smith mountain lake front property

Buffer Landscaping in Action: Master Gardeners & Master Naturalists Collaborate at Smith Mountain Lake

By Maeghan Klinker

When Smith Mountain Lake experienced an increase in runoff of fertilizers and sediments due to a housing boom in the 80’s, the Smith Mountain Lake Association (SMLA) recognized the importance of landscaping to prevent harmful runoff and erosion of the lake’s shoreline. In addition to promoting Phosphorous-free fertilizer, the SMLA manages a Buffer Landscape Advisory Service Team (BLAST) that helps introduce and support buffer landscaping to homeowners near the lake.

As the Smith Mountain Lake Association’s website states, the mission of BLAST is to, “preserve the lake shoreline and water quality while providing wildlife habitat and protecting property investment and enhancing the beauty of the lake.” In order to achieve this mission, the Buffer Landscaping Committee was created, consisting of a team of approximately 20 volunteers, many of whom are Virginia Master Naturalists and Extension Master Gardeners.

These committee members use their specialized knowledge to make recommendations to homeowners on how to use native plants to slow and filter water flowing into the lake. They also create demonstration gardens, provide on-site advice to lake residents, and operate a recognition program that acknowledges the efforts of residents who have effectively utilized buffer landscaping techniques.

Rich Brager, a Master Naturalist who has worked on the BLAST project, believes that collaboration between Extension Master Gardeners and Extension Master Naturalists has been invaluable to the success of this initiative.

“Collaboration between these programs has absolutely furthered the goals of the BLAST project. Some Buffer Landscape Committee members are both Virginia Master Naturalists and Virginia Master Gardeners. Each member draws on their own knowledge base and training from their respective organizations,” says Brager.

Both Extension Master Gardeners and Extension Master Naturalists have a thorough background knowledge and training in a variety of horticultural and environmental topics. By working together on this initiative, the two programs have achieved a great deal towards remediating the water quality of Smith Mountain Lake.

When Master Gardeners and Master Naturalists team up on projects, there’s no limit to the possibilities.

“Although both organizations have different Mission Statements and goals,” Brager says, “I think there are many potential projects that could easily fit into a common wheelhouse.”

Whether it be buffer landscaping, installing a rain garden, or any other project, consider reaching out to your local chapter of the Virginia Master Naturalists. When these two programs work together to share knowledge and empower communities, the results can be remarkable.

To learn more about the Smith Mountain Lake Association and their efforts in buffer landscaping, visit the Smith Mountain Lake Association’s webpage here.

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