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DRBA plans February hike at Grassy Hill Nature Preserve

The Dan River Basin Association (DRBA) invites the public to participate in its First Saturday Outing on Feb. 1 in Rocky Mount. The event includes a tour of the Center for Energy Efficient Design, followed by a hike through the rare woodland communities of Grassy Hill Natural Area Nature Preserve.

Participants will meet at 10 a.m. at Gereau Center, 150 Technology Drive, Rocky Mount (GPS 37.01448,-79.89529). Coordinator for the outing is DRBA board member Robin Davis of Rocky Mount.

The Center for Energy Efficient Design (CEED) is a learning laboratory for students from Franklin County and throughout the world to explore green technology and building design.

Housed in a PassivHaus-designed, LEED Platinum structure, the center is constructed as a zero net energy building. It uses solar, wind and geothermal energy, as well as a rainwater collection system.  Monitoring panels reveal real-time data measuring energy efficiency and correlating the center’s energy generation to current weather conditions.

According to CEED Principal Matt Brain, the center also “provides exploration opportunities for community members who are looking to improve their response to world-wide energy issues” for both commercial and residential applications.

Following the CEED tour, participants will begin a two-mile hike through moderately steep terrain on nearby Grassy Hill. A frequent visitor to the site, outing coordinator Robin Davis said, “The thing I love about this hike is, it’s close to town,  but once you get up in there, you feel like you’re far from civilization.

“It’s a very peaceful trail,” she continued, “with just the right amount of challenge for good exercise. It’s well paced out, with some incline and some level, winding back and forth with lots of switchbacks, so you’re not going straight up the hill.”

As its name implies, Grassy Hill was once open meadowland, probably sustained by fire. Today, however, only small openings in the forest occur near the hill’s summit.

The three-mile-long ridge, a prominent landmark in western Rocky Mount, is now covered with a dense canopy of mainly hardwoods, dotted with rocky outcrops.

The thin, magnesium-rich soil on Grassy Hill supports rare plant communities, which helped to spur the 1440-acre site’s preservation in 1992. Open areas in the forest hold remnants of these sun-loving wildflowers, such as grass-leaf blazing star and glade wild quinine.

Prescribed burns, forest thinning and invasive species control are among the stewardship activities planned by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation to maintain and restore the preserve.

Participants in the outing are asked to bring lunch, water and hiking staff and wear hiking boots or walking shoes. They should dress in layers of synthetic fabric or wool and be prepared for wind or rain. All participants will be asked to sign a waiver.

DIRECTIONS: To reach the Gereau Center, follow US 220 to Rocky Mount.Take Business Route 220 (North Main Street) into town. Go through the first stoplight, and turn right onto Technology Drive. The Gereau Center is 0.1 mile on the right.

For more information, contact Robin Davis, 540-420-8028 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . 

Outings and meetings of the Dan River Basin Association are free and open to the public. For more information, visit www.danriver.org.