederates to probe the Union lines. The engagement, which included an artillery bombardment of Hall’s Hill, resulted in several soldiers being killed and wounded on both sides. The proximity of the skirmish forced General George McClellan to strengthen the forts protecting Washington DC.
Photo courtesy Arlington County
(Updated October 18, 8:55 a.m.) Runners of all ages can expect to have a “spooky good time” at this year’s Zombie Fun Run.
The race is scheduled for Saturday, October 21 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Bon Air Park (850 N. Lexington Street).
This race includes obstacles as well as optional zombie zones in a family-friendly one-mile course. Runners will be let onto the course every 15 minutes in race heats, beginning at 11 a.m. The final heat is set for 1:30 p.m. Costumes are encouraged.
A post-race “Survival Party” will include food trucks, family-friendly games and activities, free moon bounce, zombie craft projects and face painting, so-called “creepy sensory activities” and a costume contest and parade from 1-1:30 p.m.
Anyone interested in running can register in advance online or by phone at 703-228-4747 using activity code 720018. On-site registration will be available on the day of the event on a first-come, first-served basis for a limited number of spots. Registration costs $3 per person online, $5 per person on the day (cash only). Racers aged 4 and under do not require pre-registration.
A portion of land along the W&OD Trail near Bon Air Park may look rather rough after having been stripped of plant life over the past few weeks. But it’s actually part of the county’s plan to restore the land.
The embankment that borders N. Arlington Mill Drive had become overrun with invasive species like bush honeysuckle and porcelain berry. In addition to strangling off native plant species on that swath of land, the invasive plants were sending seeds over the trail into the newly restored area near the Ornamental Tree Garden and along Four Mile Run.
“We found that there are pieces of our parks that are pretty derelict. It’s impossible for the native plants to thrive with the invasives strangling them,” said Environmental Landscape Supervisor Patrick Wegeng. “When the invasives take over, it’s almost like putting the park in a straightjacket. They restrict and inhibit, and we don’t get new natives replacing the old ones, and they just die.”
County workers repeatedly had attempted to prune back some of the offending plants, but the invasives rapidly repopulated and spread further. Therefore, workers were joined by dozens of volunteers during a major invasive plant clearing project in August. Some of the vines and trunks were so thick they couldn’t be pulled or chopped, and instead had to be removed with a machine. Workers have been checking back over the past few weeks to eradicate a few pockets of invasive plants that returned.
The next phase of the project involves re-introducing plant species native to Virginia. First, parts of the land will be seeded with grasses. Later in the fall, other open spaces will be filled with native flower species such as black-eyed Susans. The land will be left to rest during the winter and more planting will begin in the spring.
“It’s such a well traveled trail, we really want people to see the beauty of it and the diversity of plant life instead of ragged nature,” said Wegeng.
In addition to being more aesthetically pleasing, re-introducing native species is expected to have a positive effect on the park’s ecosystem. For example, milkweed is a major food source for monarch butterflies, but had been largely choked off by invasives along this portion of the trail. Once more milkweed is planted and matures, more monarchs are expected to fly through.
“We want the park to be better, more diverse, richer,” said Wegeng.
One factor currently slowing progress on the restoration is weather. The grasses that will be planted need rain in order to germinate and take hold. Arlington’s recent dry spell means the seeding has to be put off for at least another couple of weeks.
“I would have liked to have had this done, but there’s been no rain and it would have been a waste of money. I still don’t see any rain in the forecast for two weeks,” said Wegeng. “I can’t just put these plants in and hope that they grow.”
Over the past year, more than 200 volunteers have helped with various parts of the restoration along the trail. Volunteers are still needed for the upcoming phases of the restoration, such as planting the native species. Nearly anyone can help, depending on the task, including children. Anyone interested in volunteering can email Patrick Wegeng at [email protected]
“I just can’t say enough about all the volunteers that have joined in. If we can show how this [restoration] can be done, with a lot of the benefits of native plants, it’s going to propel this whole movement forward.”
The section near Bon Air Park is one of the first major restorations of its kind the county has undertaken. If more resources and funding become available, Wegeng would like to see restoration along the W&OD Trail stretch all the way to East Falls Church, where he said the land is “in pretty bad shape.”
“We definitely have a lot on our plate, but we seem to be making headway in some areas. I am determined that this one will be a prototype,” he said. “It speaks well of what can be achieved.”
A fall rose celebration at the Bon Air Memorial Rose Garden (850 N. Lexington Street), originally scheduled for Saturday afternoon, has been canceled due to a lack of roses.
The event was to include “docent led tours, potting stations for your own rose rootings, poetry readings, cookies and lemonade” at the garden, which contains some 2,000 roses. Instead, the event was called off last week because of a midge infestation that decimated most of the rose buds before they had a chance to reveal their fall blooms.
“The reason for lack of bloom was due to an insect (i.e. midge),” Arlington County Environmental Landscape Supervisor Patrick Wegeng said in an email. “We found the midge’s work approximately three weeks ago. We sprayed last week to halt the infestation… It has been determined however that most bloom will not recover this season.”
“According to staff that have worked in the rose garden for numerous years, midge infestations have occurred before within the garden,” Wegeng added. He said the rose plants are in good shape and should have a full bloom this coming spring.
“We had a terrific season until this insect started eating the buds,” Wegeng said.
In place of the public event, the Arlington Rose Foundation — which helps support the rose garden — will instead be holding smaller gathering at a private residence in Reston.