Volunteers Planting Riparian Buffer

Along Hawksbill Greenway in Luray, Virginia

Karen Milne helps VDOF forester Zack plant live stakes along Hawksbill Creek, March 2022.

“The Luray-Hawksbill Greenway combines a lush habitat for birds, butterflies, trout, and other wildlife along with urban amenities. …

The young trees and rough grass located here are part of our Riparian Buffer. This planting of a sixteen-acre plot along the Hawksbill Creek was done with a grant awarded to the Page County Tree Board in December 1999.

Various church groups, Hill & Valley Garden Club, Boy & Girl Scouts, Tree Board members, high school students, and community volunteers have planted more than 2,500 seedlings over a period of several years.

Varieties of Oak, Maple, and Ash as well as Locust, Bald Cypress, River Birch, Red Osier Dogwood, Persimmon, Redbud, and shrubs are growing up to become a forest buffer in this area.

The buffer is part of Virginia’s Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program. Because of this program agreement, grasses and weeds in the restricted area cannot be mowed from April 15 through August 15.

Riparian buffers are the single most effective protection for our water resources in the entire Chesapeake Bay Watershed. These buffers are one-hundred foot wide strips of grass, shrubs and trees along the banks of rivers and streams. The Riparian Buffer along the Hawksbill provides a transition zone between the water and the cattle pasture. It filters out phosphorus and nitrogen from fertilizer and animal waste and traps 80-85% of these chemicals which formerly entered the stream during moderate to heavy rainfalls.

The habitat offered by riparian buffers is home to a multitude of plants and animal species, including those rarely found outside this narrow band of land influenced by the creek. This buffer also serves as a wildlife travel corridor.

When this forested riparian buffer matures it will benefit aquatic habitat by improving the quality of the water through shading, filtering and moderating stream flow. Shade in the summer maintains cooler, more even temperatures. This allows the water to hold more oxygen and will reduce stress on the fish and other aquatic creatures. This riparian buffer has contributed significantly to the transformation of this creek into a ‘Class A’ trout stream.”  – This information is taken from the Luray Hawksbill Greenway Booklet.

As part of this effort, March Saturday workdays were planned this year to add trees and shrubs to the streamside, as well as clean around tree tubes previously planted. Volunteer participation has included three Virginia Master Naturalists (one from Shenandoah Chapter and two from Headwaters Chapter), members of the Hawksbill Greenway Foundation and a Boy Scout troop.  

On March 5th we had a total of 13 people: 11 volunteers and 2 Virginia Department of Forestry staff.  We planted approximately 900 live stakes. Live stake species included: Elderberry, Ninebark, Arrowwood Viburnum, Gray Dogwood, Silky Dogwood, Red Osier Dogwood, Silky Willow, Hazel Alder, and Buttonbush.

On March 19th, Anna Maria Johnson and Karen Milne from Headwaters Chapter participated in the riparian buffer restoration with other volunteers. Two more weekends are planned for additional plantings. The overall project includes just over 3700 live stakes along 5224′ of bank and 624 sheltered hardwood seedlings covering 3.5 acres (sheltered seedlings were planted last spring). 

This was a rewarding and fun experience. The Greenway is a beautiful site for both people to enjoy as well as providing a natural restored habitat for wildlife. I would encourage other Master Naturalists to join us for future such efforts. For further information and to volunteer contact: cain.harbison@dof.virginia.gov Additionally, find the original Eventbrite signup here.

– Karen Milne, Cohort VII, March 2022

Photos courtesy of Karen.