Kick the dust up!
With more than 400 miles of dirt and gravel roads in the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) Culpeper District, this area is no stranger to the dust.
How well are those gravel roads maintained? VDOT has scheduled maintenance for those under its purview, but what do the owners of the dirt and gravel private roads, farm roads and driveways know about proper care of them?
Culpeper Soil and Water Conservation District (CSWCD) hears from a lot of landowners about issues, but driveway erosion is certainly one of the main ones, according to Richard Jacobs, PE, urban program manager with the conservation district. CSWCD serves the counties of Culpeper, Greene, Madison, Orange and Rappahannock.
Jacobs realized landowners and homeowners needed a technical best management practices (BMP) document for private dirt and gravel roads and driveways.
With a grant from the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund, CSWCD published both an online and hardcopy BMP guide in February.
“It started in 2008 when we were working with Rappahannock County on a storm water management program and there was interest from them for driveway guidance,” Jacobs said. “That’s where the initial research started. I always wanted to improve the 2008 gravel driveway guide we developed for Rappahannock.”
Pulling that initial research, as well as storm water practices across Virginia, other states and other agencies, Jacobs created an easy-to-understand guide with steps to help control the environmental impacts of uncontrolled runoff and erosion on local waterways. It also includes a maintenance schedule, an inspection checklist and more technical specifications for construction.
“I think a lot of people inherit these roads and driveways and they don’t consider doing any drainage improvements because they think the previous owners and people who built them did the best they could at that time to design the road to actually shed the water and control runoff,” he said. “The runoff can be detrimental to streams, carrying that gravel and sediment and other debris into waterways.”
Jacobs said over time it’s become obvious a maintenance schedule for private gravel roads was necessary.
“Many people don’t consider how often they should be putting down gravel or cleaning out their ditches or their culverts,” he said. “The goal is to protect the waterways but also to try to minimize the overall maintenance cost. The main cost is getting materials back onto the roads. If we can minimize how much material is washing off the roads that’s going to save money and protect the streams.”
He noted a lot of farms have at least a mile or two of gravel and dirt roads and he hopes to hold a workshop on the information in Greene County soon. Until then, the guides can be found at the Greene County Extension Office and the Greene County Planning Department, as well as online.
“We made the guide as more of a clearing house of resources,” he said. “We kept it short and sweet and hit some of the major points and included photos for examples. But people can call our office to have us come out there and provide more guidance.”
The online dirt and gravel road BMP guide is available at www.culpeperswcd.org/publications. The CSWCD is at 351 Lakeside Drive in Culpeper. For information, call (540) 825-8591.