Uncle Arlington wants you! To help clean up refuse, apparently.
I do my best as a citizen stroller to pick up the food and beer containers I see strewn anonymously in parks and along sidewalks near the East Falls Church Metro. But the ongoing, more systematic challenge — which in some cases calls for disposal equipment and mud boots — might be better projects for the Boy Scouts or inmates in need of community service.
One self-starting volunteer from my neighborhood — as true an Arlingtonian as they come — has adopted a public site as her own cleanup project. Hers has more to do with organics.
Since 1991, Connie Witul Scruggs has lived in a handsome, blossom-surrounded brick home built in 1935 — at one point on 24,000 square feet of woodsy land — on the 6800 block of Washington Blvd., directly across from the sound walls of I-66 at the Falls Church border. When she and her late husband Bill — who for years was Arlington’s chief traffic engineer before he retired in 1992 — first toured the vacant home, he researched the traffic accidents along that interstate entranceway.
Today, Scruggs worries about safety and civilization if no one tidies up the median strips along the highway sound walls. Beginning in spring 2021, she began collecting litter. She noted that the overgrown shrubbery behind the guardrails — including striplings planted by the Virginia Department of Transportation using wooden stakes, tubes and wiring were strangling trees; the site was neglected.
For years there was confusion about whether this “no man’s land” was the responsibility of Arlington or VDOT. (My reporting with the county and Richmond officials suggests it’s VDOT’s). “No one claims it, so it’s mine,” she jokes. So this spring, Scruggs went further. She began pruning the trees and carting away refuse in VDOT “Adopt-a-Highway” orange bags and in her own green cart. “It’s the best exercise I’ve gotten,” said the octogenarian who sometimes worked eight-hour days. “I can’t begin to tell you how many people have stopped me on the street to say, ‘Good job,’ some of whom don’t even live around here. It’s very rewarding,” even though she’s contracted four cases of poison ivy.
But even more important, now with the brush cleared, she can better see the vehicles coming from her left on the one-way highway entrance. Her “ownership” of the public territory inspired her to landscape a designed garden of daylilies, daffodils, daisies and obedient plants and other perennials from her yard.
Scruggs is a Washington-Lee (now Liberty) High School grad (class of ’57). She previously worked for the Chamber of Commerce and for now-retired Arlington treasurer Frank O’Leary, with whom she helped introduce residential parking permits. As a retiree, she is renowned in the neighborhood for her annual children’s Easter egg hunt, as well as her collection of hubcaps hanging on her back fence.
The county has given minimum help, Scruggs says, having raised questions at the lunches she and retired county employees attend at Little Falls Presbyterian with county manager Mark Schwartz. She did use some free mulch and a pile of chopped trees the county left near the guardrails. The only thing Scruggs spends money on are replacement blades for her “Sawzall” cutting tool. “You don’t need permission” for such a project, she says. “Anyone can clean up Arlington.”
The Arlington Temple United Methodist Church, long ago nicknamed “St. Exxon” or “Our Lady of Exxon” for its location in Rosslyn above a service station, has moved temporarily.
As of April 1, its congregation has reassembled at an old stone church that for decades housed the Community United Methodist Church in Clarendon-Courthouse at 1701 N. Bryan St.
Since the 1960s the church has co-located at the triple intersection of N. Nash St., Key Blvd. and Ft. Myer Dr., met above what today is a Sunoco station, an oasis amid Rosslyn’s glass towers. The entire block is under reconstruction, and the temple will return, staff say.