This year’s winning project is the Abrams Creek Wetlands Preserve, sponsored by Winchester-Clarke Garden Club in partnership with the City of Winchester’s parks and recreation department and Shenandoah University’s environmental studies program. The club began supporting the project in 2003. With a central location, this 25-acre urban green space and wetlands preserve is an educational and recreational resource for Winchester. In 2017, recognizing the fragility of the marsh, Winchester-Clarke began raising funds and donating volunteer hours to restore and protect it. The marsh is a habitat for more than 304 plant species, including 20 that are rare in Virginia and 2 that are found nowhere else in the state. No other comparable wetlands in Virginia has as many rare plant species. Because the marsh is also a calcareous muck fen with a limestone bedrock, low acidity and high nutrient levels, it captures pollutants and keeps them out of drinking water. It can take 10,000 years for a fen to develop, and it would be terrible to lose it. Encroaching shrubs and trees threatened the area, as does nearby development. Club members will add signage, accessible-to-all paths, an audio walking tour, and manpower to help keep the marsh free of invading plant life. Because of the efforts of Winchester-Clarke, the City of Winchester and Shenandoah University, the Abrams Creek Wetlands Preserve is a protected haven for learning, relaxing and appreciating the gifts of nature. This year’s award, which is $7,000, was presented at the GCV annual meeting on May 8, 2019, in Portsmouth. 

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