Our Low Impact Development Program

Rainscape Retrofits.


Read about our Rainscape Retrofits in the Free Lance - Star

About the program.

Stormwater runoff is the leading cause of river pollution in the Rappahannock River and it is a serious problem in the Fredericksburg area.  Traditional storm water management is based on getting storm water out of our roads, sidewalks, and home properties as fast as possible, but this technique skips the purification and dispersion process that should be part of the natural cycle.  Due to urban development, construction, agriculture, and compacted grass lawns at home, there are not enough permeable surfaces to catch, soak in, and spread out storm water. Stormwater runoff today carries excess phosphorous, sediment, bacteria and other pathogens, debris, and household hazardous wastes like insecticides, pesticides, paint, solvents, used motor oil, and other auto fluids into our river. Stormwater runoff also carries excess nitrogen (a nutrient commonly found in fertilizers), air particles, and car exhaust that will cause algae to overpopulate.  When algae decompose, oxygen is sucked out of the water creating dead zones or “dead water” where nothing can live. The volume of dead water in the Rappahannock is seven times the amount of dead water in all the other Virginia rivers combined.

We can help combat this by implementing Low Impact Development retrofits at home, or "Rainscape Retrofits." While agriculture is the leading contributor to excess nutrient waste, residential sources make up a majority of urban/suburban nutrient load and other pollutant load contributors.  Retrofits can be rain gardens, downspout disconnection, soil amendments, soil aeration, deep soil decompaction, and rain barrels.  Rainscape Retrofits are not only better for the environment, but they are better for a yard.  Catching all that rain water will keep yards and home gardens healthy and beautiful.

Friends of the Rappahannock are providing a rainscape retrofit building tool kit to residents in the Fredericksburg and surrounding county areas so residents can have Low Impact Developments installed with ease on their home property. While many people express great enthusiasm for building a rain garden, once they sit down to plan one, they are often intimidated by the process.  Our kit breaks down these barriers and provides homeowners an easy, cost effective way to install rain gardens, rain barrels, and other retrofits on their property. We come and build rain gardens for you!

What is a "Rainscape Retrofit?"
It is..... We offer assistance for different types of Retrofits for your home: rain gardens, downspout disconnection, soil amendment, soil aeration, deep soil decompaction, and rain barrels/cisterns.

Rain Gardens
A rain garden is an attractive native plant growth, a garden of sorts, with a special purpose: to reduce the amount of polluted storm water that rushes into our streams and rivers and to filter storm water before returning it to groundwater.
PDF: Rain Garden, A Northern Virginia Homeowner's Guide
Citation: Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District

Downspout Disconnection
You can disconnect your downspouts from existing standpipes and let it flow over landscaped areas or lawns.  Disconnection can be a low-maintenance option to help move water away from building foundations and allow it to soak into the ground, reducing runoff.  Disconnecting includes cutting the downspout; attaching elbows, extensions, and splashblocks to direct the water to flow away from the house; plugging the standpipe; and securing the materials to existing structures.
PDF: Downspout Disconnection
Citation: James River Association

Soil Amendment
Soil restoration is an Environmental Site Design (ESD) practice applied after construction, to deeply till compacted soils and restore their porosity by amending them with compost. These soil amendments can reduce the generation of runoff from compacted urban lawns and may also be used to enhance the runoff reduction performance of downspout disconnections, grass channels, and filter strips.
PDF: Soil Amendment
Citation: Virginia DCR

Soil Aeration
Lawn aeration involves the removal of small soil plugs or cores out of the lawn with a machine.  Known as a core aerator, it extracts 1/2 to 3/4 inch diameter cores of soil and deposits them on your lawn.  Other types of aerators push solid spikes or tines into the soil without removing a plug (spiking). These are not as effective because they can contribute to compaction. Core aeration is a recom­mended lawn care practice on compacted, heavily used turf and to control thatch buildup. It allows your compacted soil to breathe and enhance infiltration of rainfall.
Citation: Virginia Cooperative Extension

Deep Soil Decompaction
Over time, lawns become extremely compacted and impervious. Decompacting the soil in your lawn will increase permeability, thus catching and soaking in more run off when it rains. This can be a big project.
PDF: Deep Decompaction
Citation: New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

The use of rain barrels is an inexpensive way to decrease storm water runoff, conserve water for garden and lawn use, and save money on your water bill. The barrels are placed under gutter downspouts or where roof lines end and water runs off. A single rain barrel can save about 1,300 gallons of water during peak summer months.
PDF: Rainbarrels and Cisterns
Citation: James City County VA

Check out other ways to get invloved!
We sell Rain Barrels at FOR! And did you know that skipping the fertilizer till fall is better for the river AND for your lawn?
Click bellow!


I want a Rainscape Retrofit for my home!

Please contact me.


Bioretention Demos at Lancaster Primary School

In the Fall of 2010 we constructed 4 bioretention cells (rain gardens) at Lancaster Primary School in Virginia's Northern Neck.  The school drains to the Currutoman River, a tributary to the Rappahannock.  The project was funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and was a partnership with the Northern Neck Soil and Water Conservation District and the Northern Neck Master Gardeners.  For more details contact


Living Shoreline Demo in Deltaville

 In September 2010 we funded and help construct a demonstration "Living Shoreline under a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.  The site is the beginning of our Living Shorelines initiative in the tidal Rappahannock where we hope to use a "pay it forward" model to involve riverfront homeowner volunteers in restoring shorelines across the tidal Rappahannock.


River Clean Ups
Our annual Spring and Fall cleanups make a significant positive impact for the river. Typically over 300 individuals participate in each clean-up and collect over 6,000 pounds of trash from accessible river banks over a 15 mile stretch of river.  We partner with Mountain View High School Learn & Serve students in organizing the cleanups each year. 

Water Intake Visual Buffer Plantings
FOR has established vegetated buffers at the new water intakes for Motts Run Reservoir in Fredericksburg and Hunting Run Reservoir in Spotsylvania County. Scores of FOR volunteers planted both deciduous and conifer trees and shrubs to create a visual buffer between the river and the pumphouse structures. Other FOR volunteers have assumed the watering tasks for the large numbers of trees throughout drought periods, and helped successfully treat a nasty blight that threatened the plant stock. Funding: FOR operational, County of Spotsylvania, Pinelands Nursery.  

Linden Farm Conservation Easement/Restoration
Culminating over a year of work by FOR and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF), a 118 acre conservation easement was recorded on Linden Farm in Orange County. The easement is made up of forested stream buffers that traverse this 1,000+ acre livestock operation in the Rapidan river's rolling Piedmont watershed. FOR brought CBF and the landowner together to negotiate the major part of the easement. FOR wrote another grant proposal to fund the purchase of easement on the remaining acreage, plus to install livestock exclusion fencing. Linden Farm is now one of the best examples in the region of an economically viable livestock operation that is also on the leading edge of water quality protection.  

Livestock Exclusion Fencing - Stream Buffer Protection

FOR continues to make significant progress in our riparian restoration and livestock exclusion fencing program. In partnership with the Culpeper Soil and Water Conservation District, two significant reaches of headwater streams were protected from livestock access via new fencing in 2002. These areas will also be restored with buffer plantings. Funding: Various state and federal grants, Corps of Engineers, Virginia Wetland Mitigation Trust Fund.


Phragmites Control
Phragmites (frag-my-teez) is an exotic, invasive species that has destroyed the habitat value of vast acreages of wetlands along the East Coast. FOR assisted the Rappahannock Phragmites Action Committee in combatting the invasive species on private lands in the lower tidal Rappahannock. FOR applied for and received a grant to assist the committee in funding a large aerial spraying operation which eradicated the plant on several hundred acres of tidal marsh. This is allowing native plants to return to the wetlands and restore the historic productivity and ecological integrity of the lower Rappahannock wetlands.  


volunteers.JPGFOR is looking for core volunteers to help us manage and restore the FOR natural area located at our headquarters in Fredericksburg, along the Rappahannock River.  Volunteers primarily will be involved in controlling invasive species (click here for more information about invasive species), maintaining trails, planting native trees, and helping pick-up trash from the river.  There will also be opportunities for mapping and monitoring invasive plants.  Volunteers can help organize and lead work days throughout the year, recruit new volunteers, and help advertise our Rappahannock Restore Corps events.

volunteer2.JPGInvasive Species - Volunteer stewards will learn about Virginia’s native plants and ecosystems as well as invasive species that have been introduced to the area.  Volunteers typically derive a great sense of pride and accomplishment in helping to restore native ecosystems.  Furthermore, participating in ecological restoration activities will provide a great opportunity to get outside and enjoy fresh air and exercise.


If you would like to get involved in FOR's stewardship program or would like more information contact us at (540) 373-3448 or

© 2006 - 2013 by Friends of the Rappahannock   |    |  Privacy Statement  |  Terms of Use