Smith Mountain Lake Association Community Awareness on the Importance of Buffer Gardens

Smith Mountain Lake Association Community Awareness on the Importance of Buffer Gardens

For the past 51 years Smith Mountain Lake has not aged (based on trophic state) as fast as other similarly sized lakes. However, the increasing potential of homeowner shoreline runoff due to development presents a clear and present danger to our lake, primarily from the nutrients that serve to create Harmful Algae Blooms or HABs.  HABs have been so serious at nearby Lake Anna that a “no swim advisory” was posted for each of the past 3 summers.  How’s that for spoiling a summer vacation!  And we don’t want that here!

On Saturday, April 16, John Rupnik, Chair of the SMLA Buffer Landscaping Committee, briefed the annual meeting of the Leesville Lake Association on the benefits of planting buffer gardens near your shoreline property. Similarly, on Monday April 18, John briefed the Moneta Garden Club. With the Smith Mountain Lake shoreline becoming almost completely developed, the lake is in ever increasing danger to the entree of eroded sediments, driveway and road pollutants, and fertilizers from full yard lawns that stretch from the house to the rip rap.  “Lawns are but a runway for all of these bad actors to find their way to the lake,” Rupnik says.  “We must plant a stop gap of deep-rooted shrubs, small trees and ornamental grasses to stop their flow to the lake.”

The Buffer Landscape Committee is composed of Master Gardeners and Master Naturalists who volunteer their time to offer FREE homesite advisory visits to brainstorm ideas on buffer gardens with the homeowner and develop suggested methods to curb the flow. Rupnik also briefed the Buffer Garden Pilot Project, a collaborative effort between SMLA, AEP, and Perrow Management Group at Mariners Landing, hole #5. The pilot project will provide a demonstration site for a credible, workable, and effective buffer garden for all to observe from either a boat or by land. More details on this project in the near future.

Rupnik ended his presentation by using the SMLA Buffer Landscaping web page to show the many resources the website has to offer homeowners. It contains how-to guides, background information of the negative impacts of runoff, an extensive plant list, and the application form that will be used to help our volunteers understand the homeowners needs. Assist visits can be requested by emailing the SMLA office ( Rupnik also pointed out a new brochure – Protecting Your Waterfront Investment: 10 Simple Shoreland Management Practices. These 10 simple steps are critical for every homeowner to know and follow; thereby help keeping our lake clean and maintaining the value of your home. The brochure can be obtained on the SMLA website homepage or retrieved at the SMLA office.

SMLA is the only organization whose mission, in part, is to protect the water of SML. Membership and charitable donations support the good work of SMLA, and SMLA needs your help to continue their mission. Visit SMLA’s website ( to learn how you can play a role in these continued efforts. This is the best insurance for protecting your waterfront investment and preserving our treasure—The Jewel of the Blue Ridge.

Examples of mature buffer gardens:


Before and After photos:

SMLA’s John Rupnik Briefing Leesville Lake Association: