Extension offers new stormwater management publication series

Flexible fittings and extension pipes are attached to the end of a downspout to direct the runoff away from the house and impervious areas to pervious areas in the landscape, like flowerbeds, vegetable gardens, and lawns. Stormwater can also be directed into other practices, like grass swales, rain gardens, and buffers. (Photo by Mary Ann Kincaid, Virginia Beach Master Gardener Water Steward)

Residents in Virginia and the Carolinas have experienced their fair share of rainfall over the past few months, most recently with the arrival of hurricanes Florence and Michael. In many cases, the ground was already saturated, leaving no place for the rain to go causing home and property damage.

In a new publication series, “Stormwater Management for Homeowners,” Virginia Cooperative Extension provides information on how homeowners can use different practices in their landscapes to manage stormwater and protect their property from damage in the future.

“The main goal of this six-part series is to motivate homeowners and help them manage stormwater more effectively whenever rainstorms occur,” said Laurie Fox, a horticulture research associate at Virginia Tech. Fox and her colleagues address various practices commonly used in residential landscapes such as rooftop redirection, rain barrels, permeable pavement, grass swales, rain gardens, and buffers.

Fox, who works at the Hampton Roads Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Virginia Beach, encourages home and property owners to remember what they do makes a difference. “It doesn’t have to be expensive or labor or maintenance intensive,” she said.

For most properties, the biggest sources of rainfall hit roofs and driveways, said Fox. If stormwater stays in the landscape, it can soak into the ground, be used by plants, or evaporate into the atmosphere. If rainwater is collected in a rain barrel, the water can be used later for activities like watering plants, washing cars, and filling fish ponds. If the stormwater is not funneled into the storm drain with all the other stormwater running off streets, parking lots, and other properties, the total volume will be reduced, which helps reduce flooding and pollution in the Chesapeake Bay.

Fox hopes that people can learn from this useful series. “No matter what you do, how big or small, to manage stormwater in your landscape, collectively it makes a positive impact on the community.”

The goal is to slow stormwater down and spread it out into the landscape or collect it for later use as close to the source as possible.

The publication series is free and may be downloaded from the Virginia Cooperative Extension Publications and Resources website.

For additional information on numerous other topics, visit Virginia Cooperative Extension or contact your local VCE office. Virginia Cooperative Extension is an educational outreach program of Virginia’s land-grant universities: Virginia Tech and Virginia State University, and a part of the National Institute for Food and Agriculture, an agency of the United States Department of Agriculture.

— Written by Michael Craddock, a senior in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences.

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VCE Prince William County wins Lighting the Way Award from the SunTrust foundation

Paige Thacker, Muriel Garr, and Victoria Neeley

From left: Paige Thacker, VCE Prince William County unit director; Muriel Garr, vice president, SunTrust Foundation; and Victoria Neeley, program manager, VCE Financial Education and Housing Counseling Program.

Virginia Cooperative Extension Prince William County (VCEPW) recently received a “Lighting the Way to Financial Well-Being” award from the SunTrust Foundation. The Financial Education and Housing Counseling Program of VCEPW was among 36 non-profits nationwide to receive this award to further local efforts in helping people build financial skills and confidence.

The $75,000 award supports Extension’s Financial Education and Housing Counseling program.  The program will use the funds to increase hours for the office’s financial counselors offering more counseling services through fiscal year 2020, said the unit’s director, Paige Thacker. “We’re going put more staff in front of clients to help the community improve their finances, through one-on-one budgeting sessions, financial assessments, and coaching sessions to help clients develop their own plan and achieve their personal financial goals.”

The Financial Education and Housing Counseling programs include seminar topics such as Getting Ready for Taxes, Understanding and Improving Your Credit, Ways to Avoid Fraud, Smart Money Management, and other sessions to help reduce debt, increase savings, plan for retirement, and plan for that big first-time home purchase. These research-based seminars incorporate the latest best practices for better personal financial management and are provided at no cost to the community.

VCEPW provides pre-purchase homebuyer counseling, post-purchase financial counseling and coaching, foreclosure prevention counseling, rental counseling, and financial recovery counseling.

The housing programs and counseling offered by VCEPW are certified by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Thacker said. “We’ve gone through the accreditations and are recognized by HUD as a certified resource for housing counseling. Our services follow the National Industry Standards for Housing and Financial Counseling. There aren’t that many organizations in Northern Virginia that are HUD-certified and that follow those high standards. We’ve taken the time to go through designations, develop our staff appropriately, and ensure our services to the community are professional and confidential.”

“We would like to thank the SunTrust Foundation for supporting growing financial counseling services to the Prince William County and surrounding community through The Lighting the Way Award,” Thacker said. “It will benefit many more individuals helping them to achieve financial skills, stability and confidence.”

More information about VCEPW’s Financial Education and Housing Counseling program is available at pwcgov.org/money or by emailing smartmoney@pwcgov.org.

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Dedication and passion elevate Virginia to second on Champion Trees national register

paperbark maple on Virginia Tech Campus

This paperbark maple outside Hutcheson Hall is one of 13 state champion trees located on the Virginia Tech campus.

Just outside Hutcheson Hall on the Virginia Tech campus, a champion tree hides in plain sight. Its green leaves turn bright scarlet in the fall, and its orange-red bark peels in thin, papery layers. The Acer griseum, more commonly known as paperbark maple, is the largest of its species known to exist in Virginia.

The identification and registration of big trees in Virginia, including 13 on the Virginia Tech campus, is a passion project for Eric Wiseman, associate professor of urban forestry in the College of Natural Resources and Environment. Wiseman coordinates the Virginia Big Tree Program, which has been identifying the state’s big trees since 1970.

“Our mission with the Virginia database is twofold: to document the big trees in the state and to advocate for their conservation and care,” said Wiseman, of the Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation. “We have a section on our site called ‘Protecting Trees’ that details the three main threats to big trees, which include storms and lightning, construction and soil disturbance, and land development.”

Wiseman’s efforts have recently elevated Virginia into second place on the Champion Tree National Register maintained by American Forests. Virginia’s tally of 88 champion and co-champion trees trails Florida’s 132 trees and ranks just ahead of third-place Texas, with 81 trees.

Virginia is a surprise contender considering its size and level of urbanization. Wiseman notes that the state’s high ranking reflects the hard work of dedicated individuals.

“I like to tout the rankings as an indication and an acclamation for the people in the state who are so passionate about big trees,” Wiseman said. “It’s not so much that Virginia is a bastion of big trees; it’s that we have people who are passionate about big trees and keen to go out and find them.”

Byron Carmean’s passion for finding and documenting big trees truly stands out. Carmean, who earned a horticulture degree at Virginia Tech in 1970, started searching for and documenting big trees in 1983 after seeing the state’s big tree list published in the Virginia Forestry Association’s magazine.

“I started looking down the list with some interest. I’d see one and think, ‘I think I’ve seen one bigger than that.’ I got in touch with Gary Williamson, who was working as a ranger at Northwest River Park in Chesapeake, and he mentioned that he had seen a couple of trees that he thought were very big. We got together and found a winged sumac that became a national champ,” Carmean said.

Carmean’s and Williamson’s contributions to the database are significant: they share credit for 53 of Virginia’s 88 national champion and co-champion trees, and have discovered an additional 269 state champion and co-champion trees. Not content to stay local, their passion for hunting big trees has brought them to North Carolina, South Carolina, and Kentucky, where they have tracked down additional state and national champions. American Forests credits Carmean and Williamson with identifying more national champion and co-champion trees than anyone else in the country.

Carmean’s background in horticulture and tree science has been a boon to his efforts. “It really helps to be familiar with the big tree list and what is big for each species of tree,” he said. “What’s big for a dogwood wouldn’t be comparable to what’s big for a maple or an oak, so you need to have a deep knowledge of trees.”

Three factors go into measuring a tree: trunk circumference, tree height, and the average spread of the tree’s crown. While some trees require specialized tools to accurately assess a tree’s score, most can be measured using a yardstick and a 100-foot measuring tape.

Big tree hunting can be done anywhere. While enthusiasts like Carmean and Williamson enjoy hiking through unexplored forests, many Virginia state and national champion trees grow in city centers, on college campuses, and at historically significant sites like Arlington National Cemetery, Monticello, and Montpelier.

Wisemen notes that big tree enthusiasts find a variety of avenues to their passion. “For Byron Carmean and Gary Williamson, they like the thrill of the hunt. For others, it is the cultural and historical ties with the trees that fascinate them, that sense of connecting a tree to moments in history.”

When asked what continues to inspire his passion, Wiseman said, “As a certified arborist for over 20 years, I think I’m drawn to the trees on an individual level. Because I understand tree anatomy and physiology, I have an appreciation for the fact that these gigantic organisms can live for so long. And I get excited about the mathematics of it. Sometimes trees are straightforward to measure, but other times you have to incorporate some heavy-duty geometry and trigonometry to figure out how to score them.”

The Virginia Big Trees website has information about how to measure and report big trees, as well as a comprehensive database detailing Virginia’s current state and national champions. To ensure that the Virginia Big Tree database is up-to-date and accurate, all trees need to be recertified every 10 years. This process includes verifying that the tree is still alive, identifying any threats to its well-being, and assessing whether a tree’s score should be adjusted. The program is always looking for volunteers for recertification efforts; interested individuals should visit the website for more information.

— Written by Krista Timney

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Joseph R. and Mary W. Wilson Endowed Urban Entomology Professorship to help fight urban pests

Joe and Mary Wilson

Mary and Joe Wilson

In June, Joe and Mary Wilson, of Fredericksburg, Virginia, established the Joseph R. and Mary W. Wilson Endowed Urban Entomology Professorship in the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Wilson is the former owner of PermaTreat Pest Control, a leading pest control company located in Central and Northern Virginia.

The Wilson Urban Entomology Professor will lead entomology research efforts with the goal of discovering new and innovative ways to fight the scourge of urban pests such as bedbugs and cockroaches and share that information with the public.

“We felt like this was an opportunity to give back to an institution that helped build our business,” Joe Wilson told a local newspaper about his desire to make a gift. “Our industry is very closely tied to Virginia Tech. They have provided most of the training and instruction for pest control officers like myself.”

“This gift is truly transformational to our program at Virginia Tech,” said Tim Kring, head of the Department of Entomology. “There is a void in basic foundational research for urban pest management. We want to expand our program by adding a research component to our toolbox in order to pioneer next-step treatment options for indoor pests. No insecticide lasts forever. So, coming up with a new tool requires research.”

A native of Buena Vista, Virginia, Joe Wilson got into the business in 1965, when he was selling pest control service door-to-door for Orkin. He moved through the ranks of the company, eventually becoming the regional vice president of Orkin’s Midwest Region, overseeing 54 branches in 13 states.

In 1982, Wilson was visiting with a friend who started PermaTreat Pest Control in Fredericksburg, Virginia, and offered to sell the company to Wilson. Since moving back to Fredericksburg, Wilson has been involved in a host of civic activities and urban development projects, including building the Wilson building in downtown which has led to other commercial development in the downtown area. He is one of the founding members of the Rappahannock Rotary Club and he has long supported animal-welfare programs, including PermaTreat’s adopt-a-pet ads that appear in newspapers across the Commonwealth. He was a Fredericksburg City Councilman from 2000 to 2004 and named Virginia’s Small Business Person of the Year in 1987.

Wilson is also an active member and past president of the Virginia Pest Management Association, as well as a member of the National Pest Management Association. He was instrumental in the founding of the Virginia Pest Management Association Research Fund, which provided funding to create the Dodson Urban Pest Management Laboratory at Virginia Tech.

— Written by Zeke Barlow

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Bert Dodson Sr. Urban Entomology Enrichment Fund improves lives by battling urban pests

 

Dodson family

The Bert Dodson Sr. Urban Entomology Enrichment Fund was made possible by Dorothy Dodson, Karen Dodson Whitt, Bert Dodson Jr., Todd A. Dearborn, and Bonny L. Dodson.

People have been using a battery of weapons in the battle against household pests like cockroaches and bedbugs for decades. Now, they have a new weapon.

The newly established Bert Dodson Sr. Urban Entomology Enrichment Fund in the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences will enable researchers, faculty, and Virginia Cooperative Extension professionals to implement novel solutions to urban pest problems and to share that knowledge with students, pest management professionals, and citizens. By researching ways to fight urban pests and sharing that knowledge through outreach and education, the fund will help society deal with the scourge of urban pests.

The fund was made possible by a gift from the family of Bert Dodson Sr. He founded Dodson Brothers Exterminating Company in 1944, along with his brother Robert, in Lynchburg, Virginia. Later, their brother Arthur joined them, and they began to build the small company into what would eventually be one of the largest family-owned pest control company in North America. Bert bought out his brothers in the early 1960s and expanded the enterprise throughout the mid-Atlantic region. Widely known for its bright yellow trucks, Dodson Brothers prides itself on delivering quality service with customer satisfaction being their principle goal.

Bert Dodson Jr., president and C.E.O. of Dodson Brothers, said that the members of Dodson family were all behind the decision to create the endowment.

“We want to give back to the community and to the commonwealth that has been so good to us for over the last 70 years,” he said. “We need the help of a research center, especially for training. Dodson Brothers has been blessed with a good customer base and really good team members. We feel the support we got from Virginia Tech faculty over the decades has really helped our company grow and prosper. We are giving back to a great institution that has helped us throughout the years.”

The fund will help further the work of the Dodson Urban Pest Management Laboratory, which was founded in 1988 by a group of Virginia pest management professionals lead by Bert Dodson Sr. The Laboratory’s mission is to create knowledge and provide innovative pest management information to pest management professionals and the public through Virginia Cooperative Extension. The laboratory is dedicated to applied research on urban insect pests and pesticide application tests. It is home to two insect rearing areas and has space for staff and students to conduct research. The lab is part of the Department of Entomology, which is a recognized leader in advancing urban arthropod pest management.

— Written by Zeke Barlow

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