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Founders Fund Current Winner

2019 Founders Fund Winner
Abrams Creek Wetlands Preserve: Restoring a Calcareous Muck Fen

Proposed by Winchester-Clarke Garden Club, Zone VII
Seconded by Fauquier and Loudoun Garden Club, Zone VII

Not every community has a calcareous muck fen. Abrams Creek Wetlands Preserve (ACWP) is an extremely rare and unique habitat, providing safe haven for over 300 plant species and 20 state-rare native plants. Surrounded by development, the 25-acre preserve is an educational and recreational resource for the city of Winchester and the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. The Founders Fund grant will be used to to sustain and preserve these rare species and its rare marsh habitat. 

In collaboration with the Virginia Natural Heritage Program, the students and faculty of Shenandoah University’s Environmental Studies Program began investigating the ACWP’s ecological communities in 1998. Since then, 304 plant species have been documented. Most are native to Virginia, and two grow nowhere else in the state. No other comparable wetland in Virginia has as many rare plant species. “We have important reasons for the city, county, citizens, and businesses to collaborate in caring for it properly,” said Woodward Bousquet, Shenandoah University Professor of Environmental Studies and Biology. 

Because calcareous muck fens take 10,000 years to form naturally, we must protect them if we want future generations to know them. Fens, like other wetlands, also capture pollutants, keeping them out of drinking water. Because of their limestone bedrock, low acidity, and high nutrient levels, calcareous fens are one of the rarest natural communities in the United States. Mineral-rich groundwater and a sun-filled habitat allow distinct species of plants to thrive. Winchester-Clarke Garden Club has formed a partnership with the city of Winchester and Shenandoah University. Together their objective is to transform this wetland into a place where not only the delicate July-blooming hooded skullcap and the willow leaf asters can flourish, but also where the young minds of future botanists and the imaginations of adult nature lovers can take root. 

The city of Winchester dedicated the ACWP in 2003 as its first nature preserve. Plans include developing and providing resources to foster community support and cultivate the interest of the 30,000 children, residents, and visitors who come annually. A brochure supports and educates adjacent homeowners and businesses in being “good neighbors” to the preserve. An audio walking tour focused on this site’s rare habitats will enhance a paved Winchester Green Circle Trail running through the ACWP. An additional observation platform and signage will expand access to the lower marsh. 

Winchester-Clarke Garden Club is committed to conserving, promoting, and sharing this exceptional wetland resource. The Founders Fund grant from The Garden Club of America will ensure that the Abrams Creek Wetlands Preserve is preserved as a place for children to learn, families to enjoy, and for rare plants and the animals that depend on those plants to thrive. The grant will sustain and protect this distinct and threatened wetland on the edge of the city by allowing Winchester-Clarke Garden Club to give voice to the rare plants that cannot speak for themselves.

Two runners-up were awarded $10,000 each by the GCA. The Garden Club of Orange and Dutchess Counties (Zone III) will use the funds to support an extensive renovation of Jane Colden Native Woodland Garden at Trailside Museums & Zoo within Bear Mountain State Park, NY. Garden Club of Allegheny County (Zone V) will use the award to support the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden's installation of garden elements and plants within its interactive and permanent Sniff and Savor Garden. 

The Founders Fund was established in 1934 to provide monetary awards to projects proposed by GCA-member clubs. The award initially was endowed in memory of the GCA’s first president, Elizabeth Price Martin (Mrs. J. Willis) of Philadelphia, who served from 1913-20. Generous gifts from clubs and individuals since have augmented the fund.

The first award of $700 was presented in 1936 for English-language publication of the oldest known American herbal, the 1552 Badianus Manuscript, by Johns Hopkins Press. Since then, eighty-four Founders Fund winners and runners-up have received more than $1.5 million to save thousands of acres of land and innumerable trees, restore historic landmarks, establish civic plantings, and conduct research and educational projects across the country.

 



   
 

All photos by Woodward S. Bousquet

 

In addition, there were two exceptional projects that came in as runners-up this year. You may download the Word Document versions of the GCA's official press release for each of these projects below: