Grasses for the Masses

Volunteers in CBFs Virginia Grasses for the Masses program plant their grasses in the James River. Photo by CBF StaffVolunteers plant wild celery in the James River as part of CBF's Grasses for the Masses program. Photo by CBF Staff

You can help restore the health of the Chesapeake Bay and Virginia's rivers by participating in CBF's Grasses for the Masses program.

Participants in the program grow wild celery (Vallisneria americana), a type of underwater grass, in a simple grow-out system in their homes for 10-12 weeks. After 10-12 weeks of grow-out, participants will gather to plant their grasses in select local rivers to bolster grass populations and help restore the Bay.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) conducts workshops where participants are given instructions and the tools necessary to grow the underwater grasses themselves.

During the workshops participants receive:

  • a simple aquaculture system
  • instructions and support
  • seeds and program materials
  • access to an on-line support network

Participants will need to provide:

  • $40 program fee
  • Sand and soil needed to plant the grass seeds
  • 2 light bulbs
  • Space (4'x4') to set-up the growth system; we suggest an area near an outlet with a steady temperature

General Program Timeline:

  • Workshops: early to mid February
  • Grow-out period: February to May
  • Plantings: April to May

Plantings

Attending a planting is a key and rewarding component of the program. Plantings are done at restoration sites during the months of April and May, after about 12 weeks of home grow-out. Participants attend one of the grass plantings with CBF staff and other growers.

CBF staff have carefully selected two locations in Virginia where we plant wild celery grown in the Grasses for the Masses program. Planting underwater grass is an activity that requires a state permit. CBF maintains a permit for each of the two planting sites and it is important that the grasses produced through the Grasses for the Masses program are planted only in these designated areas.

Our planting sites include:

Mason Neck State Park on the Potomac River, in Fairfax County, Virginia
Westover Plantation on the James River, in Charles City County, Virginia

Planting Guidelines

To ensure the safety of all volunteers, a quality experience, and the survival of the grasses, we ask that each Grasses for the Masses participant be aware of and abide by the following guidelines during each grass planting:

  • Only three children or students (under the age of 18) are allowed at the planting per grass grow-out kit.
  • Everyone under the age of 18 will need to have a CBF waiver form signed by a parent or guardian before the planting event.
  • Volunteers 18 years old and above will need to sign a CBF waiver form, which will be sent to each volunteer before the planting.
  • During the planting event, everyone under the age of 17 will be required to wear a personal flotation device (i.e. life vest) provided by CBF while in the water and be accompanied by an adult in the water and supervised by an adult while on land. We will adhere to a strict 1 child : 1 adult ratio during the plantings

 

A small group of people wade in the water to plant underwater grasses

Grasses for the Masses
2012 Overview

Last year we had nearly 200 participants grow grasses in the program. We planted over 6,000 underwater grasses between the two restoration sites on the Potomac and James Rivers. Check out some of the photos from our 2010-2011 underwater grass plantings!

Also in 2012, we have expanded our volunteer leadership to currently eight regional coordinators, with one new addition to the coordinator family, to provide a wider geographic net for Virginia grasses growers! Regional Coordinators in the Grasses for the Masses program are volunteers who have participated in the Grasses program for at least one year and are dedicated to helping expand and improve the program. Being a Regional Coordinator involves organizing and running a Grasses for the Masses workshop in your locality and recruiting others to take part in the program. Through their fantastic work, you will not only learn about the importance of underwater grasses for improved water quality, but you will become a local leader in Virginia's ongoing efforts to execute the Blueprint for a saved Bay. Thanks to our 2012 Regional Coordinators we were able to expand the program to new areas in Northern, Eastern, and Central Virginia!

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