Rare plant communities discovered at Silver Lake

Aerial view of Silver LakeWhen planning to develop in natural areas, it always pays to look before you leap. Otherwise important resources could be accidentally lost.

With this in mind, the Prince William Wildflower Society (PWWS) offered their expertise to survey plants and plant communities at Silver Lake before work to develop the park begins. In early September PWWS member Charles Smith completed a preliminary assessment of the property and found two very special plant communities – an upland depression swamp and basic oak-hickory forest.

Following Mr. Smith’s discovery, a Virginia Dept. of Conservation and Recreation expert visited Silver Lake and verified the presence of these unique plant communities. According to their review, the depression swamp is considered globally imperiled (G2 ranking), and the one found at Silver Lake is a large, mature, high-quality occurrence.

The basic oak hickory forest is considered globally uncommon (G3 ranking). Both resources are found in the same area at Silver Lake and, although the depression swamp has greater value, it’s important to preserve them both. Removing the adjacent basic oak hickory forest, and adding impervious surfaces or compacted sports fields to that area, would remove the upland buffer, likely alter the water table and compromise the integrity of the depression swamp.

This is exciting news that comes with some concern. While much of these rare plant communities are located on parkland, some crosses the border into the area transferred to the School Board for a new middle school.

If these important natural resources had been discovered before Supervisors transferred a portion of Silver Lake to the School Board, the lines could have easily been adjusted to ensure that important natural resources remained on the area intended for parkland, where they could be preserved.

But, even though that did not happen, all is not lost – the school is not yet built so there is still an opportunity for a land swap between the Park Authority and School Board.

This win-win scenario would benefit everyone, including wildlife. Adjusting the boundaries between the school and parkland property would protect the integrity of these rare natural resources and also provide an outstanding area for environmental education for both the school and the community.

The school would have better land for their ball fields, the community would gain unique wildlife habitat and, perhaps most importantly, we would all feel pride in our County’s efforts to preserve important natural resources.


1 comment so far

  1. Al Alborn on

    Ecellent work! This demonstrates the value of private conservation advocacy to the Prince William County community.

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