By Ruth Ann Welch,
Special to the Rappahannock News
The Rappahannock County Recreational Facilities Authority — aka the Rappahannock County Park off Highway 211 at the entrance to Washington — is turning over a new leaf. Its board is initiating several multi-year projects to make the park more ecologically stable and serve as a model for Rappahannock County residents.
For more than forty years, Rappahannock citizens and community organizations have planted trees and flowers, and donated playground equipment and labor. The most recent contribution were steps to the Rush River built by John Riedel and the Rappahannock County High School Class of 2017. Eagle Scout candidate Domenic Del Grosso is planning to rebuild the stairs near the pavilion this fall.
The board hopes to continue to be good stewards of the land Colonel Earl Holmes donated to Rappahannock County in 1974 for recreational activities. Planned improvements include stabilizing the Rush River Walk trails, removing dead ash trees, installing riparian buffers, removing invasive plants and trees, and creating pollinator habitats. These projects will be ongoing for several years, and may be a bit of an eyesore at first. Board members say to be patient and the results will be worth it.
Plans spearheaded by the board come with technical help from Kyle Dingus and Kinner Ingram, Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF); Claire Catlett and Cecile Vuocolo, Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC); and Mike Wenger and Torney Van Acker, Rappahannock League for Environmental Protection (RLEP). The board will also be collaborating with RappFLOW on interpretive signage.
In the Forestry Management Plan, Kyle Dingus wrote: “This park is a great place to educate the public about their natural resources heritage as residents of Rappahannock County. It can help foster pride of trees and the fact that the county is a nursery for a river that hundreds of communities count on for their livelihood downstream.”
Dingus was impressed that the park’s forest includes more than thirty native tree species. Invasive species have been choking out the natives so the effort to remove foreign plant invaders has begun. While hiking on the lower Rush River Walk trail, one can see new “test plots” with native species such as Jack in the pulpit and spicebush starting to thrive as the invasive species are no longer competing for essential nutrients.
Recently, board member Torney Van Acker supervised the felling of twelve native ash trees that had been attacked by the devastating emerald ash borer. The wood–boring beetle attacks all species of ash trees and has killed hundreds of millions of ash trees in the U.S. for more than a decade.
Attention Virginia Master Naturalists: the Rappahannock County Park is now an “approved” project by the Old Rag Master Naturalist chapter, thanks to Mike Wenger. We encourage people to volunteer locally. For those who would like to support the Park, read the Rappahannock News and social media for upcoming events. The RCRFA will need help with the ecological improvements we are planning, so please join us.
If you enjoy the outdoors and have an interest in nature and the environment, join the Board by submitting the application found on Rappahannock County BoardDocs. Attend our monthly public meeting on the second Thursday of each month at the Rappahannock County Public Library at 5:30 p.m.