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Protecting Your Shoreline from Erosion

In 2012, Northern Neck Master Gardeners launched a new community service initiative, Shoreline Evaluation Program.  This program informs waterfront  property owners about their options and provides additional information to help them manage their property and decide which option is best for their particular shoreline. Master Gardener Shoreline Evaluation volunteers receive advanced training from Virginia Cooperative Extension to qualify as Water Stewards. They also receive training to use shoreline management decision tools developed by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) and Center for Coastal Resources Management (CCRM).

Although erosion is a natural process, highly eroding soils are a threat to property value, local waterways, and the Bay. Homeowners with erosion issues have seen their shorelines deteriorate, sometimes dramatically during major storm events. Eroding shorelines and uncontrolled runoff pollute the Bay and its tributaries.

All tidal waterfront properties are subject to erosion.  Some are more vulnerable than others because of factors such as exposure to open water and winds, the slope of their banks and the amount of vegetative cover.
Many elements go into deciding whether a natural living shoreline or an engineered structure (like rip-rap) is appropriate to control erosion. Living shorelines, relying on natural features such as shoreline grasses and marshes, are advantageous for the environment and in many cases are the most cost-effective. Measures to reduce runoff from hard surfaces, such as driveways, roofs and cleared land, can also make a significant difference.

Each site requires individual evaluation and treatment. This is where Northern Neck Master Gardeners can be of help by providing additional objective input to property owners facing a complex set of problems, and potentially costly solutions.

Master Gardener Shoreline Evaluation volunteers conduct on-site evaluations for homeowners – examining not just the shoreline, but the upland as well. For a fee of $60, Shoreline Evaluation volunteers collect soil samples for nutrient management planning, conduct a comprehensive analysis using standardized methods, and provide written recommendations that respond to the homeowner's concerns.  Each homeowner receives a copy of the Master Gardener publication Homeowner’s Guide to Shoreline Management.

Master Gardener Shoreline Evaluation volunteers also conduct seminars and speak to community groups about options for erosion control.  

To request assistance from Shoreline Evaluation volunteers, call (804) 462-5780.  For information on erosion control strategies, visit the Shoreline Evaluation Website.


Virginia Cooperative Extension programs and employment are open to all, regardless of age, color, disability, gender, gender identity, gender expression, national origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation, genetic information, veteran status, or any other basis protected by law. An equal opportunity/affirmative action employer. Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Virginia State University, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating. Edwin J. Jones, Director, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg; M. Ray McKinnie, Administrator, 1890 Extension Program, Virginia State University, Petersburg.

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