Tim Miller, Contributing writer
Paris Parsons has been recognized by Mountain Castles Soil and Water Conservation District with the Craig County Clean Water Farm Award. Parsons is the tenant-operator of a 50 cow/calf beef cattle herd in the Meadow Creek area of the county. The farm is owned by Barbara Lucas and is located in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
Parsons installed a “Stream Exclusion with Grazing Land Management” conservation “Best Management Practice” on the farm in 2016. Almost 9,000 feet of stream exclusion fence was constructed along each side of three spring-fed streams which originate and flow down the north side of Sinking Creek Mountain. The fences prevent access by cattle to the streams and have created 15 acres of streamside buffer which will help to protect the streams from sediment and animal waste. Additional fencing was also constructed to protect an old cemetery located on the farm.
Concerns about groundwater contamination were also addressed in the project. The farm is found on limestone topography, which is characterized by sinkholes and caves – a direct connection to groundwater. Fencing was constructed around an entrance to Rufe Caldwell Cave, helping to protect this cave which is recognized by the Commonwealth of Virginia as “significant due to its biology, geology, hydrology, and esthetics.” The cave, rated by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Natural Heritage Program as a “first-order significant global diversity site,” is home to several rare cave organisms, including the endangered Indiana bat. All caves in the Commonwealth are preserved by the Virginia Cave Protection Act.
Technical assistance and cost-share for the project was provided by Mountain Castles SWCD. Mountain Castles SWCD works with landowners to help reduce nonpoint source pollution in Craig County and Botetourt County through technical assistance and cost-share programs. Homeowners who are not associated with farming may also take advantage of cost-share programs through the Virginia Conservation Assistance Program (VCAP). For more information, visit www.mountaincastles.org or call (540) 977- 2698, ext. 3.