Rivanna Master Naturalists in Fluvanna County

Contributed by RMN volunteers Walter Hussey, Ida Swenson, John Wilkinson, and Pat Burkett

Rivanna Master Naturalists are becoming more active in Fluvanna County and doing great education and stewardship work to benefit the county’s natural resources and community members.

volunteer kneeling in field next to a sign saying "Quail Recovery Team Member"

Rivanna Master Naturalist volunteer Walter Hussey

One major new effort, led by RMN volunteer Walter Hussey, has been wildlife habitat restoration at Pleasant Grove Park. Several years ago Fluvanna County purchased a huge parcel of undeveloped farm land along the Rivanna in Palmyra. Sports fields and trails were added and the old farm house restored and turned into a museum about farm and river life in the area since the early English settlements. However the plentiful natural history at the Park also needed attention. Virginia Master Naturalists worked with Fluvanna’s Parks & Rec office to develop a plan for the stewardship of the natural resources at Pleasant Grove Park. One of our first efforts was to gain approval for a renaturalization of almost 50 acres of parkland that had been farm fields but were now being mowed. After 2 appearances in front of the Board of Supervisors, during which the Master Naturalist presentation appeared to be the key turning point, we got approval to return and maintain these areas in a natural state. Since then, we have developed a visitor educational brochure about wildlife habitats in the Park; marked the spraying and ripping of the fescue sod; assisted in a grant for, and the execution of, the planting of almost 300 trees as hedgerow anchors around the fields; laid out, and assisted in the building of, several new trails in the fields; aided the Girl Scouts in development of a tree identification trail (along with Ida Swenson); conducted an invasive removal pull and prepared an area for the installation of a Pollinator Garden next Spring.

RMN, and our work here in Fluvanna, were the subject of the cover article in Fluvanna’s local newspaper, the Fluvanna Review.

two volunteers standing in river holding a car tire

Rivanna Master Naturalists John Wilkinson and Pat Burkett removing tires from the Rivanna River

New RMN chapter members and Fluvanna residents, Patricia Burkett and John Wilkinson, led another successful stewardship project in the county in partnership with the Rivanna Conservation Society. After noticing many old tires on the bottom of the Rivanna River, they organized a tire clean-up event. It was so successful that they organized two follow-up events to take out even more tires. In total, around 150 tires were removed from the river between Crofton and Palmyra.  This project was also featured in the Fluvanna Review (see page 15.)

In addition to these new stewardship efforts, RMN volunteer Ida Swenson has continued to lead a 4-H Junior Naturalist club in the county. Ida also has been heavily involved over the years in Fluvanna Public Schools, working mainly with the High School and the Elementary Schools. Programs at the Scheier Natural Area have also been on her list! She and Walter are helping plan the second annual Earth Day Festival on April 25. She and Donita Ahearn enjoyed teaching on a high school field trip to the Rivanna River; the highlight was watching Pat Burkett, John Wilkenson, and Dan Triman float down the river with one of their loads of tires.

Rivanna Master Naturalist volunteers also participate in Stream Watch in Fluvanna County. Ida and Donita have adopted two sites. Other MNs test the Rivanna River, while spots are still open for Cunningham Creek, Raccoon Creek, Cary’s Creek and others!

Newly planted trees with protective tubes in a line across a field

Newly planted trees at Pleasant Grove

As we continue our re-naturalization and nature education efforts at Pleasant Grove Park, there are a multitude of RMN volunteer opportunities. Please contact Walter Hussey at whthinker [at] yahoo [dot] com if you’d like to be a part of this exciting project.

Some efforts where we could use volunteers this year include:

  • Planting 400 DGIF and NPS donated potted plants in the Pollinator Garden on Earth Day, 4/25
  • Planting 250 American Plum trees in additional hedgerows and wildlife food plots when DOF delivers the trees later in Feb/ Mar
  • Planting 2.8 acres of wildlife food seeds when DGIF delivers seeds in early Spring
  • Installing a Blue Bird Nesting Trail with VBS bluebird houses
  • Conducting hikes through these nature areas
  • Building a Kids and Family Nature Hike Trail
  • Producing nature interpretive guides for existing trails
  • Developing nature education programs
  • Organizing and conducting fescue eradication and other invasive pulls
  • Developing nature activities such as bird sighting reports, self guided nature scavenger hunts, etc. for the park
  • And of course all the planning, organizing, preparations, grant applications, etc that go with the above!
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