New Land, New Trees
In Fall of 2021, Downtown Greens inspired our community by purchasing 56 acres of greenspace alongside Braehead Farm in the City of Fredericksburg. This once-in-a generation conservation purchase will protect clean water resources for the Rappahannock River, enhance habitat and wildlife corridor, and grow Fredericksburg’s capacity to inspire and educate the next generation of conservation stewards.
This spring, Friends of the Rappahannock (FOR) had the privilege to assist Downtown Greens and other local partners as they established a new riparian buffer using native fruit, nut and berry trees. Here’s some more about our collaboration with Downtown Greens.
How did this project get started?
In 2022, Downtown Greens executive director Sarah Perry approached FOR to learn about how her organization could enhance the wildlife and environmental value of their newly obtained property. FOR suggested that reforesting approximately 3 acres of pasture alongside two streams– a technique known as a riparian buffer–could help improve water quality by filtering runoff, absorbing pollutants and reducing erosion and sedimentation. But this was no ordinary riparian buffer.
What’s so special about this project?
It is an edible riparian buffer. To align with Downtown Greens’ food mission, this project uses only native fruit, nut and berry trees. Our species list included American persimmon, black cherry, hazelnut, wild plum, Eastern serviceberry, paw paw, elderberry and red mulberry.
This project is also the largest single tree planting in the City of Fredericksburg that FOR has ever organized, at 810 trees. To achieve such a large-scale forest at minimal cost, the trees were planted as 18” bare-root saplings and each was protected using a plastic tube and wooden stake.
Who contributed to this project?
This project couldn’t have succeeded without contributions from numerous community members and organizations.
The project was funded using a cost-share from the Tri County Soil and Water Conservation District and the designed with help from the Virginia Department of Forestry. The trees were planted entirely with volunteer labor between March 11-23 with help from numerous groups including Tree Fredericksburg, the Central Rappahannock Master Naturalists, the Stafford High School Planting Shade Club, Fredericksburg Tree Stewards and the University of Mary Washington. Between March 20-22, 120 students from James Monroe High School planted the final 310 trees as part of their Meaningful Watershed Education Experience (MWEE) program, funded by NOAA’s Bay Watershed and Education and Training (BWET) program.
Over the next several years and decades, the trees–which were planted as 18” saplings– will mature and begin to produce nuts, fruit and berries, becoming a showcase for Virginia native plants–a “forage forest.” FOR, students and researchers will monitor the streams to determine how water quality and wildlife are responding to the new forest. Meanwhile, the planting area will be mowed regularly and kept free of invasive plants or browsing animals. Eagle Scout Justin Murray is enhancing the existing fence using deer wire to reduce browsing.
As Downtown Greens moves ahead in developing its new land, this edible forest will ultimately be accessible to the public to enjoy. Please visit Downtown Greens’ website at www.downtowngreens.org to learn more about their new land.
Adam Lynch serves as a River Steward for Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania and Stafford with Friends of the Rappahannock.
This article was originally published in the May 2023 edition of Front Porch Magazine. Read the full publication by using the link below.