Rappahannock Friends and Lovers of Our Watershed

Be a voice for your land and streams

By Don Audette and Beverly Hunter

©Rappahannock News 2006

Like to get a free aerial photo of your property? Like to see your place and neighborhood from the sky? Like to check out your hills and dales, streams, nearby roads?

To get your picture you fill out a short survey that was mailed this week by the volunteer group RappFLOW to all 1500 households that live or own land in the Upper Thornton River watershed. The survey is an opportunity for everyone to tell what they care and know about their local land and waters. It takes only about ten minutes and individual answers are kept anonymous.

The watershed covers about 93 square miles. It includes Washington, Sperryville, several hollows up to the Shenandoah National Park, all the rivers, streams, creeks, ponds, springs, or other waters that flow into the Upper Thornton River. Check out the map nearby to see the general outline of the Upper Thornton River Watershed.

The Upper Thornton Watershed is divided into 13 smaller subwatersheds. A map of the subwatersheds is included in the survey envelope. The survey is assessing the health of each of these subwatersheds based on your concerns, as well as scientific assessment of land cover, vegetative stream buffers, protection by the Shenandoah National Park, Best Management Practices, water quality, fish and other aquatic animals, impairments to the streams, and other factors.

An example question on the survey asks what are your three most important water issues out of a list of 12, such as “adequate supply of good drinking water,” “water for livestock,” “stream bank erosion,” and “need to help clean up the Chesapeake Bay.”

Those in other areas of Rappahannock County will be brought into this survey later. It is too much for RappFLOW to study the whole county all at once. When you are dealing with 755 miles of streams crisscrossing Rappahannock County, and about 576 ponds, you have to do things a little at a time.

Why is the Upper Thornton River Watershed first? One reason is the Sperryville sewage treatment plant is located there; the only one we have in Rappahannock County. Another reason is there is an interesting mix of properties, farms, residential properties, businesses, roads, and vegetative cover in the Upper Thornton River Watershed.

There is a bunch of stuff running into the waters of the Upper Thornton River Watershed, as well as seeping into the ground within it. It all ends up either in wells or it presses on to flow into the Rappahannock River.

You answer the survey questions, anonymously, and send your survey in the self addressed envelope provided, along with a separate paper requesting your free aerial photograph. You will receive your free aerial photograph, and, a few months later, a free copy of the survey results showing how healthy the water is in the Upper Thornton River Watershed. All courtesy of RappFLOW volunteers.

RappFLOW volunteers come from all backgrounds and walks of life. We get technical assistance from the Culpeper Soil and Water Conservation District; Shenandoah National Park; the VA Departments of Conservation and Recreation, Forestry, Game and Inland Fisheries, and Environmental Quality; the US Geological Survey and the US Environmental Protection Agency. We work with many nonprofit organizations and businesses and the local county government. A grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Chesapeake Bay Small Watershed grant program is helping to pay for this survey and our study of People, Land and Water in the Upper Thornton River Watershed. Please visit our web site at http://www.rappflow.org for more information about RappFLOW activities, watershed protection, and your watershed. We are looking for more volunteers. Please join in our regular monthly meetings and special activities – see our web site or Rappahannock News “Upcoming Events” page for more details or call 937-2603.