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Halloween bonfire in the Lyon Park neighborhood (file photo)Arlington’s Gulf Branch Nature Center (3608 N. Military Road) is hosting a campfire tonight to ring in the winter solstice.

The event is taking place from 7-8 p.m. and will feature a fire and some wintery activities. Registration is required, according to an event listing.

“Celebrate the longest night of the year with candle making and s’mores!” says the listing. “Then we’ll take a night hike under the half moon.”

Registration costs $5 and can be done online or over the phone at 703-228-4747.

File photo

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Gulf Branch Nature Center (Flickr pool photo by Cameron Manuel)The Gulf Branch Nature Center at 3608 North Military Road will be celebrating its 50th anniversary with two events in June.

Both events will be free, with the first one taking place on Thursday, June 2 at Arlington Central Library and the second taking place at on Sunday, June 12 at the nature center.

The nature center released the following press release about the events:

On Thursday, June 2, starting at 7:00 p.m., a one-hour symposium will be held at the Arlington County Central Library on “Gulf Branch Nature Center: The Birth and Future of Arlington Parks.” Three speakers will be featured: Local author Charlie Clark, on how the creation of Gulf Branch in 1966 in response to the construction of Metro and I-66 sparked the move to protect parkland in Arlington; Jane Rudolph, director of Arlington County Parks and Recreation Department, who will review the status of park and green space in Arlington, and what they have on the drawing board; and Peter Harnik, Trust for Public Lands, on creating new parks in heavily urbanized areas.

On Sunday, June 12, from 1:00-4:00 p.m., a birthday party open to the public will be held at Gulf Branch Nature Center, 3608 North Military Rd.; Arlington, VA 22207. The party will include live music, food and beverages, a special visit (in an antique car) by silent-movie icon Pola Negri (who once lived at the Gulf Branch house), live demonstrations of ironsmithing by the Blacksmith Guild of the Potomac, tours of the nature center’s Native American Room and log cabin, live raptors, and (of course) a birthday cake. This family-friendly event is sure to be a hit with kids!

These events are being sponsored with the assistance of the Arlington County Department of Parks and Recreation and the Arlington County Central Library.

For more information, visit the county’s website for Gulf Branch Nature Center and the Friends of Gulf Branch Nature Center website.

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Bat Fest logoBats are back. The whole family can enjoy learning about the winged mammals at the Arlington Bat Festival this Saturday (August 16).

From 6:00-9:00 p.m., attendees can take part in bat-centric habitat walks, games and crafts at Gulf Branch Nature Center (3608 Military Road). There also will be three live bat shows. The show schedule and which age group each is aimed at can be found online.

There is an $8 fee to attend the event and online registration is recommended to guarantee a spot.

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Leaves in the afternoon sunlight (photo by Maryva2)Arlington’s Fall Heritage Festival will be returning tomorrow (Saturday) for another year of history activities.

From 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. at the Gulf Branch Nature Center (3608 N. Military Road), visitors are invited to participate in some old-fashioned games and crafts, including building a scarecrow.

The family-friendly event is “a celebration of our nation’s heritage,” according to the county website, and visitors will gather at the Walker Log Cabin at the nature center for the festivities.

The event is $5 at the door and parking will be along N. Military Road and 36th Road while the parking lot is closed for the event. Those who wish to build scarecrows should bring old clothing for the scarecrows to wear.

Photo by Maryva2

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Bat Fest 2013 logoThe Arlington Bat Festival is back Saturday, Aug. 24, at Gulf Branch Nature Center.

The annual event, which serves to entertain and educate locals about the flying nocturnal creatures, begins at 6:00 p.m. with “Bat Talk” activities for younger children at 3608 N. Military Road.

Bat Fest admission is $7, up from $5 last year, and visitors are encouraged to register in advance in order to be sure of a spot. The festival typically draws more than 100 people.

This year, the festivities will include habitat walks, games, crafts, a festival lantern parade and live bat shows presented by Leslie Sturges, Director of Save Lucy, A Little Brown Bat, established to protect and conserve bats in the region. Bat shows run every 45 minutes until the event ends at 9:00 p.m.

Image via Department of Parks and Recreation

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The Gulf Branch Nature Center at 3608 Military Road will be hosting its annual Fall Heritage Festival on Saturday.

The festival will feature live music and family-friendly autumn activities. Admission is $5 per person, though children under three may attend for free.

The nature center issued the following promotional blurb about the event.

On Saturday, October 13 from 1 to 5 p.m., visit Gulf Branch Nature Center for old-timey fun for the whole family. This is a beloved community event that has been attracting hundreds of Arlingtonians for over a dozen years. “We’re starting to see the second generation now – young families coming whose parents remember making cider here when they were little.” said Jennifer Soles, staff naturalist. Last year, two more activity stations were added: pumpkin-painting and scarecrow making, so bring old clothes! Families can also participate in activities such as butter-churning, candle-dipping, cornhusk doll-making and LOTS more. “Everyone always wants a chance to explore the log cabin when they visit” reports naturalist Marty Pross. The Blacksmithing Guild of the Potomac has ongoing demonstrations in the forge. “Kids love to see the sparks – but the dads are the ones who often have to be dragged away” smith Curt Welch remembers. Festival goers enjoy music by Andrew Acosta & the New Old-Time String Band too! Summing up, 4-year old Mason Schnell says of the whole festival “It’s my favorite!”

For details, please call (703) 228-3403. Gulf Branch Nature Center is located at 3608 Military Rd, Arlington, VA 22207. $5 per person (children under three enter for free). Parking lot is closed for the event. On-street parking available on Military Road and 36th Road North.

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Gulf Branch Nature Center (Flickr user Kevin Borland)The Gulf Branch Nature Center (3608 N. Military Rd.) is hosting its popular annual Bat Fest Arlington event on Saturday, with a live bat presentation and a “bat walk” for adults, weather permitting.

“Bat rehabilitator” Leslie Sturges will explain the mysterious nocturnal mammals with a 6:30 p.m.- 7:15 p.m. live presentation.

The event includes crafts and games for families and a walk through the woods to check out the bats’ habitat. Adults are welcome to stay until later, when Nature Center guides will go out to search for flying bats.

The bats typically don’t start flying until 8:30 p.m.

Bat Fest draws about 100 people each year, so the Nature Center is asking those interested to register in advance online. Admission is $5.

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Borland

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Gulf Branch Nature Center will be celebrating its 46th birthday this weekend.

The nature center was saved from potential closure and demolition in 2009 when supporters rallied to have it removed from a list of county budget cuts. Now, the nonprofit Friends of the Gulf Branch Nature Center organization is throwing the wooded outpost another birthday party.

The free event is scheduled from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, June 16. The program includes:

  • Live music by the New Old Time String Band
  • Live animal encounters and nature fun for everyone
  • “Open forge” with the Blacksmiths’ Guild
  • Birthday cake

Photo via friendsofgbnc.org

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They’re going to be partying like it’s 1859 at the Gulf Branch Nature Center (3608 N. Military Road) this weekend.

“Bring the kids and be immersed in 19th century Virginia life,” beckons county parks spokesperson Nate Spillman. “This is a great outdoor event for the whole family!”

The fun includes watching blacksmiths in action, touring a log cabin, as well as making your own apple cider, corn husk dolls and hand-dipped candles.

There will also be old-timey music, historical interpretation, folks dressed up in traditional 19th garb and more. Tickets are $5 per perform, with a maximum of $20 per family. Kids 3 and under are free.

The event it being held on Saturday from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m.

The parking lot will be closed, but street parking will be available nearby. For more info call 703-228-3403.

See other weekend events around Arlington here.

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You’ve heard of adopting a highway. Now you can adopt something much less noisy and dangerous: a patch of forest at Gulf Branch Nature Center.

Naturalist Jennifer Soles is looking for volunteers who want to call part of the nature center their own. Volunteers would be responsible for keeping the area free of invasive plants and litter. In recognition of their work, a small marker will be placed in the ground bearing the name of the volunteer or the volunteer group.

Soles said that adopting an area is a great way to get to know the forest in greater detail.

“It’s your area,” she said. “You see the long-term health and recovery of that area, and that’s very gratifying.”

“Eventually I’d like to see the whole park adopted,” Soles added, while acknowledging that would require a lot of volunteers.

Children as young as middle school may be able to effectively manage an adopted area on their own, Soles said. Adoption is also an ideal volunteer opportunity for groups.

For more information, call 703-228-3404 or email jsoles[at]arlingtonva.us.

Photo c0urtesy Community Volunteer Network

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Arlington firefighters were called to the Gulf Branch Nature Center Wednesday afternoon after a strange, milky contaminant was spotted in the water.

Firefighters ultimately determined the substance was non-toxic. A subsequent Department of Environmental Services investigation revealed that the cloudy white water was caused by runoff from concrete work at a nearby home.

The incident is not altogether uncommon — DES investigates 50 to 100 complaints of stream contamination each year — but it serves as a reminder that many residents still don’t know where the county’s storm drains go.

Arlington’s 300 miles of storm sewers all empty into local waterways said Aileen Winquist, an environmental planner with the county.

Paint, antifreeze, petroleum products and portable toilet chemicals have all wound up in streams around Arlington due to people –purposely or inadvertently — dumping into storm drains.

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