The following blog post is based on an article titled “Stream Restoration Spawns Kids’ Fishing Derby in Virginia,” originally published in Land and Water: The Magazine of Natural Resource Management and Restoration.
Children’s smiles tell the story of a stream restoration in Reston, Virginia, a community where the rejuvenation of more than 9 miles of stream as part of the Northern Virginia Stream Restoration Bank (NVSRB) unexpectedly evolved into an annual fishing derby, the most recent of which saw more than 350 children cast lines into the water on a brisk March morning.
The derby and the massive restoration are the result of strong partnerships between various public and private entities in Virginia.
Wetland Studies and Solutions, Inc. (WSSI), a subsidiary of The Davey Tree Expert Company, worked with the Reston Association (representing close to 60,000 residents), the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and Fairfax County to restore streams within three separate watersheds. The derby evolved out of those relationships and included WSSI, the Reston Association, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) and Northern Virginia Trout Unlimited (NVATU).
The impetus for the rebirth of the streams located across three separate watersheds started when Reston residents published a whitepaper in 2000 shedding light on their severely eroded streams and the resulting negative effects on the community, including its many lakes and ponds.
The NVSRB is the first such stream mitigation bank developed in Virginia and has been a well-received and much needed solution for development projects in the region. WSSI started planning and developing the NVSRB in 2003, and the stream restoration design process started in the first watershed, Snakeden Branch, in 2006.
The fishing derby, which started in 2011, was not part of the original plan.
The idea came from Brent Clarke, who at the time was a volunteer member of the DGIF board of directors. Clarke was familiar with WSSI and his daughter lives in Reston with her husband and three sons.
“I was actually walking down one of the paths by a restored section of stream one day when I realized it would be an ideal place to hold a fishing event for children because Reston is full of kids, many of whom have never fished before,” Clarke said.
Snakeden Branch is too shallow and warm to sustain a trout population. So WSSI funds the purchase and coordinates the delivery of about 400 fish from a private hatchery. Volunteers from WSSI, the homeowners’ association, DGIF and NVATU stock the stream with a combination of about 300 standard rainbow trout 10 inches to 13 inches in length and 100 breeder trout 2 pounds to 3 pounds each.
The day of the derby, volunteers from WSSI, DGIF, the Reston Association and NVATU help out. Volunteers register participants and help children catch and reel in fish. WSSI provides gift bags with bait and other items. The association and DGIF provide rods and reels. Volunteers also filet the fish so the children can take them home ready to cook for dinner that night.
More than 500 people registered for the 2015 derby in March.
Aside from reconnecting the community with nature, there are other benefits from the restoration.
In the past five years Reston has seen a reduction in stream bank erosion in the restored streams. A more natural hydraulic cycle has been restored so the streams flood.
Residents have seen an increase in birds, dragonflies and other native wildlife in the areas. Reduced erosion means less sediment is flowing into the community’s ponds and lakes, and that reduces the need for dredging. Some infrastructure damaged by the eroded streams, ranging from broken sewer pipes to crumbling walking trails, was repaired as part of the project.
For many of the project partners, their favorite benefit without doubt is the fishing derby.
“It’s unique to any of our projects,” Petrey said. “Kids love it. We love seeing people actually enjoying the stream. You don’t get to see that on every project.”
For more information, contact Scott Petrey, Senior Associate Engineer, or Frank Graziano, Director-Engineering, Wetland Studies and Solutions, Inc., 5300 Wellington Branch Dr., Suite 100, Gainesville, Virginia 20155. 703-679-5600. http://www.wetlands.com/