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Local nonprofit hosting James River Park hike to support low income youth, get kids outside

The James River Park System has become a main Richmond attraction, boasting some of the best urban trails in the country. However, many of the students served by Blue Sky Fund have never even seen the river despite living within a few miles.

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Blue Sky Fund will bring over 400 participants together to hike along the James River on October 26th for the ​Dominion Energy Hike For Kids​ event with a goal of raising $50,000 to directly support programs that provide transformational experiences in nature for over 3,000 Richmond students from low-income neighborhoods.

The James River Park System has become a main Richmond attraction, boasting some of the best urban trails in the country. However, many of the students served by Blue Sky Fund have never even seen the river despite living within a few miles. For the event, hikers will enjoy the James River with a 3-, 8- or 14-mile loop, departing from the Virginia War Memorial and returning to a family-friendly post-hike celebration with food, live music, and lawn games. Väsen Brewing Company is collaborating with Blue Sky Fund to create an exclusive beer for the month of October that will be featured at the event, with a portion of all sales benefitting the organization.

“We are privileged to support such a worthwhile cause,” said Hunter A. Applewhite, President of the Dominion Energy Charitable Foundation. “Blue Sky Fund makes a meaningful impact in such a unique and important way for many kids across the Richmond community.”

Online registration​ is now live for the event. Event participants can hike up their support in getting Richmond’s youth outside by recruiting colleagues to participate as a corporate team or volunteering to individually raise funds and spread the word about Blue Sky Fund programs in their community, earning outdoor gear prizes along the way.

The hike is Blue Sky Fund’s biggest fundraising event of the year, with a goal of raising $50,000, a 42% growth over last year’s event. These funds are essential to the organization expanding its core program from eight to 14 Richmond City Public Schools during the 2019-2020 school year. Last year, Hike For Kids raised $35,000 to provide outdoor education programming to almost 2,000 students across Richmond during the 2018-2019 school year.

“We love Blue Sky because it gives our students opportunities to get out to places that they’ve never experienced before. I absolutely love going to Pony Pasture, because the kids get the chance to actually get on the river bank, do a little exploring in the water, take nature hikes – they get a feel for the James River and how mighty it is,” said Tracey Smith, a Chimborazo Elementary School Teacher.

Studies reveal that children are spending half as much time outside today as they did 20 years ago, with just four to seven minutes a day playing freely outside. The outdoors should be a part of every child’s life, as time spent in nature is proven to support positive youth development for urban at-risk children with enhanced cooperation and conflict resolution skills, and increases in self-esteem, problem-solving, and motivation to learn.

“My favorite outdoor activity is hiking by the river, I love going down to Belle Isle and rock hopping and such. I just like being outside and love the way the river sounds. Nature makes me feel so much more relaxed and I become the best version of myself,” said Hannah, a graduate of Blue Sky’s Outdoor Leadership Institute.

Participants can register online here.

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State of Emergency and Road Closures for this Holiday Weekend

Monday is Federal Holiday but the Capitol grounds are expected to be crowded with protestors and those hoping to discuss issues with their representatives for Lobby Day.

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Monday is Martin Luther King Day and it is also Lobby Day at the Capitol. Lobby Day is traditionally a day where citizens and organizations meet with elected officials and share their viewpoints. This Lobby Day will be a bit different. The Gun Rights lobby is calling on hundreds of activists to descend upon the Capitol grounds to protest any legislation related to gun ownership.

The situation is considered volatile. So volatile that Governor Northam has declared a State of Emergency for Richmond beginning tonight (Friday) through Tuesday evening.

Governor Ralph Northam today declared a state of emergency in advance of expected demonstrations on Capitol Square on Monday, January 20, 2020. Law enforcement intelligence analysts have identified credible threats of violence surrounding the event, along with white nationalist rhetoric and plans by out-of-state militia groups to attend.

The Governor’s declaration prohibits all weapons, including firearms, from Capitol grounds, and will provide joint law enforcement and public safety agencies the resources they need to keep demonstrators, policymakers, and all Virginians safe.

This emergency declaration is temporary, and extends from Friday, January 17 at 5:00 PM until Tuesday, January 21 at 5:00 PM.

These fears of violence were given more credence when the FBI arrested three suspected white-supremacists that were planning on attending Monday’s rally. From the article, the armed men “planned to travel to a pro-gun rally next week in Richmond in anticipation of a possible race war”.

In addition to the weapons ban access to the Capitol grounds will be limited and several roads around the Capitol grounds will be closed (see map above).

 

JJ McNabb is a Fellow at George Washington University’s Program on Extremism and a contributor on anti-government extremism at Forbes. She has this excellent thread on Twitter on what has brought us to this point where a normal lobby day has turned into a State of Emergency and fears of violence.

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Downtown

Last Call for Storm Drain Art Submissions

Local artists you can make a difference in our watershed but your deadline for entries is February 2nd

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From RVAH2O

The deadline for submissions is fast approaching, and we’d love to see YOUR ideas for Richmond’s fifth annual Storm Drain Art Project. Local artists ages 18 and older are invited to submit storm drain designs between now and Sunday, February 2, 2020, at 11:59 p.m.

We’re looking for art that paints a picture of how important it is to keep our river – and our drinking water – clean. All four finalists will receive a $400 stipend and publicity for their artwork on drains in Richmond’s Shockoe Bottom.

  • Submit your design using the template on the RVAH2O website.
  • Help promote the goals of the City of Richmond’s RVA Clean Water Plan – a five-year roadmap for reducing pollutant discharges into the James River, starting with wastewater, stormwater and the combined sewer system.

ENTER TODAY!

Don’t wait – visit RVAH2O.org or call 804.646.8131 for details and submission rules.

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Hundreds trek to Capitol to support environmental bills

Hundreds of clean energy supporters trekked to the State Capitol this week demanding Virginia move away from reliance on carbon-based energy, invest in alternative energy supplies and lower rates for customers.

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By Jeffrey Knight

Hundreds of clean energy supporters trekked to the State Capitol this week demanding Virginia move away from reliance on carbon-based energy, invest in alternative energy supplies and lower rates for customers.

At the rally, hosted Tuesday by the Sierra Club Virginia Chapter, Chesapeake Climate Action Network Action Fund and other environmental organizations, participants pushed for Virginia to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, an effort to cap and reduce carbon emissions from the power sector.

Gov. Ralph Northam supported the initiative in his 2020 budget proposal by including $733 million in new funding for the environment and clean energy.

“In Virginia, we are proving that a clean environment and a strong economy go hand-in-hand–and having both is what makes our Commonwealth such a great place to live, work and play,” Northam said in a press release.

Organizations lobbied for bills that seek to depart from a reliance on fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas. One focus was House Bill 1526 and its counterpart Senate Bill 851 known as the Virginia Clean Economy Act.

These bills would develop mandatory standards, annual timelines and call for specific reductions of carbon emissions with the goal to hit 0% by 2050. The bills also push for offshore wind operations and solar energy generation.

“I’m 100% for environmental issues,” Sen. Lionell Spruill Sr., D-Chesapeake, and co-patron of SB 851, said to supporters of the bill during the rally. “If I have to stand alone for environmental issues, I will do it alone.”

After supporters met with legislators they reconvened at the nearby St. Paul’s Episcopal Church where they heard speakers champion environmental justice and steps to combat climate change.

Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy, D-Prince William, took to the podium during the rally to address coal ash, a by-product of burning coal in power plants that contains arsenic, mercury, and other metals.

“Most of our environmental impacts, not only of climate change but also with coal ash and pipelines, are in our most vulnerable communities,” Carroll Foy said to the audience.

Dominion is Virginia’s main energy supplier, with 2.6 million customers in Virginia and Eastern North Carolina, according to its website. The energy giant has been moving away from coal production, but environmental advocates worry that closure of Dominion’s coal ash ponds will affect nearby communities. They want Dominion to haul away the coal ash, versus cap it in place.

Advocates also said that the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline that Dominion and other utility companies want to build as they tap into alternative energy sources will compromise communities and deviate from a zero-carbon future.

“There will be 35 years of non-renewable energy if the pipeline continues,” said

Corrina Beall, legislative and political director of the Sierra Club Virginia Chapter.

The Environmental Justice Act (HB 704 and SB 406) patroned by Del. Mark Keam, D-Fairfax, and Sen. Ghazala Hashmi, D-Richmond, respectively, would require state agencies to review proposed environmental policies with regard to the impact on low-income communities, communities of color and vulnerable populations and calls for “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people.”

Supporters at the rally also pushed for the Fair Energy Bills Act (HB 1132), patroned by Del. Jerrauld “Jay” Jones, D-Norfolk, and Del. Lee Ware, R-Powhatan. The bill calls for lower rates from energy suppliers like Dominion Energy, who reportedly overcharged Virginians $277 million more than they were allowed in 2018.

SB 966 restored the SCC’s ability to conduct earnings reviews to determine whether Dominion Energy had collected more money than required. If so, the extra revenue could be reinvested in electric distribution grid transformation as well as solar and offshore wind projects at no extra cost to the consumer.

“What makes more financial sense is for the money to be reinvested, which allows the customer to get the benefit of the project without any additional rates,” said Rayhan Daudani, manager of media relations for Dominion Energy.

He said that customers get a “great value” with rates 6.8% below the national average, along with increased investment in renewable energy and a transformed energy grid. Dominion said it plans to invest $750 million between offshore wind projects and smart meters that provide better grid service.

“Our mission is to keep those prices low, build the nation’s largest offshore wind project, continue to provide solar energy across the state and keep the lights on for our customers,” Daudani said.

The offshore wind project is set to be the largest in the U.S. with enough energy to power up to 650,000 Virginia homes, according to a recent Dominion Energy press release.

So far none of the bills supported by clean energy advocates have passed committee.

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