U.S. Geological Survey Board Rejects Locals’ Names for Dyke Marsh Islands

Officials’ and advocates’ choices rebuffed.

The U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) Board of Geographic Names has given four unnamed islands in the Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve official names — Angel, Bird, Coconut and Dyke Island — rejecting suggestions from Rep. Jim Moran, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and the Friends of Dyke Marsh (FODM). They had requested that the islands be named Osprey, Marsh Wren, Kingbird and Cormorant Islands.

The USGS Board accepted names recommended by the scientists who prepared the 2010 study documenting the severe erosion occurring in Dyke Marsh and entered the new names into the Geographic Names Information System, the official repository.

Commenting on the decision, Congressman Moran said, "Dyke Marsh is one of Northern Virginia's treasured wetlands and deference should be given to local community and local government when it comes to naming geographic sites. The Friends of Dyke Marsh proposed thoughtful and appropriate names for the four islands and I am disappointed USGS rejected the recommendations. Moving forward, we must continue working to preserve Dyke Marsh. Regardless of what the islands are named, they are important to the community."

The New Names

The USGS Board offered the following rationale:

1. Angel Island, .6 acres -- “...named for its favorable ‘angelic’
conditions during field study.”

2. Bird Island, .1 acre -- “...named for a prominent osprey
nest on the island.”

3. Coconut Island, 2.9 acres -- “...named for a coconut found on the island.”

4. Dyke Island, 10 acres – “...named in association with Dyke Marsh located directly south of the island.”

Rejected Names

The suggestions from the Board of Supervisors, Congressman
Moran and the Friends of Dyke Marsh were the following (the quotations are from FODM’s letter):

  1. Osprey Island: “This island, near the mouth of the largest gut in the marsh, contains several tall trees in one of which is a long-standing and highly visible osprey nest that has produced new clutches of osprey young in most years.”
  2. Kingbird Island: “This island, close to shore at the gas pipeline crossing, has been observed to host breeding kingbird pairs over several years.”
  3. Marsh Wren Island: “This large triangular island at the north end of the marsh is one of the very few remaining habitats in the marsh where the marsh wren is observed to nest. The presence there of the marsh wren itself is a major indicator of the health of the marsh. The marsh wren population in Dyke Marsh has declined significantly. Dyke Marsh supports the only known nesting population of marsh wrens in the upper Potomac tidal zone, a species once found all along the marshes of the Potomac River.”                          
  4. Cormorant Island:“The northeastern-most island in the marsh contains several tall trees used as roosts for dozens of double-crested cormorants every summer.”

FODM argued that the names should reflect the flora or fauna that are typically present and observed by those who know the area best. FODM Vice-President Ned Stone commented, “The names chosen were based on completely trivial considerations and do not reflect the character of the islands or their wild inhabitants.”

The National Park Service told the board that they have “no objection” to the names recommended by USGS scientists.


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