The Eastern Shore Soil & Water Conservation District’s FY20 Annual Report is a summary of their work over the past year. As a local entity they strive to increase public awareness and participation in natural resource conservation.
Formed in 1945, The Eastern Shore Soil and Water Conservation District is a political subdivision of the Commonwealth defined and established by the Code of Virginia, Title 10.1, Chap 5. The work of the District is determined by directors, elected by the people of the Districts at general elections or appointed by the VA Soil and Water Conservation Board. Directors serve four-year terms and designate non-voting associate directors to help guide District efforts. Directors and Associate Directors service as volunteer public servants. The District also serves as a valued partner and service provider to various agencies and organizations working together towards resource conservation on the Shore. The District’s service area covers the Eastern Shore of Virginia–a region on the Delmarva Peninsula comprised of Accomack and Northampton Counties, bounded by the Atlantic Ocean, the Chesapeake Bay and Maryland.
Life Underground Mobile Classroom
In September of 2019 the District debuted its new mobile classroom that was designed specifically for the Eastern Shore of Virginia. It was funded by the District’s designated funds. Waking inside the mobile classroom takes you underground to see the soil layers, how water infiltrates, ground wells, and aquifers. On one side of the classroom are classic textbook soil layers. On the opposite side are the Eastern Shore layers (no bedrock). Hanging from the ceiling are roots and at the front there is a depiction of a typical groundwater well and the layers of soil and the two aquifers that are typical of the Eastern Shore.
In FY 2020, the mobile classroom was used at the Accomack and Northampton Farm Field Day programs for 3rd graders, Outdoor Exploration Day, Northampton Ag Fair, Nandua High School, and the Area VI meeting. Other visits were scheduled but could not be completed due to COVID 19. This mobile classroom is a valuable education tool and will serve the Eastern Shore community for many years to come.
Dominion Energy Envirothon:
2020 marked the 28th year the District has sponsored the local Envirothon, a natural resources competition testing high school students on the use of water resources, aquatics, wildlife, forestry and soils. Students attend a day long training program and a month later return for the competition.
Broadwater Gold took first place and Northampton took 2nd place. Normally these teams would advance to the area competition but this was cancelled due to the outbreak of COVID-19.
William H. Beasley Conservation Scholarships: The District’s Endowment Committee awarded one scholarship to William “Toby” Hamilton in the amount of $750. Toby attends Virginia Tech.
Outdoor Exploration Day:
More than 500 people attended this event which was co-hosted with Kiptopeke State Park and ESO Arts Center, A beautiful September day greeted people to a wide variety of activities including hands-on educational exhibits, native plant giveaways, a butterfly tent and release, kayaking, live music, and so much more. Look for this event in 2021!
Wildlife Refuge Celebration Week:
Held in October of 2019, the District’s Education Director attended this event and offered soil painting. Both adults and children enjoyed the opportunity to learn about the regions of Virginia and use soil from each region to paint a picture. More than 900 people attended and participated in a wide variety of events.
2020 Agricultural Best Management Practices Incentive Program
In FY120, the District provided $3,183,216.94 in cost-share assistance to landowners and producers on the Eastern Shore. The VA Agricultural Best Management Practice Cost-share Program is administered by the VA Department of Conservation & Recreation through local Soil & Water Conservation Districts to improve water quality in the State’s streams, rivers, Chesapeake Bay and the ocean.The program encourages voluntary installation of agricultural BMP’s by offering cost-share assistance for implementation.
Conservation Poster Contest
The theme for 2020 is “Where Would We BEE Without Pollinators.” Normally held in mid to late spring, the poster contest was moved to September. Winners will be announced in an upcoming issue of The Shore Conserver.
Billie Fitzgerald Memorial Spring Grants
In the spring of 2020, the District’s Endowment Committee awarded $1,325 in grants to four different organizations. The ESVA Master Gardener Association received funds to help with the installation of a song bird garden and wildlife meadow. Holy Trinity Church received funds to install a rain garden and native plant demonstration that will help with drainage. The Accomack County Parks and Recreation received funds to continue their expansion of a monarch waystation at Sawmill Park. The Eastern Shore Regional Jail received money to start a vermi-composter which will reduce the food waste going to the land fill and fertilize the re-entry program garden.
Environmental Education Programs
For fiscal year 2020, District educational programs reached almost 5000 people, mostly students, between July 1, 2019 and March 13, 2020. After March 13th most programs were cancelled or postponed because of COVID-19. The following programs include some of the environmental education outreach programs presented to residents of the Eastern Shore by the District.
Resource Management Planning Program (RMP’s)
The Virginia Resource Management Planning program provides a voluntary way to promote the use of conservation practices that improve farming operations and water quality. Resource management plans can help farm owners and operators take advantage of all the conservation measures at their disposal. The plans are designed to encourage farmers, either the farm owner or operator, to use a high level of best management practices (BMPs) that reduce runoff pollution to local waters and, in many cases, improve the farmer’s financial bottom line.
In fiscal year 2020, seven Resource Management Plans were reviewed and approved by the District. Plans were approved for 12.1 acres in the Chesapeake Bay watershed and for 1035.6 acres in the Southern Rivers watershed (seaside).
The Virginia Conservation Assistance Program (VCAP) is a cost-share program that provides financial incentives and technical and educational assistance to home and property owners installing eligible Best Management Practices in Virginia’s participating Soil and Water Conservation Districts. These practices can be installed in areas of your yard or property where problems like erosion, poor drainage, or poor vegetation occur. Qualified sites may be used for residential, commercial, or recreational purposes. Best management practices include things such as living shorelines, conservation landscaping, rain gardens, impervious surface removal, constructed wetlands, rain water harvesting, and more.
In fiscal year 2020, the district funded two living shoreline projects. These installations protected 634 linear feet of bayside shorelines and covered approximately 9000 square feet.
Do you have a conservation project you have been putting off? FY 2021 sign-ups for VCAP will start be from September 1 to October 31, 2021. Call Bill Savage at 757-302-4437 to make an appointment. Additional information can be also be found by following the links on the website (esswcd.org)