PEC Gilbert’s Corner Work Wins State Environmental Award

The Piedmont Environmental Council’s conservation, stewardship, restoration and public engagement work at Gilberts Corner in Aldie has won the Governor’s Environmental Excellence Gold Medal Award.

Council President Chris Miller accepted the award on behalf of the organization during an online ceremony Friday, Aug. 21.

At one time, the 340 acres now owned by the council and NOVA Parks at the intersection of Rt. 15 and Rt. 50 were marketed as ripe for development. Now a conservation area, Miller said the land provides “an incredible opportunity for community service to Loudoun’s food insecure and public access to open space to explore and interpret the cultural and natural history of the region.”

Gilberts Corner is home to The Piedmont Environmental Council’s Community Farm at Roundabout Meadows, where in 2019 the council invested in infrastructure and full-time staff. This year, along with volunteer help, it has grown and harvested more than 19,000 pounds of fresh food to serve Loudoun’s food-insecure population through donations to Loudoun Hunger Relief.

Next to the community farm lies a pasture restoration and water quality demonstration area, where the council leases land to local farmers to graze cattle. There, it implements practices like stream exclusion fencing, riparian buffers, and alternative watering sources for livestock. All of that, according to the council, has significantly improved water quality in Howsers Branch and its stream tributaries.

Last year, the council and NOVA Parks opened a public trail on the Old Carolina Roadbed, connecting the Mt. Zion Historic Park to the council’s seven-acre Roundabout Meadows Wildlife Management Area and Howsers Branch, by way of numerous historic and cultural sites.

Across Route 50, NOVA Parks manages Gilberts Corner Regional Park on land secured with the council’s assistance.

And at Gilberts Corner Farmers Market, the council provides a centrally-located hub where local producers can sell their harvest directly to customers.

Farm Manager Dana Melby at the Piedmont Environmental Council’s Community Farm at Roundabout Meadows. [Pete Walton]

The Governor’s Environmental Excellence Awards are given in the categories of sustainability program, environmental project, land conservation and implementation of the Virginia Outdoors Plan. Across the state there were five other gold medal winners, two silver and four bronze awards.

“The Governor’s Environmental Excellence Awards highlight that everyone has a role in protecting our environment and preserving our natural resources,” said Governor Ralph Northam. “While our administration has made significant progress in restoring the health of the Chesapeake Bay, protecting fish and wildlife, and addressing climate change and environmental justice, we know that the challenges we face today cannot be solved by the government alone. It is people, organizations, towns and businesses like those we are recognizing today that help us accomplish our shared goals.”

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