By Matt de Simone
Since 1951, Roanoke Cement Company (RCC) has played a big part in the growth of Botetourt as a community and often gives back whenever possible. In 2013, RCC faced issues expanding its limestone quarry as potential impacts with wetland areas— in this case, Catawba Creek— was imminent. RCC decided it needed to prevent the impacts one of two ways: pay someone to fix the streambank or fix the problem head-on and mitigate potential environmental concerns.
RCC Environmental Analyst Lindsey Layman took the Botetourt Community Partnership (BCP) on a field trip to RCC’s riparian restoration zone last Wednesday morning. Riparian restoration is an operation that allows nature to do its thing once the riparian zone is restored and mitigated.
As the BCP continues to look for new ways to improve Botetourt’s environment, founders Genevieve Goss and Donna Henderson enjoy getting the group together to learn about what their corporate neighbors are up to when doing their part to better improve their environment.
Layman first gave the members of the partnership a brief overview of the riparian project at the plant. Soon, after a quick drive up Catawba Road, members of the partnership got an opportunity to tour the farm.
“Our driving force behind this project, in particular, was any impacts [on our wetland areas/watershed] that we have locally, need to be mitigated locally,” Layman explained, “All ecosystems— especially wetlands— provide important functions. For us, it was very important that those functions returned here to the watershed.”
Layman mentioned invasive species that she and her team continue to battle. For example, Japanese stiltgrass continues to show up along the streambank. One native invasive species, Boxelder trees, cause a problem in sustaining a riparian buffer zone. The seeds and other parts of the tree give out a protoxin which can potentially cause diseases in horses and humans, if ingested. The trees play host to those pesky bugs who share the same name of the previously mentioned fauna from which they feed. These bugs can often feed upon and then cause delicious fruits to grow not-as-deliciously. Despite their potential for harm to the environment, boxelders can also be treated. Layman later revealed that they have a couple boxelders that are doing well.
RCC used its farmland a few miles past the plant to put in cattle exclusion fencing along two miles of Catawba Creek, planted 17,000 trees along the riparian buffer, and installed four different watering troughs so cows have access to freshwater. A solar well, which helps provide cows with fresh water, solved issues with powering the well. This entire riparian restoration zone is accessible along the Andy Lane/Tinker Cliffs Trail. When a member of the partnership asked Layman about the cows’ adjustments to their new source of libation, Layman quickly smiled and said, “The farmers said it took the cows all of five minutes.”