Erosion at Virginia’s 123-acre Fredericksburg-Rappahannock Chapter was creating a lot of silt, which washed into the Rappahannock River. According to U.S. Geological Survey data, the Rappahannock River watershed has the highest yield of suspended solids of all the Chesapeake Bay tributary basins in the state, and the chapter was concerned about their contribution to that problem.
In May 2013, the chapter submitted a cost-share proposal to the Endowment for $15,000 to address erosion on the chapter property. The chapter proposed a range of actions that included erosion control and rehabilitation, an ongoing water survey program, and watershed education and outreach.
Erosion control and rehabilitation began with clearing trees and brush in the affected areas to permit the construction of wider drainage ditches. Using both volunteer labor and commercial heavy equipment, collapsed drainage pipes were dug out and replaced with much larger ones. This included pipes under the property’s dirt road, which were in such bad shape that the road would have soon collapsed. The result of all this work, including re-grading and over-seeding, is that erosion off the road has stopped.
To extend the chapter’s activities into the community, the chapter invited Girl Scout Troop 536, representing the Spotsylvania/Fredericksburg area, to participate in water quality surveys. The girls performed water testing on the creek into which much of the chapter’s runoff flows, and the results were documented to create baseline data. Future monitoring results will be reported to Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality. The Girl Scouts illustrated what they learned on outreach posters that they will use in future community events. For their efforts, the Girl Scouts and the chapter received the League’s national Save Our Streams Award.
The third phase of the project, watershed education and outreach, brought awareness of watershed issues and the findings of the water survey to the local community. Presentations were held at a number of local Earth Day events, with additional exposure through the Girl Scout posters. As a result, chapter members became involved with other local organizations dedicated to the health of the Rappahannock River watershed. Additional locations along local streams will be regularly tested for pollutants and the chapter will continue to monitor runoff and correct any erosion problems that may arise at the chapter.
The planning and execution of this ambitious project took a lot of time, thought, and effort. Over the life of the one-year project, 50 chapter members volunteered about 2,200 hours of their time to make the project a success. It would be impossible to name them all in this article, but some of the key players really do deserve specific mention. The rehabilitation effort was led by Herbert Pritchett and included Darrell Schultz, Jimmy Miles, Jamie Branham, and Joe Webb. The water survey program was led by Patty Nunn and included Jim McCloud, Nikki Metterman, and Pat Aubert. Watershed education and outreach was led by Greg Raines and included Jim Lloyd and Andrea and Turkey Stratton.