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Virginia CZM Program: 2013 Coastal Grant Project Description and Final Summary

Project Task:VA CZM logo



Northern Virginia Regional Commission

Project Title:

Site Selection and Design of a Conservation Landscaping Workshop

Project Description as Proposed:

Conventional turf dominates most residential landscapes in Northern Virginia.  Lawn dominated landscapes have profound effects on local hydrology with significant environmental costs. The reduced permeability of turfed areas ultimately reduces groundwater infiltration and adds to overland stormwater runoff, increasing the frequency of localized flooding and negatively altering downstream water course characteristics. The downstream environmental effect of urban stormwater flow and subsequent degradation of the Chesapeake Bay watershed ecosystem is compounded by the typical fertilizer, herbicide and pesticide applications most lawns and gardens receive. Together these synthetic and often chemically persistent products seriously impact biotic communities and degrade both surface and groundwater quality.  Additionally, given their shallow root systems, lawn areas are more prone to erosion and can increase local waterway sediment concentrations.  The contemporary weed-free lawn is maintained at a high price, not only in terms of dollars but also degraded water and air quality, increased water consumption, and the peace and quiet of our neighborhoods.

The Northern Virginia Regional Native Plants Campaign is working to promote the use of native plants in the residential landscape through a social marketing campaign.  The goal of the project is to make it easier for the general public to identify native plant varieties and increase the sale of natives at local retail establishments.  Even in a residential landscape, native plant gardens provide many ecosystem services that conventional turf landscapes do not.  Native plant gardens function as small islands or patches of native vegetation that can act as stepping stones and provide connectivity between fragmented high value habitat corridors.

Several of our partners in the Northern Virginia Conservation Corridors project have expressed an interest in refining the analysis further and engaging landowners on efforts they can take to protect, enhance, or restore the region’s “green infrastructure”.  As development continues to increase in Northern Virginia, important native plant communities and habitats that support our wildlife and provide us valuable ecosystem services are becoming fragmented, depleted, and altered.  Maintaining intact, connected natural areas and areas that serve as stepping stones between large, intact habitat cores is essential for basic ecosystem and watershed services, such as clean air and water and sustaining biodiversity.  Five priority regional corridors in Northern Virginia were identified and mapped as part of the Conservation Corridors Project.  

NVRC would like to develop a collaborative workgroup to build upon the efforts of the Native Plant Campaign and the Conservation Corridors Project in a regional conservation landscaping effort that would demonstrate an actual, on-the-ground application of these two projects.  Specifically, NVRC and partners propose to use the spatial GIS data developed during the Conservation Corridors Project to select a turf or hardscape area within one of the corridors identified as high priority and restore it using native plants and the 8 elements of conservation landscaping as identified by the Chesapeake Conservation Landscaping Council. 

Additionally, an issue that was identified during the Collaborative Summit to Protect Water Quality through Actions on Urban-Suburban Properties held in Williamsburg in February 2013, was the lack of landscape industry professionals that were knowledgeable about native plants and qualified to implement conservation landscaping plans.  NVRC proposes to host a hands-on technical workshop to educate landscape industry professionals and the general public about conservation-based landscaping practices using native plants.  The workshop will feature several knowledgeable speakers including a landscape architect for a lecture portion, a design segment for sizing and designing a garden.

The selection of the site and  eventual installation of the demonstration landscape will not only provide a model for maintaining the balance between conservation and development interests in the Northern Virginia coastal region, but also offer an opportunity to educate industry professionals about how environmentally sensitive landscapes can reduce polluted runoff, conserve water and increase wildlife habitat. 

Federal Funding:


Project Contact:

Corey Miles, 703.642.4625; 

Project Status:

1/1/2014 - 9/30/2014; Project Completed 

Final Product Received:

Site Selection and Design of a Conservation Landscaping Workshop (pdf)

Project Summary Provided by Grantee:

Since 2010, the Northern Virginia Regional Commission (NVRC) has been engaged in a series of projects, studies, and efforts related to helping the region identify green infrastructure or conservation corridors, and promote the use of native plants in the urban and suburban landscape. These efforts known as the Plant NoVA Natives Campaign and the Conservation Corridors Project have been funded in part by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) through the Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program (VCZMP).


An issue that has been identified by localities in the region was the lack of landscape industry professionals that were knowledgeable about native plants and qualified to implement conservation landscaping practices such as rain gardens, bio-swales, conversion of turf into native plantings, etc. In light of the recent development of local stormwater incentive programs that encourage homeowners to construct and maintain voluntary stormwater management techniques on their own property, there was a need to educate landscape industry professionals and the general public about conservation-based landscaping practices.


This project reinforced and expanded upon the efforts of the Plant NoVA Natives Campaign and the Conservation Corridors Project by teaching landscape professionals how to construct green infrastructure using native plants and selecting a site for restoration that would restore a missing connection in part of a larger greenway, help to recreate ecosystem functions in a developed area, and facilitate movement of wildlife across the vast lawn-dominated areas that comprise the regional landscape between large patches of intact habitat cores; a concept that was central to the Conservation Corridors work.


The funding received for this project allowed NVRC to form a collaborative workgroup and host a hands-on technical workshop for landscape professionals to learn how to design and build conservation landscaping practices using native plants. Forty-two landscape professionals and stormwater inspectors signed up to attend the five hour long workshop. Speakers included staff from City of Falls Church, Arlington County, Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District, George Washington University Landscape Architecture Program, Chesapeake Stormwater Network and NVRC.


The funding received for this project also allowed NVRC, in cooperation with the workgroup, to select a site for restoration.  A site in the City of Falls Church was selected for several reasons; 1) it could be converted from turf to conservation landscape, 2) it is located in the riparian zone of an impaired stream (Tripps Run), 3) the site enhances the green infrastructure of an urban landscape, 4) it connects to an existing native plant trail and illustrates the concept of conservation corridors, 5) the City of Falls Church provided matching funds and will maintain the site, 6) it is publicly owned land (owned by City of Falls Church), 7) the site is highly visible from the roadway and offers an excellent opportunity for educational signage, 8) it will reduce the volume of urban stormwater runoff from an adjacent parking lot by intercepting it before it enters Tripps Run, 9) it restores the Resource Protection Area (RPA) and 10) it improves the water quality of Tripps Run.

The restoration of the site was funded under a separate CZMP grant and is expected to be completed in Spring of 2015.


Disclaimer: This project summary provides the federal dollars initially awarded to the grantee. Due to underexpenditure or reprogramming of grant funds, this figure may change. For more information on the allocation of coastal grant funds, please contact Laura McKay, Virginia Coastal Program Manager, at 804.698.4323 or email:

A more detailed Scope of Work for this project is available. Please direct your request for a copy to

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Virginia Department of
Environmental Quality
P.O. Box 1105
Richmond, VA 23218
(804) 698-4000

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