Appalachian Conservation Corps blaze new trail at Rappahannock County Park

ACC corps member breaks up rocks
An ACC corps member breaks up rocks in preparation to build steps up a steep section. “We crush them up and put them underneath when we’re making stairs and that helps with drainage and it helps keep it sturdier,” she said. Photo by Rachel Needham, Rappahannock News.

Rappahannock County Park has been visited recently by the Appalachian Conservation Corps (ACC), an AmeriCorps program of Conservation Legacy. The Piedmont Environmental Council, PEC’s Krebser Fund for Rappahannock County and Friends of the Rappahannock (FOR) have partnered with the ACC to bring a crew of 6 young adults to the Piedmont region for tree plantings and trail maintenance projects.

These AmeriCorps members are part of a national program for volunteers, committing 800+ hours of community service to local nonprofits and government agencies who are the hosts for environmental stewardship projects across the country. 

corps members place river stones
Corps members place large river stones to support a switchback on the trail and help prevent erosion of the slope. Photo by Rachel Needham, Rappahannock News.

The Rappahannock County Recreational Facilities Authority reached out to PEC’s Krebser Fund to financially support the ACC at Rappahannock’s County Park to help build a new section of trail that will improve public access to the Rush River Trail. The crew was hired for reforestation thanks to funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and landowner participation in the Virginia Agricultural Cost-Share Program (VACS), and was able to take on the 1.5 days of trail work at Rappahannock County park thanks to funding from the PEC Krebser Fund. The new section is 235 feet of a foot trail that switchbacks on a steep bank, and reconnects to existing trails in the Park. The ACC crew installed masonry and log stairs to stabilize the trail, as well as cleared invasive plant species and brush from the trail’s path.  

Additionally, the ACC has worked over two weeks across the Piedmont in Rappahannock, Fauquier and Culpeper counties to plant nearly 20 acres of trees along streams as part of the Headwater Stream Initiative. Bryan Hoffman, deputy director of FOR, said the organization hopes to plant 50,000 trees in the 18-county Rappahannock River watershed this spring. 

new trail section
The Rappahannock County Park’s new section of trail may be only 235 feet long, but it connects the upper and lower river paths and turns what used to be three parallel trails into a trail loop. Photo by Rachel Needham, Rappahannock News.

FOR, PEC and FOR’s Headwater Stream Initiative provide free technical service, materials and labor for landowners who want to improve water quality with new and improved riparian buffer tree plantings on headwater streams in the Upper Rappahannock River watershed. 

PEC and FOR are excited to expand the capacity of regional projects for clean water and public access to trails with the help of Conservation Legacy’s Appalachian Conservation Corps. We plan to bring back the ACC crew for more great work in the Upper Rappahannock River watershed and greater Piedmont region in fall 2021.

This article was written by PEC’s Claire Catlett as a special to the Rappahannock News on April 16, 2021.