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Leesburg’s Morven Park opens two new hiking trails

Jackie Wright cuts the ribbon signaling the official opening of Wood Thrush Trail. Looking on from left to right Bernadette Durkin, president of Leesburg Day Break Rotary, Nicole Hamilton, president of Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy, Morven Park Executive Director Frank Milligan and Gregory Miller Miller, president of the American Hiking Society. Times-Mirror/Chuck Moore
Morven Park celebrated the opening of two new hiking trails Saturday on National Trail Day.

One trail runs along the lower edge of the Catoctin Ridge and the other provides a route to the highest point (640 feet) in Morven Park. Teresa Davenport, assistant director of development and communications for Morven Park said the goal was to provide more trail access at the park.

“We felt like we needed to open up all of the property to the community,” Davenport said.

At the opening there were tables set up for the organizations that participated in building the trails. Popcorn and Caramel, the 2013 presidential pardoned turkeys were available for viewing, as was the Monarch butterfly garden.

The event also showcased an unusual method of getting rid of unwanted vegetation: Eco-Goats. The goats, which came from Sustainable Resource Management Inc., are there to clear the park and trails of invasive plants such as mile-a-minute plant and Japanese stilt grass.

“That's a really natural way, a green way, to get rid of these unwanted plants,” Davenport said.

Deb Dramby, market and education coordinator at Willowsford Farm in Ashburn who works with the goats, said that the goats can also get to places that regular mowers can't reach.

“There's just a lot of benefits because goats are able to go on tricky terrain that mowers operated by a human would find really dangerous or impossible,” Dramby said. “There's no shortage of places they can be useful and helpful.”

The goats are put in areas where the invasive plants are located, and an electric fence is used to keep the goats from wandering and eating vegetation the park wants to keep.

“If left to their own devices they'd eat anything green,” said Dramby.

Having the goats at Morven Park can also provide an introduction to sustainable agriculture.

“What a nice area that is to start talking about agriculture with kids or even adults,” Dramby said. “People really connect with animals.”

Some of the work done on the trails was provided by Sterling’s Seneca Ridge Middle School which worked on a section of a trail and planted vegetables as part of an eighth grade civics project.

“They were brought in so they could give back to the community,” Davenport said.

The trails were partially built through a partnership with the Loudoun Wildlife Foundation in which Morven Park provided office space for the Loudoun Wildlife Foundation to use.

“We provided them with a home and in return they will maintain the trails,” Davenport said.

These trails are just the beginning of a larger goal to add more trails to the area.

“They plan to get up to 5 miles of trails for people to enjoy,” said Davenport.


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