Do you know where the source of Goose Creek is located? I know it begins in Front Royal, near Linden. It is at the top of my list of local places I have yet to visit. I would love to speak with someone who knows how to get there. If you know, my contact info is located at the end of this article. I would love to make a pilgrimage to “the source” of Goose Creek.

If you started at the source and followed it to where Goose Creek empties into the Potomac, near Leesburg, you would travel approximately 45 miles through time and nature, bridging pivotal history and picturesque beauty that rivals any national park. I cannot think of a more important natural resource in our region. 

If you foxhunt in the area, you have crossed it routinely. Whether with Orange County, Piedmont, Middleburg, Snickersville, or Loudoun/Fairfax, you have found foxes there and chased them nearby or just hacked through on your way to more covert or home. The experience is a bit like riding through the quiet chapel. Each time I ride through, I reflect on the countless events those banks have hosted. From hunting sport to violent battles to peaceful picnics — If the banks of Goose Creek could only talk. Riding through nature’s cathedral always fills me with awe and respect.

The eternal history could fill books. As I reflect on the many milestones that have passed over the last 250 years, I realize one of the most important ones may have just occurred. The Goose Creek Association (GSA) recently announced a 3-year strategic plan to protect this important tributary well into the future. In the December 16th issue of Middleburg Eccentric, we spoke about the health of the Chesapeake Bay. As all the experts will tell you, the health of the Bay begins in tributaries like Goose Creek. 

I started with Lori McGuinness, who Co-Chairs the GSA board with Paul Lawrence. Together, they lead 600 members of the 501(c)3 founded in 1970 and are dedicated stewards of Goose Creek. The GSA monitors water quality, proposed development, legislation, and any activity that impacts this important resource through their active board. McGuinness and Lawrence are determined to improve the water quality the Department of Environmental Quality calls “impaired” to “fully supporting” various recreational activities. Their commitment and drive are unmistakable. I have no doubt; their plan will work.

That plan involves Bill Howard of the Downstream Project (downstreamproject.org.) Local conservationist George Ohrstrom II founded downstream Project in 2007 with the acclaimed film “Shenandoah, Voices of The River.” Combining conservation and communication, Howard and Ohrstrom will tie robust water testing data provided by Friends of the Shenandoah River (fosr.org) using their lab at Shenandoah University to the Goose Creek Association website (goosecreek.org.) Upgraded with Downstream Project’s WaterWatch, the GSA website will offer a visual approach to pinpoint hotspots they find. Howard will use the Water Reporter and FieldDoc apps developed by Chesapeake Commons (ourcommoncode.org) to allow everyone to participate in monitoring the progress in real-time. 

Matt Frost is River Steward for GSA. He’s the perfect fellow to explain the science and the solutions to landowners who live along the banks. Together, they will battle high pH, bacteria, and increased sediment and nutrient pollution. If the solutions involve nutrient banking and stream restoration, a landowner could easily make money in the programs that solve the problems. The credits they earn are the new “currency of conservation” that rewards a participating landowner for doing the right thing. 

Once collected, the data can be shared with the Virginia Dept. of Environmental Quality or with The Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Ideally, it will also be shared with like-minded organizations like the Brandywine Conservancy in PA and The Harpeth Conservancy in Middle TN. All are stakeholders in the vast network of river systems that affect the health of the Chesapeake Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. If we turn the data into stories promoted on user-friendly websites, we can better understand and address the problems. In that way, we ensure the beauty of Goose Creek (and all similar tributaries) will be enjoyed by generations that follow long after we are gone.

Give generously to Goose Creek Association. These programs are not free, and we all bear responsibility for their goal. Help Matt Frost on your property when he comes calling. We have much to lose but far more to gain.

Robert Banner is Senior Project Officer at ACRE Investment Management in The Plains, VA, managing ecological credits for all concerned landowners. Contact Rob at rob@acre-investment.com, or call his cell (540) 729-1335.

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