Editor's note: Please join me in welcoming the South River Federation to Patch's Local Voices. Jennifer Carr from the SRF will regularly be sharing stories affecting the health of the South River and its tributaries.
The Girl Scout Gold Award recognizes young women who make a difference in their communities.
The South River Watershed was lucky enough to be a beneficiary of a Girl Scout Gold Award last fall! When Girl Scout Sarah Walsh applied for a $500 matching grant from the South River Federation for her Gold Award erosion and stabilization project at Camp Woodlands, we were thrilled to support her.
From the time she was in first grade, Sarah has gone to Arlington Echo Outdoor Education Center where she has developed a deep appreciation for the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.
Learning about the Chesapeake Bay watershed and the impact of society on the bay’s ecosystem encouraged Sarah to dedicate her Girl Scout Gold Award Project to the preservation of the bay. Working with Ashley Jarvis of Arlington Echo as her adviser, she decided to focus her efforts on an area of Camp Woodlands along Broad Creek designated as a “critical area” for stabilization.
Working with Arlington Echo, a swale was designed and installed through volunteer labor.
In early September, volunteers led by Sarah spread 400 cubic feet of mulch along the path to catch water not contained by the swale. In October, they built the swale lined with weedblock and river jack to slow the flow of water coming downhill.
By the end of October, Sarah and her team of volunteers planted a variety of native trees and shrubs including: hackberry, serviceberry, tulip poplars, white oak, inkberry, highbush blueberry, and Atlantic white cedar.
Sarah has plans to create an informational kiosk explaining the project and offering information on erosion control. In the long-term, a ranger at Camp Woodlands will continue to monitor the swale.
The leadership skills required for this project taught Sarah just how difficult it is to plan and execute these types of projects and gave her a new level of respect for people doing conservation work.
Recruiting volunteers to do physically demanding labor and communicating with so many different organizations and people proved to be one of the more challenging aspects of the project. When the project was finally completed, Sarah said, “seeing everything come together made it worth all the headaches along the way.”
Sarah learned much more beyond project management, especially in regards to erosion.
“I knew erosion was bad, but it was incredible to learn how shorelines are disappearing and how the pH of the bay has changed," she said. "For me, the most amusing thing to learn was that rocks can be native. I thought that any kind of cheap rock would be fine for the swale. I was wrong. I had to research native bay rocks because these rocks do not alter the pH of rainwater, and even have some filtration properties.”
Sarah feels that small projects to prevent erosion are important for our watershed. The change may not necessarily be visible, but the reduction of runoff will make the bay healthier and create an environment more conducive to our native flora and fauna.
Sarah will continue to have a life-long appreciation for the Chesapeake Bay and plans on becoming a surgeon!
The South River Federation was proud to be able to support Sarah in her project and wishes her the best of luck in all of her future endeavors. Although the grant program is geared toward Watershed Stewards, we are happy to work with Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts on their Eagle and Gold Award projects.