On a chilly but sunny day last weekend, about 80 people planted 131 sycamores, red maples, river birch, swamp oaks and cypress trees in a Sterling community of 2,000 homeowners.

The bulk of the tree buffers were planted near a drainage swale and low-lying field prone to run-off from yards. The field received most of the new saplings, about 70 trees. Willow Lake was also encircled with trees to prevent erosion.

Jimmy O’Connor, director of grants and partnerships at the National Recreation and Park Association, just happens to be VP on the Sugarland Run HOA Board. He helped coordinate the planting with the Piedmont Environmental Council.

“This planting was completed for nutrient uptake and pollutant absorption – which is very important,” he said.

This is just the type of community engagement Loudoun County is looking for and Supervisor Suzanne Volpe was there to thank the families, the HOA and to get her hands dirty, as well.

Bobby Winterbottom, Sugarland Run HOA President, puffed and chewed on a large stogie as he made sure every family who came out had a tree to plant. He also thanked his board for their involvement.

Volunteers from Premier Landscaping drilled holes for the plantings the night before, while the Sugarland teams, including trusty Sterling Scout Troop 950, got a system going: hit the ground with a post hole digger, plant, fill-in the dirt around the tree roots, install small wire fencing and ties to keep the deer away, move to the next plot.

“I love to get out of my Washington Office and see what our Chesapeake Bay Stewardship Funding can do for homeowners associations, people like you here in Sugarland Run, who are making a real difference on the ground,” said Jake Reilly, Chesapeake program director at the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, who also thanked the PEC’s Gem Bingol. “I also want to thank Gem Bingol and all the folks at Piedmont Environmental Council who manage this program.”

NFWF provided PEC with a $200,000 grant. Gem Bingol said that this money will be used for tree planting in three communities. PEC will also offer nutrient management plans which mean ensuring that there’s not too much fertilizer used in general and that the management of the HOA properties matches the need, based on a thorough survey of the property.

“We are so thrilled to be working with Loudoun County local government, communities and residents to help them take positive actions that will improve their surroundings and the community as a whole,” Bingol said. “Particularly in terms of water quality, this project will help us to inform homeowners so they understand the relationship between what they do, where they live, and how their activity impacts their drinking water.”

Mike Smith, a resident of South Riding, submitted this story.