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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:

Installation of a Conservation Landscaping Project

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 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:

8/1/2014 - 12/31/2014; Project Completed 

Final Product Received:

Installation of a Conservation Landscaping Project

Project Summary Provided by Grantee:

In light of the recent development of local stormwater incentive programs in some Northern Virginia communities 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.
In 2013, VCZMP awarded NVRC two grants (FY13 Task 56, NOAA Grant # NA13NOS4190135 and FY13 Task 57 of NOAA Grant # 13NOS4190135) to select a turf or hardscape site for restoration using conservation landscaping, conduct a workshop focused on teaching landscape professionals (designers, architects, contractors, stormwater inspectors), how to select and design conservation landscape practices for homeowners in Northern Virginia, and how to install and maintain them in landscape. 

The Conservation Landscaping Workshop was divided into two parts.  Part 1 was funded under Task 56 and took place on July 16 at the Fairfax County Herrity Building located at 12055 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax, VA 22035 from 9:30 am – 2:30 pm.  Forty-two landscape professionals and municipal stormwater inspectors attended the workshop. The final deliverables of  FY13 Task 56 can be found at:,Initiatives,Projects/2013Projects/

The second and final part of the workshop, ‘Installation of a Conservation Landscape Technical Workshop’ was held on October 7, 2014. The target audience was landscape professionals and local government staff.  The workshop was on residential best management practices for stormwater management.  The curriculum was focused on installation and maintenance of conservation landscapes and featured a hands-on component. 

The classroom portion of the workshop contained presentations from the Northern VA Soil and Water Conservation District, City of Falls Church and Arlington County on pre-installation planning, permitting, and construction sequencing.  There was also a session on maintenance conservation landscapes as well as proper disposal of waste related to landscape maintenance.

During the field exercise, participants learned about restoring riparian buffers, soil amendment and site preparation, native plant identification, proper planting techniques, mulch requirements and landscape maintenance. 

The participants also removed invasive plants, spread mulch, and planted hundreds of native grasses, perennials, shrubs, and trees at the carefully selected demonstration site. 

The demonstration site not only enhanced and enlarged the adjacent park and trail to provide more connectivity for wildlife, but also captures and treats runoff from the neighboring paved parking lot.  In addition, the City installed an irrigation system, and maintains the site in accordance with their maintenance standards.

Interpretive signage has also been designed for the site.  The City plans to install the signage during sidewalk improvements in Summer 2016.

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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