Country Club Fights Soil Erosion

Country Club Fights Soil Erosion

Banks reshaped and lined with mats to hold soil in place

During February and March, the excavators and backhoes at Mount Vernon Country Club have been taking much bigger divots than normally seen on the course. It’s all part of a project to halt the erosion of the banks of several streams that run through its golf course.

“The urbanization upstream from the club over the past 50 years has steadily increased the amount of water in the streams,” said Pete Van Pelt, general manager and PGA director of golf. “These creeks drained George Washington’s Union Farm, but they were only a few feet wide from then until the 1970s. Now the main stretch is 30 feet wide and we are losing a thousand square feet of the golf course every year to erosion.”

Environmental agencies and civic associations have praised the club for undertaking the project at its own expense; this sort of endeavor is normally the province of local government. The club spent two years gaining the necessary permits from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and Fairfax County.

“The golf course inherits a lot of water from upstream,” said Club President Ken Barlow. “After every storm, the water deposits all kinds of trash on the grounds, then picks up soil from the banks and takes it downstream to the Potomac and Chesapeake Bay. We felt that we should do our part to clean up the watershed.”

The club is employing approved practices to halt the erosion. The majority of the restoration involves reshaping vertical banks into stable slopes, then placing biodegradable mats made of coconut fiber over the new banks to temporarily hold the soil in place. Long-term stability comes from the planting of native vegetation and grasses that will grow up through the mats. Some sections, where the velocity of the water is greater, the club’s installing stacked stone — “imbricated rip-rap” — along the banks for additional protection. The project is expected to be finished in early April.

“This project helps everyone,” said club member Bill Meares as he watched the activity from the club’s veranda. “We stop the silting of the river and bay, while at the same time prevent further erosion of the golf course.”