For the Northern Neck Master Gardeners’ Shoreline Evaluation Program (SEP), spring means the beginning of six months of visiting waterfront properties to evaluate sites for problems related to erosion and stormwater runoff. SEP teams research solutions, write reports for homeowners, and provide follow-up assistance and support. SEP has provided this service to the residents of the Northern Neck since 2012.

“The science underlying shoreline protection is constantly evolving and improving,” said Mary Turville, SEP Chair. “Working under the guidance of a coastal marine scientist at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS), SEP team members receive training from VIMS and participate in field trips to study innovative coastal protection strategies.”

Field trips

SEP team members recently visited VIMS for a day’s training focused on the challenges of sea level rise. “Over the past two years, we used on-line training sessions because of COVID,” said Turville. “We are glad to return to in-person, classroom presentations. We enjoy on-site activities, such as examining the impact of sea level rise on various elements of the shoreline protection at VIMS’ Gloucester Point campus.”

SEP team members also visited the recently installed Living Shoreline project at the Tides Inn in Irvington. The installation of approximately 18,000 square feet of living shoreline provides erosion protection and runoff control. An elevated boardwalk allows visitors to explore the mass plantings

 of native trees, shrubs, grasses and perennials, and to observe shoreline plants up close.

“Guided by the Tides Inn horticulturalist, a landscape architect from the Water Street Studio design team, and a member of the VIMS scientific staff, we were able to understand the challenges of the site, and the underlying design features used to address these problems,” stated Turville.

The SEP team plans a follow-up visit later in the year to see how well the various plants have adapted to the site conditions. SEP team members will use this information to make recommendations to local homeowners for shoreline protection on a smaller, residential scale.

Getting assistance

SEP offers on-site evaluations to homeowners, and registration information is available at Demand for this service is heavy, and the schedule for 2022 is almost full.

Homeowners can contact the Shoreline Evaluation team by visiting the Northern Neck Master Gardener tent at farmers markets in Irvington and Heathsville or by directing questions to the Help Desks at the county Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE) offices. For more information on SEP services and activities, contact the Lancaster County VCE Office at (804) 462-5780.