By Mike Wenger
Special to the Rappahannock News
RCHS teacher Dave Naser and his Environmental Science students joined with The Rappahannock League for Environmental Protection (RLEP) and Old Rag Master Naturalists (ORMN) at the Rappahannock County Park to start the fight against non-native invasive plants.
Under the supervision of RLEP and ORMN volunteers, the students cleared two small plots of the largest non-native invasive plants to open growth opportunities for the native understory. Over the coming summer and next spring, we can all watch to see the liberated native plants (and of course, more invasive plants) as they grow into the newly opened niche.
This is a start on The Rappahannock County Recreational Facilities Authority (RCRFA) plans for the future. The RCRFA is in the process of evaluating several significant park improvement initiatives including improved access for disabled persons, new recreational facilities, river buffer improvement, an internationally-recognized designation as a Dark Sky Park, as well as the long-overdue effort to control the severe infestation of non-native invasive plants that plagues our park. The RCRFA has begun to address this issue by initiating a multi-year plan to remove the invasives and nurture a healthy ecosystem of native plants.
After Mr. Naser’s Environmental Science class came to the park on a field trip to learn about non-native invasive plants, the students wanted to do something to help this effort. Of course, controlling invasives will ultimately take many years. But the test plots the students created will provide insight into the nature of the seed bank and they will reveal what native plants are already there just waiting to have some sunlight and soil. The plots will also provide the community an opportunity to compare an invasive-intense area with a semi-cleared area so we can all see the important differences.
Said RLEP Board Member, Aleta Gadino: “This is a wonderful Rappahannock example of working together: a project sanctioned by the RCRFA, organized by RLEP, supported by ORMN, and performed by students of RCHS to improve our county. It’s so exciting to see our high school students engaged.”
“Rappahannock County is such a beautiful natural environment.” adds Ruth Welch of the RCRFA. “We are thrilled that the RCHS students are helping us start the effort to make our park a better example of that environment.”