ARMN Members Help Rebuild Grass Enclosure in Belmont Bay

By Kasha Helget

In response to a request from the staff of Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF), ARMN members Melissa Perez and Kasha Helget got their feet (legs, and knees) wet on Friday, May 10th to assist in the reconstruction of a celery grass enclosure on the Potomac River’s Belmont Bay at Mason Neck Park in Lorton.

Perez is a grass grower and Helget is a regional coordinator in CBF’s “Grasses for the Masses” program. In this program, Virginia residents grow underwater celery grass (Vallisneria americana) in their homes or schools during winter, and then plant the grasses during spring in Belmont Bay at Mason Neck Park or in James River. The aquatic grasses filter nutrients and provide important habitat for fish and other aquatic creatures, and help restore the health of the Chesapeake Bay.

The grass plantings take place on several days between mid-May and early June; however, CBF staff was notified that the enclosure at Belmont Bay was destroyed by some errant driftwood and needed to be rebuilt before the grass installations could be done there.

Bare enclosure for celery grass prior to installation of new screening to protect the new plantings.  (No, the driftwood in the foreground is not a shark. :-)

Bare enclosure for celery grass prior to installation of new screening to protect the new plantings. (No, the driftwood in the foreground is not a shark.) 🙂

So, a group of seven CBF staffers and volunteers jumped (waded) in to replace screening around the enclosure and anchor it to the sand for better support, and to prevent turtles and other large interlopers from entering the enclosure and destroying the grasses.

Master Naturalist Melissa Perez holds up a support post while awaiting additional cable ties for the screen.

Master Naturalist Melissa Perez holds up a support post while awaiting additional cable ties for the screen.

 

The atmosphere and water temperature were near perfect for accomplishing the enclosure reconstruction.

Master Naturalists Melissa Perez and Kasha Helget take a break in front of the “door” to the grass enclosure.

Master Naturalists Melissa Perez and Kasha Helget take a break in front of the “door” to the grass enclosure.

 

Master Naturalist Melissa Perez ties rebar to the screening as a base to prevent turtles from entering the enclosure.  CBF Staffer Ann Jurczyk and volunteer Craig Metcalf assist.

Master Naturalist Melissa Perez ties rebar to the screening as a base to prevent turtles from entering the enclosure. CBF Staffer Ann Jurczyk and volunteer Craig Metcalf assist.

Despite a few technical glitches, the work proceeded well before high tide forced the team to stop. A CBF staffer would complete anchoring the fence before the first planting on May 18th.

For more information on the program, see: http://www.cbf.org/grasses. Watch for your opportunity to participate in the 2014 growing program late in the year.

Photos courtesy of Peyton Williams.

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