Grant Will Link Town-Gown Stewardship Efforts

November 9, 2010

A town-gown partnership aimed at reducing stormwater runoff and limiting pollutants into the Chesapeake Bay watershed is one step closer to reality, thanks to a $75,000 grant.

Agencies dedicated to cleaning up the Bay have awarded funding to Mary Baldwin University and the City of Staunton, which are teaming up to protect Lewis Creek and promote stewardship. The grant — one of six dedicated to environmental projects in the region — is funded by the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Chesapeake Bay Program , as well as other federal and private partners, and administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF).

In the project titled “Raining it In: A Zero-Runoff Campaign for Lewis Creek,” officials from both the city and the college — which are the primary landowners in the watershed — have targeted a 29-acre subwatershed of the waterway which contains approximately 75 percent impervious surfaces.

The city will install native plants and replace a portion of parking lot adjacent to Lewis Creek with pervious interlocking concrete pavers. For its part, Mary Baldwin will treat with bioretention units 34,000 square feet of impervious surface in the campus parking lot on Frederick Street. The projects will begin in the spring.

In addition, Mary Baldwin University faculty and students in business, communication, and sociology majors will implement a social marketing campaign to secure commitments from property owners in the watershed to do their part. As an added incentive, the city will offer stormwater utility fee credits to residents who reduce or treat stormwater runoff.

“The concept for this project was the result of a collaborative effort by the college, the city, and the Staunton Regional Office of the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation,” said Brent Douglass, director of facilities management at Mary Baldwin. “Having the resources from this NFWF grant gives Staunton and Mary Baldwin University an opportunity to jointly implement visible improvements that strengthen our commitment to environmental stewardship. In addition to the infrastructure improvements, the students involved in the social marketing campaign will learn first-hand the regional impact of property owners who seriously embrace good water quality management.”

According to the NFWF, polluted runoff from urban and suburban impervious surfaces and agricultural lands continue to be two large sources of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment in local waterways and the Chesapeake Bay.

“This program is an example of a truly effective public-private partnership that delivers funding to high-impact, on-the-ground restoration projects in communities throughout the region,” said Amanda Bassow, acting director of the NFWF’s Eastern Partnership Office.

The runoff reduction effort goes hand-in-hand with Mary Baldwin’s initiative to incorporate native plants into the campus landscape. After years of planning, the first native meadow was sowed on Cannon Hill last spring. Several more acres of indigenous grass and flowers, which absorb rainwater serve as natural filters, will be planted in the next few years.