Round Hill Outdoors Committee Makes Town Recreational Destination

Round Hill’s efforts to become an outdoor recreational destination have become a reality through the help of the Round Hill Outdoors committee.

Town Planner Danni Albright briefed the Town Council on Wednesday night about the committee’s accomplishments from 2018 to present. In that time, its members have hosted multiple events and educational programs, participated in certification courses, completed various projects around town and landed the town several nationally known designations.

Formally established as Round Hill HANDS in 2018, the committee aims to raise the next generation of hikers by promoting Healthy living, Active recreation, Nature education, Discovering of local parks and Support for the Appalachian Trail.

Through that work, the committee most notably landed the town the designation of official Appalachian Trail Community by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy in November 2018. That made the town one of 47 communities along the 2,190-mile-long trail, and one of 15 in Virginia, to receive the designation.

Environmental Events

In spring 2019 and 2020, the committee hosted the annual Appalachian Trail Art Show at the Round Hill Arts Center to broaden public awareness and appreciation of the trail and the wild nature of the Blue Ridge. The committee received more than 45 submissions for both shows.

The committee hosted the first annual Round Hill Appalachian Trail Festival in June 2019 at B Chord Brewing Co., where committee members led trail talks and hosted other environmental organizations. More than 1,000 people attended that event.

The committee also organized a Screen Free Week in spring 2019 to get kids outdoors, with an accompanying Earth Day Festival and Outdoor Family Night.

During the summer 2019, the committee worked with the Bluemont Community Center to organize movie nights in the town park for families.

The committee also set up a booth at the town’s annual Hometown Festival in 2018 and 2019, hosted the town’s Arbor Day ceremonies in 2019 and 2020, and co-sponsored a virtual Native Species Art Show in summer 2020 in the windows of the town office that displayed art and photographs featuring native plants and animals.

And it organized the dedication of the town’s Niels Poulsen Park.

Outdoor Programs, Projects

Committee members lead community hikes during the warmer months along the Appalachian Trail to local spots like Raven Rocks, Sky Meadows, the Cool Springs waterfall, Keyes Gap, Bears Den and Blackburn trails. Several committee members have even worked toward becoming certified hiking guides. Committee member Kathi Hottinger said a handful of members have already achieved that certification.

The committee additionally has sponsored two Leave No Trace trainings for residents interested in responsible hiking and camping and is working with the town staff to promote sun safety.

The committee landed the town more than an Appalachian Trail Community designation.

Committee members worked with Friends of the Blue Ridge Mountains to plant more than a dozen native trees at the town’s 11-acre Sleeter Lake Park to enhance the aesthetics of the park and support the local wildlife, and they installed a Virginia Native Plant Garden outside the town office along with help from Virginia Master Naturalists and the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy.

That garden fosters life for birds and butterflies, which depend on native plans for food, shelter and reproduction. And since the plants are naturally adapted to the region’s soils and climate, they require less fertilizer, water and pesticides, making them easier to maintain and reducing the chemicals introduced into the area’s habitat.

The National Wildlife Foundation designated both Sleeter Lake Park and the native plant garden as Certified Wildlife Habitats.

As the town’s Tree Board, the committee has been working with the town staff to have the town designated as a Tree City USA by The Arbor Day Foundation.

Committee members cleared the town’s community garden and worked toward becoming certified master naturalists to help educate community members on topics of conservation, maintenance and stewardship of the area’s natural resources. They also participate in the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club, which acquires, maintains, protects, educates about and advocates for land associated with the Appalachian Trail.

Moving forward, the committee is working to complete a tree walk to highlight native, historic and notable trees in town; to host a two-day Appalachian Trail Festival in June 2021 at B Chord; to set up a “hiker box” where people can leave equipment, supplies and food to be donated to the Bear’s Den and Blackburn trail centers; to create a hiking map to help tourists and visitors discover the area’s natural beauty; and to resume guided hikes.

When asked if she felt the committee had helped the town become an outdoor recreational destination, Hottinger said, “if we excluded 2020, yes.”

Albright said town leaders would present the council with annual reports on the committee’s accomplishments moving forward.

Round Hill Outdoors meets once a month to discuss Appalachian Trail news, updates, events and projects.

Learn more about the committee at roundhill.at.

pszabo@loudounnow.com

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