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Irving Middle School student Zachary Korff, 13, is receiving national praise for his video on environmental damage to mountain-biking trails at Wakefield Park.

The seventh-grader recently took first place in the video category of the international Young Reporters for the Environment program, which is hosted in the U.S. by the National Wildlife Federation. Zachary competed in the middle school category.

In his three-minute video, “A Tale of Two Trails,” Zachary chronicles the differences in wear and tear between the Fairfax County-run Wakefield Park trail and the Fountainhead Regional Park trail run by the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority.

“It mostly talks about some of the difference in the trails,” Zachary said. “How people ride on Wakefield even when it’s wet. But Fountainhead has a closure policy [when wet]... I did a couple of interviews with people [and] I learned that Wakefield doesn’t really have the money to keep it up [trail care].”

The video begins with an intro by Zachary, “This trail used to have some of my favorite mountain biking trails, but not so much anymore.”

Then the tone turns ominous.

While the camera pans to footage traveling down Wakefield Park’s trail, Zachary says, “The trails in this Northern Virginia park have been seriously damaged by mountain bikers riding in wet conditions. As you can see, tires are tearing up the trails and causing erosion to this fragile eco-system.”

The camera pans to a sign, posted by park caretakers asking bikers to stay off trails when wet. Then Zachary interviews some of the offenders.

“His piece was identified by the jury panel as being really impressive,” said Kate Hofmann, coordinator for the competition. Student submissions were judged by a panel of professionals in fields like environmental conservation, sustainable development, journalism, photography, videography and education.

“The goal was to have the students look at an issue in their community, really look at it and present it [as a story]... and get it out there in the community,” Hofmann said.

This year was the first time the Young Reporters for the Environment program competition was held in the U.S. It has been held internationally for about a decade. Hofmann said the goal moving forward is to increase participation.

Winners were announced April 30. As a first place national winner, Zachary advances to the international competition. Winners are expected to be announced for this contest in early June.

Zachary said he learned about the contest through his science teacher at Irving Middle School in Springfield.

“I ended up doing it because I thought it would be a good experience,” Zachary said. “The prize is a camcorder. I will be using that for environmental things. I’ll probably shoot videos and if it has a picture function, I’ll be using that too.”

Zachary’s mother, Rosalyn Cooperman-Korff, said the competition was a good learning experience for her son.

“One of the things I loved about this competition... is what it required him to do,” she said. “It required him to work on his communication skills and get out there and talk to people who were involved...He spent a lot of time with my husband going out and getting the story and interviews.”

Readers can watch Zachary’s video “A Tale of Two Trails” at http://yre-connect.com/Videos/a-tale-of-two-trails/

hhobbs@fairfaxtimes.com