Happenings Around the Blue Ridge – April 21, 2022
Regional Science Fair Awards
Friends of the Blue Ridge Mountains was a sponsor of the 2022 Loudoun County Regional Science and Engineering Fair (RSEF) which was held virtually March 11th through the 18th this year. The purpose of the fair, which has been held annually since 1982, is to stimulate student interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), and to provide students with the opportunity to present research to STEM professionals and the community.
This year FBRM awarded financial prizes to three projects. Two of the projects dealt with monitoring and improving water quality and one project delt with assessing the risks of forest fires.
- First Prize — “The Process of Inhibiting Cyanobacteria Formation in Natural Water Bodies by the Effects of Algae Removal and Prevention Methods” by Jeehyun Jeon and Mayukha Rajupalepu, Briar Woods (Project ID: 915T12)
Research Question: What is the most non-harmful, fast, and effective way of dissolving algae and reducing phosphorus and acidity levels in water? The results supported the hypothesis, that algae preventatives would decrease the risk of algal blooms with lower phosphate and acidity levels.
- Second Prize — “Using Visual Histograms to Determine Living and Dead Forest Fire Fuels” by Logan Schnelzer, Briar Woods (Project ID: 1308X12)
One of the most significant components in forest fire ignition and intensity is the density or amount of living and dead fuel in a given area of land within an ecosystem. Several studies have used computer vision to determine fuel density. This project attempts to develop python tools to enhance current fuel estimation techniques by analyzing the relative red, green, blue (RGB) values to determine the combustibility of fuel.
- Third Prize — “The Effect of Photosynthesis Rates on Stabilizing pH in Goose Creek” by Heather Stuart, Riverside (Project ID: 917X12)
Water was first collected from Goose Creek, then was separated into twelve collection containers. Once the chemicals and plants were added, the dissolved oxygen and pH levels were monitored periodically over a four-week period. With this, the data does not support the hypothesis that the higher the photosynthesis rate the more stabilized pH in the creek will be.
Loudoun Zoning Ordinance Released for Public Comment
On Monday April 18th the Loudoun County Department of Planning and Zoning released the first draft of the Loudoun County Zoning Ordinance. County residents, businesses, community groups and other stakeholders are invited to review and comment on the draft during a 90-day public engagement period that will run from April 18th through July 16th. The County has created an online interactive platform to enable individuals to read through the draft Zoning Ordinance and provide comments. It is available loudoun.gov/zoningordinancerewrite.
The public is also invited to attend meetings in an “open house” format to ask questions of county staff, learn more about the process and provide input on the ordinance.
In-person meetings will be held:
- Thursday, April 21, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Dulles Room, Government Center, 1 Harrison St. SE, Leesburg
- Monday, April 25, 6:00 to 8:00 p.m., Claude Moore Recreation and Community Center, 46105 Loudoun Park Lane, Sterling
- Wednesday, April 27, 6:00 to 8:00 p.m., Dulles South Senior Center, 24950 Riding Center Drive, South Riding
In addition, a virtual meeting will take place Monday, May 2, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.
In addition to the 90-day public engagement period, the public will also have the opportunity to provide comments at a Planning Commission public hearing anticipated to take place in fall 2022 and a Board of Supervisors public hearing, which is slated to take place in late 2022.
As an organization Friends of the Blue Ridge Mountains is concentrating on the portions of the Zoning Ordinance having the biggest impact on development in the Mountains. In particular we are focusing on the Mountain Development Overlay District (MDOD).
We have 3 primary areas of concern. 1) The proposed definition of the MDOD is complicated and difficult to envision or enforce. FBRM will be proposing a simpler definition. 2) The draft ordinance would allow a number of uses in the MDOD that are too intense for the delicate environment and will lead to increased run-off. FBRM will identify a number of uses that should not be permitted in the mountains and we will recommend performance standards for permitted uses that minimize the negative impacts of development. 3) The zoning enforcement mechanisms are weak and ineffective. FBRM will recommend more effective Zoning enforcement.
Over the next several issues of Happenings we will be providing more specific and detailed information about the draft Zoning Ordinance and our recommended language for protecting the fragile mountain environment. We will also provide a white paper with specific zoning language recommendations on FBRM’s website.
Friends Promotes Conservation Easements Along the Blue Ridge
Friends of the Blue Ridge Mountains, in partnership with the Land Trust of Virginia, has begun a month-long program to encourage landowners along the Blue Ridge to preserve their land by placing it under conservation easements. Virginia offers one of the strongest tax incentives of any state in the country for preserving private land. Each landowner will receive a brochure explaining that the Virginia Land Preservation Tax Credit program provides easement donors with tax credits that can be used against their state income tax liability or sold by Conservation Partners for cash.
April 30 — We Plant Trees Family Fun Run at Sky Meadows State Park
Hit the trails of Sky Meadows State Park and aid the environment at the inaugural Family Fun Run hosted by local nonprofit We Plant Trees. Time is on your side when on the park’s 5k course to go at your own pace and enjoy a fun-filled morning while supporting your local environment. This event is free and all ages are welcome to participate… leashed dogs are welcome too! All participants will receive multiple 1-gallon native Virginia trees (Eastern Redbud, Sycamore, White Oak, Red Maple, Serviceberry, Silky Dogwood, Willow Oak, American Beech, Tulip Poplar, and more) to plant when they get home. Be sure to share your plantings and race photos at @weplanttreesorg on social media!
Check-in begins at 9:00 a.m., with the Family Fun Run/Walk beginning at 10 a.m. from the Turner Pond Entrance. Although the race is free, pre-registration is strongly encouraged! This event is rain or shine.
May 4 — Barbeque and Seminar: Land Preservation through Conservation Easements
Friends of the Blue Ridge Mountains in conjunction with the Lovettsville Game Protective Association and several other organizations will be sponsoring a barbeque and seminar to provide detailed information about the significant financial & tax benefits of using conservation easements to preserve land.
Speakers will include attorneys, landowners, conservation buyers, appraisers, and representatives from various land preservation organizations. Recently, the Lovettsville Game Protective Association placed a conservation easement on club property, that not only promoted the Club’s mission and purpose, but was of financial benefit to the Club.
The seminar will be held at the Club Hall for the Lovettsville Game Protective Association at 16 South Berlin Turnpike, Lovettsville, VA 20180. There is no cost for this event thanks to the generous support of the sponsors.
Please RSVP by April 29, 2022, to Brook Middleton, at the Virginia Easement Exchange at 540-364-8071 or email@example.com.
May 15 — Native Plant Sale @ The Clifton Institute
The Clifton Institute is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization in Warrenton, VA. Its mission is to inspire a deeper understanding and appreciation of nature, to study the ecology of the region, to restore habitat, and to conserve native biodiversity.
Native plants provide better food for insects, which in turn provide food for birds. You can make a huge difference for wildlife by planting native species on your property. Since fall 2019 The Clifton Institute has been collecting seeds of native grassland plants from around the area, which means that in addition to being native they are of local ecotypes. The Institute will be selling seedlings grown from these seeds as well as commercially propagated seeds of native species to include a variety of perennial wildflowers for wet-dry areas and full sunshade; native grasses; and a few trees. Some favorites that will be for sale include butterfly weed, upland ironweed, scaly blazing star, narrow-leaf mountain-mint, and gray goldenrod.
Location: The Clifton Institute, 6712 Blantyre Road, Warrenton, Virginia 20187
Learn more: https://cliftoninstitute.org/event/native-plant-sale-2/
Follow up – Governor Approves Tree Canopy Legislation
On April 11th Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin signed into law Senate Bill 537. The bill gives localities the option to require developers to replace or preserve existing trees in particular sites through minimum requirements.
A developer would have to make sure that 10% to 20% of a site is covered by tree canopy, depending on how the site is zoned and how many units there are per acre.
The legislation is aimed at combating rising levels of deforestation within the state.
Tree canopy cover has decreased by 17% in Virginia since 2000, according to Global Forest Watch, which uses satellite data and algorithms to access information about forest change.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Dave Marsden, D-Fairfax, passed both the Senate and the House by significant margins.
As we reported in the 4/7/2022 edition of Happenings, FBRM sent letters to Governor Youngkin and Matthew Wells, Director, Department of Conservation and Recreation, urging adoption of the legislation.