Community Association Spotlights
Cascades, a very large HOA in Loudoun
The HOA leaders created a five year plan that was budget neutral: no increase was needed of the already low assessment. The first step was to map out which areas were managed by the HOA and which by private landowners. Priority was then given to the walking paths, which needed to maintain an open line of sight for a feeling of safety. The roads had been designed so that foot paths were at the bottom of steep slopes which were being mown, resulting in erosion that was depositing sediment on the paths. Very low walls and swales were installed to catch the sediment, and the plan is to re-plant the slopes as meadows.
River Creek, a large HOA in Loudoun
A 7.5 acre common area fronting the river had been kept as mown lawn and was almost never used. This space was converted to a park with conservation landscaping providing a buffer along the river to capture runoff. An area around the basketball hoops was kept as turf grass, but the rest was changed to natural landscaping with paths. Read more about it here. And see this wonderful series of short videos about it here.
Broadlands, a large HOA in Loudoun
Led by its Conservation Landscaping Committee, this community has become a National Wildlife Federation Certified Community Wildlife Habitat. The committee provides native plant landscaping information suitable to suburban communities through, monthly community newsletter, social media, and other community programs. A large open space that was just maintained as lawn was converted to a demonstration pollinator garden and it includes plant identification tags. Planting a few thousand native treesaround the community common spaces and the local schools has been an ongoing effort to restore and increase the tree canopy.
Sycamore Hills, a small HOA in Leesburg
The space in front of the office was converted into a demonstration garden. Children and adults stop by all the time to admire the butterflies and other interesting residents of this naturescape. In 2019, the HOA will be replacing the landscaping around the entrance-way sign with native plants. They also plan another pollinator garden that will have interpretive signage.
Pavilions at Huntington, Fairfax County
From the organizer: With my own community association (in a very urban area) we have transformed the landscaping on Common Area property such that all new plantings since 2009 have been natives and this has been worked into the Community's landscaping plan that was voted on and adopted by the Community in 2009. It is my hope that this will be updated in 2018.
We have done a lot of work to improve environmental conditions in our town home community which is located nearby the Huntington metro station. This has been well received by a majority of community members.
We have experienced bumps along the way since 2009 but have been successful in many of our efforts. Where plants fail, we simply replant with something different. Earth Sangha, Nature by Design, and the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District's seedlings have been our plant sources.
We have accomplished the following:
1. converted more than 50% of the Common Area turf grass to multi-purpose mulched planting beds filled with native shrubs, grasses and herbaceous perennials.
2. We have planted more than 75 native shrubs and trees on Common Area property,
3. We have established a native pollinator meadow in the stormwater management area for our community and led the effort to convert an unused and degraded grassy area in a neighboring FCPA park to a native meadow for pollinators.
4. The Community's common area property is an Audubon At Home certified wildlife habitat. Once we installed the Audubon At Home Wildlife habitat signs, I heard from a few property owners wanting to get one of their own since it is such a beautiful sign!
5. Goals of our projects have been to install low-maintenance, multi-purpose mulched planting beds that will serve to buffer noise, act as a privacy screen/transitional screening between our town home community and the apartment complex next door and the busy streets on the boundary of our neighborhood, absorb stormwater, filter stormwater from areas heavily used by pets, and more important these mulched planting beds establish natural biological corridors connecting to the adjacent parkland extending habitat for our native wildlife.
6. We have received a grant from the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District in 2017 to transform additional areas from turf grass to these multi-purpose mulched planting bed filling these with a diversity of native shrubs, grasses and herbaceous perennials.
7. One of the greatest challenges we have in my community is that Landscaping Contractors are interested in cutting grass only. They have no knowledge of native plants. We have had many native plants simply pulled out of the ground because the landscapers thought they were weeds (weeds to them are native plants with tasty seeds to birds and wildlife). Maple leaf viburnum is an example of this. They thought (I guess) it was an Eastern Red Maple seedling....so they pulled it out. Then I planted an Eastern Red Maple Seedling, put a fence around it so they would know it was intentional, and they pulled it out anyway. Working with Landscaping contractors is challenging and requires constant vigilance. We have structured our community's common area landscaping to make it easy for the landscapers to stay out of the mulched planting beds. And I give them detailed instructions about where to work and where not to work.
8. We wrote a Community Landscaping Plan and it was approved in 2009. It includes a focus on native plants on common area property. Now that we accepted a grant from the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District's Conservation Assistance Program, we are required to maintain that landscaping with native plantings for 10 years. This is helpful from a sustainability perspective. We have separated our common area property into regions and each region has slightly different growing conditions, and of course, a different plant list to achieve the goals of that planting area.
HOAs within the Reston Association, Fairfax County
Besides the Reston Association being the overall HOA, the individual townhouse neighborhoods are their own HOAs. From one of the organizers: So, one thing REACT did was to have neighborhood meetings on yard and garden care where we presented information on native plants, rain barrels, composting, and natural pest care. The idea was to loosely use some of the community-based social marketing principles. Neighbors working together as peers. In addition to gardeners, we wanted to attract people who may not be as interested in gardening, but wanted to go to a gathering on their street and see their neighbors. We tried to involve the person responsible for landscaping on the neighborhood common property. We did follow-up reminders and surveys. If they wanted, we’d walk around the neighborhood pointing out areas with invasives that could be replaced.
We had gatherings in one of the neighbor’s home and passed out a booklet of information we put together. We went through it and then had informal questions/discussions. (We also did this for recycling, energy and transportation). Based on our surveys, there was always some improvement in each neighborhood (removing invasives, planting natives, starting to compost, or adding a rain barrel, or reducing pesticide use).
We delivered the surveys door-to-door. We either had boxes at porches throughout the neighborhood that people could put their survey in, or we gave them an addressed, stamped envelope to mail them back to us. We gave them about 3 weeks to respond. About a week before we gave them a reminder flyer door-to-door, thanking them if they had responded and reminding them if they hadn’t.
Sycamore Ridge, Oak Hill, Fairfax County
Wanting to promote eco-friendly practices that would save re-planting and watering costs, Sycamore Ridge HOA began a sustainability plan that included switching from annuals, which required seasonal planting, replanting, and watering fees, to naturescaping and the use of organic pesticide and fertilizers. They hired a landscape company to convert part of the entrance’s border plantings to include those found in a naturalized local meadow.
Fairlington, a complex of condo associations in Arlington
North Fairlington: This community's priorities include succession planning to maintain abundant, diverse tree canopy, stormwater management that alleviates drainage and erosion, and other landscaping modifications to preserve the integrity, safety, and accessibility of common areas while also protecting local flora, fauna, and streams. North Fairlington has also reduced pesticide use significantly.
For details and a great deal of inspiration, click here.
Trees: Our Condo Association hired Nate Erwin to identify and tag all of our trees - about 450 total. They are identified by number, common and scientific name, and location. It was a massive project, but it has been helpful in so many ways. If we notice a sick or diseased tree we can quickly track it - do we have others of that species? Are other communities having trouble with this species of trees? Oaks have been at the forefront with Sudden Death.
We have a landscaping service. If we notice a dead limb that needs lopped off, we can notify the contractor (he also has a list of trees and their courts) which tree it is and have him go at it.
We always have tree work done in the fall - the culling of the branches. In the past, trees were identified on a walkthrough with our committee and the contractor. We were never sure if the trees they identified were actually the trees that got trimmed. It was a little loosely-goosey. Now there is no doubt.
One final use for the tags is to keep track of our collection. When we add new trees we assign them a number but do not put it on the tree until it has been in the collection for a year. Residents can look up trees by their tag number to find out what kind they are.
With South Fairlington: To find out how several HOAs in the Fairlington community came together to pursue a common goal of planting native perennials, shrubs and trees and pollinator-friendly plants, see this page.
Willingsford Conservancy, Loudoun
Willingsford HOA has an unusual structure: a separate non-profit entity manages the 2000 acres of open space. A large native plant demonstration garden and meadows are next to the farm stand with interpretive signs.
An extensive website explains how the land is managed.
Stonehurst, an HOA in Fairfax
Stonehurst Homeowners Association (SHA) is a community of 242 townhomes on ~28 acres, with ~7.8 acres of lawn to maintain. Their Board approved a comprehelnseve Master PLan for the landscaping in December 2020. Click here to view.
Create an updated colonial style with a mix of old-fashioned favorites and natives
Define common areas – edge and limit plantings inside common walks close to houses
Create four season interest and add more evergreens for screening and habitat