The Shenandoah University River Campus at Cool Spring Battlefield in Clarke County, Virginia, will soon feature more native grasses and wildflowers, courtesy of grant funding.
Shenandoah is receiving the assistance as a subrecipient of a grant awarded to the Rolling Ridge Conservancy from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Small Watershed Initiative to benefit the Chesapeake Bay, said Cool Spring Site Manager Gene Lewis.
The $265,000 grant, “Creating a Resilient Landscape Hub Across the WV-VA Line: Forestland Protection, Native Grasslands Restoration, and Neighborly Invitations to the Conservation Table,” covers the 1,600 acres of the Rolling Ridge Conservancy Property near the West Virginia-Virginia border as well as approximately 55 acres of Cool Spring land, Lewis said. The subgrant of $96,250 to Shenandoah will go toward converting non-native grasses and invasive plants to native grasses and wildflowers.
The Shenandoah University River Campus at Cool Spring Battlefield is a 195-acre living laboratory/outdoor classroom space on a historic site and former golf course that is open to the public from dawn until dusk daily.
“The initial phases, with the goal of eliminating the non-native, invasive species, will begin in May and run through the fall of 2023,” Lewis said. “This will be the most important aspect of the project and will give native plantings the best chance of survival. We not only have grasses remaining from the old golf course but we have also had many more non-native and very invasive plants invading the site. Stilt Grass, Poison Hemlock, and Japanese Hops are some of the worst.” The native grasses and wildflowers are slated for planting in spring 2024.
The work is important for several reasons, according to Lewis. “Native grasses are healthier for the soil and provide a habitat for birds and mammals of all types. They support honey bees and other pollinators that are necessary for the pollination of crops.”
Another portion of the grant calls for “neighborly invitations to the conservation table,” said Lewis, who, with a representative from the Rolling Ridge Conservancy, has met a few times with Holy Cross Abbey, which lies across the Shenandoah River from Cool Spring and has 1,200 acres of protected land. “We are discussing the possibilities of future collaborations, such as grant applications, with them as a partner,” Lewis said. “Between our three organizations, there are 3,000 acres of protected land here along the Shenandoah River and we have the opportunity for some great projects!”
Note: This material is based on work supported by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (Assistance Agreement No. CB96358101) and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Chesapeake Bay Stewardship Fund, which promotes community-based efforts to develop conservation strategies to protect and restore the diverse natural resources of the Chesapeake Bay.