HAPPY CREEK CUTTING

Tree stumps stick out of the ground where Front Royal Public Works crews cut along the banks of Happy Creek recently.

Sustainability Matters and the Alliance for the Shenandoah Valley will host a virtual webinar at 8 p.m. today to educate on riparian buffers to an ecosystem following the recent removal of the riparian buffer along Happy Creek in Front Royal.

The program will discuss why it’s important to have trees and natural plantings along the banks of waterways to maintain clean water, provide erosion control and support a community’s wildlife habitat.

Its goal is to teach “why having trees there prevents erosion [and] keeps toxins from getting into the waterways,” said Sari Carp, executive director of Sustainability Matters.

She said she was inspired to offer the webinar after learning about the recent removal of trees along Happy Creek and the razing of the bank and creek bed.

“This was a stocked trout stream, and the trout now have no habitat,” she said. “We’re trying to educate people so they’ll understand why the trees are environmentally important and use that knowledge beyond Happy Creek.”

The webinar is free to attend, but registration is required at go.sustainabilitymatters.earth/trees.

Those who can’t attend can watch a live stream on the group’s Facebook page, facebook.com/SustainabilityMattersVA.

Sustainability Matters will also join a coalition of local environmental groups at 2 p.m. Saturday to protest the removal of the riparian buffer.

The Save Happy Creek Demonstration will take place at the Happy Creek Arboretum at South Commerce Avenue and East Prospect Street.

The event will enforce the most recent guidelines from Gov. Ralph Northam “to protect participants from COVID-19 infection,” the event page says. “We will gather in groups of no more than 25 people, remaining at least 6 feet from each other while wearing face coverings.”

Save Happy Creek is organized by environmental partners Alliance for the Shenandoah Valley, Beautification of Front Royal Committee, Friends of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River, Front Royal/Warren County Appalachian Trail Community, Front Royal Warren County Tree Stewards, Izaak Walton League, Shenandoah Riverkeeper and Sustainability Matters.

As of Thursday, 107 Facebook users had responded with interest on the group’s event page.

“We’re not the kind of environment group that’s always out there protesting,” Carp said of Sustainability Matters.

The nonprofit works with other town and regional groups to educate on green practices, she said, but was especially motivated to be part of Saturday’s demonstration because of the importance they see the riparian buffer having on the ecology of Happy Creek and Front Royal.

“It wasn’t an easy decision,” Carp said, “but it was something that was also clearly needed to be called out, because it is very clearly environmentally wrong.”

The subject was recently raised at a Nov. 9 Front Royal Town Council meeting. Interim Town Manager Matt Tederick said notice of the project to remove the trees and attend to the creek bed was advertised in the newspaper for 15 straight days without the council receiving any comment from the community.

For more information on the webinar, visit Trees & Your Local Watershed: The Habitat of Happy Creek on Facebook.

For information on the Save Happy Creek demonstration, visit Facebook or email savehappycreek@gmail.com.

Contact Josette Keelor at jkeelor@nvdaily.com