Marion Morning Rotary and the Rotary Clubs of Marion, Washington County, and Hillsville have been awarded a $12,000 matching grant to help build a native wetland at the Blue Ridge Discovery Center. The Rotary clubs are donating $12,500 for a total Rotary contribution of $24,500 to the project. The grant was received from Rotary District 7570 which encompasses 83 Rotary clubs from Northeast Tennessee to Winchester, Virginia.
Early this year, Marion Morning Rotary and the Blue Ridge Discovery Center embarked on a partnership to develop a Rotary grant project. The pandemic presented new challenges but also an opportunity to focus on creative ways to come together safely in service to the community.
“In these times of challenge and change, it was important to find a way to do something positive for our community that will have a lasting impact on our region,” said Heather Bunch of Marion Morning Rotary.
The wetland was identified as a critical path project in the development of the Blue Ridge Discovery Center’s new home at Konnarock. The scope and cost of the project exceeded the resources and the potential grant funds available to a single Rotary club, so Marion Morning Rotary expanded their vision to collaborate with regional Rotary clubs from Hillsville, Marion, and Washington County who also connected with the mission of BRDC – to inspire curiosity, discovery, and stewardship through the wonders of the Blue Ridge.
The partnership made the group eligible to apply for the maximum matching grant of $12,000. Cary Simms said, “The Rotary Club of Hillsville Virginia values local efforts that benefit our community, especially those that involve Rotary Club partnerships. This aligns with part of the Rotary 4-Way Test – to build goodwill and better friendships.” Nancy Jean Bradford from the Rotary Club of Washington County added, “I am glad that our Club is involved in this worthy project. The Blue Ridge Discovery Center is a historical gem that is being refurbished into a wonderful asset for our community.”
The wetland established through this collaborative project will accept water from the roof of the Center, as well as trap some of the groundwater that moves through the property. It will encompass an ADA accessible boardwalk that hovers over the wetland, offer stepping stone pathways for further exploration of the habitat, and be a key resource for education, observations, stormwater management, and beautification of the Blue Ridge Discovery Center.
Aaron Floyd, Executive Director of BRDC said, “This project is a living demonstration of something that you can do at your home or business to make a big local impact. Capturing the roof runoff not only slows down stormwater, reducing flow rates during a flood and helping to preserve stream banks and aquatic environments, but it also builds a little ecosystem that supports all sorts of essential wildlife starting with native plants. With the plants comes a litany of insects including butterflies, bees, beetles, and moths.”
Plants and insects being the backbone of a vibrant community will start to attract a variety of birds, amphibians, and mammals. Replacing a grass lawn with local plant communities will not only create a beautiful landscape but will also have an immediate and long-term impact on the environment. “It will enrich your life in many unexpected ways by introducing you to the wonder and complexities of species you’ve never seen before,” said Floyd.
For Blue Ridge Discovery Center this new resource is going to be a central education tool for thousands of kids participating in hands-on programs. Floyd said, “Not only did the wetland address major stormwater management issues on site, it also brought to life a vibrancy that will inspire the next generation of stewards for our region.”
Floyd continued, “Rainwater can be hugely destructive as seen this year with continual flooding of the upper New River basin. On the other hand, if managed at the source, the ‘water cycle’ can be and absolutely is, the life blood of our community. Being located at the ‘top’ of Virginia, all water flows down from our mountains and that is a responsibility that should not be taken lightly. Our region is known for pristine mountain streams and wilderness, but there is plenty of work to be done to ensure that is the case going forward. This level of stewardship can start in our own backyard.”
To learn more about the Blue Ridge Discovery Center, please visit: https://blueridgediscoverycenter.org/
To purchase native plants, Blue Ridge Discovery Center recommends Wood Thrush Natives and Mid Atlantic Native Plant Farm.
About the Blue Ridge Discovery Center
Blue Ridge Discovery Center is a 501(c)3 non-profit founded in 2008. BRDC has been providing hands-on educational programming for the community without a physical place, without a “Center”. In the fall of 2017, BRDC was gifted the historic Konnarock Training School, an incredible property at the base of the highest mountains in Virginia, with a legacy of education and service to the Appalachian community. The schoolhouse is currently undergoing historic rehabilitation to become the “Center” and will open in the fall of 2021.
Rotary brings together a global network of volunteer leaders dedicated to tackling the world’s most pressing humanitarian challenges. Rotary connects 1.2 million members of more than 35,000 Rotary clubs in over 200 countries and geographical areas. Their work improves lives at both the local and international levels, from those in need in their own communities to working toward a polio-free world. Visit www.rotary.org or contact your local Rotary for more information.