When Alice and Henry Ferguson purchased Hard Bargain Farm (their purchase included a farmhouse, serveral structures, fields, woodlands, and the Potomac shoreline with a beautiful view of Mount Vernon) along the Potomac River in Accokeek, Maryland in 1922, they had no idea how significant an impact the 138-acre plot of land would have on the surrounding area. Hard Bargain Farm was a summer and weekend retreat that became an escape for the friends and family of the Fergusons and acted as the setting for Alice to fully develop her creative and philanthropic nature. Following Alice's death, Henry established the Alice Ferguson Foundation in 1954 and later donated their property to Piscataway Park in an effort to preserve the riverfront beauty and his wife's legacy. The foundation executed its mission to provide experiences that encourage connections between people, the natural environment, farming, and the cultural heritage of the Potomac River Watershed by offering educational programs for the entire community.

In 1989, the foundation expanded their outreach by organizing a two-site litter cleanup on the Piscataway Park shoreline in collaboration with Accokeek Foundation/National Colonial Farm. The amount of trash removed inspired the staff to make it an annual event that is now called the Annual Potomac River Cleanup . After five years of growth the cleanup expanded to the entire Potomac Watershed, which includes the sizeable area that drains into the Potomac River in addition to the immediate shoreline. The concern for the health of the whole watershed sparked the proposal of the Trash Free Potomac Watershed Initiative.

This Initiative consists of key components and programs aiding in the vision of a trash free watershed by 2013. One of these components, The Watershed Trash Treaty, is a tangible representation of the commitment all residents of the Potomac Watershed have pledged to the 2013 goal. Presently, 63 signatures of area elected officials adorn the treaty promising to, "dramatically improve the enjoyment of the rivers and streams of the Potomac Watershed."

On March 31st and April 1st 2007, 402 sites in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia were registered with the Annual Potomac Watershed Cleanup, the largest regional event of its kind. The Adopt A Road program is part of this initiative and the Watershed Trash Treaty.

Today the Alice Ferguson Foundation annually:

  • serves 4,000 elementary school students in one- and two-day (overnight) environmental and agricultural programs onsite;
  • serves an additional 6,000 students in National and State parks throughout the metropolitan Washington, DC area;
  • trains hundreds of teachers in outdoor environmental curricula, and;
  • leads the Trash Free Potomac Initiative, a community-wide movement in trash education and reduction through volunteer cleanups, a Trash Summit, policy regulations and market-based solutions to the trash issue.

Click Here for volunteer opportunities, local clean ups, and workshops and to advertise your trash-related event. Questions? Email


arrow pointer WHAT IS A WATERSHED?

A watershed is an area of land that drains into a body of water. When it rains it lands on trees, grass, homes, roads, farms, parking lots, gardens, schools and more.  Natural surfaces absorbe that water, but paved surfaces, buildings, and landscaped plots send most of the water flowing over land, downhill to nearby streams, we call that water runoff, and it carries with it anything that's on the land - soil, fertilizer, trash and more. These streams feed into the Potomac River. Montgomery County resides in the Potomac Watershed and what we do on land affects the river!

Animated Watershed Definition

arrow pointer WATERSHED MAP