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James River Association honors river stewards in honor of 50th anniversary of Clean Water Act

James Changer Awards are given annually to individuals and organizations who have gone above and beyond in their commitment to the James River watershed, including those who protect the James, connect people to the James, support the James, and volunteer for the James.

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In honor of the 50th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, the James River Association (JRA) held its 2022 Annual Meeting this week, which took place at Hardywood Park Craft Brewery’s West Creek location. As part of the event, JRA presented five “James Changer” awards to community members that made remarkable impacts on the James River over the past year.

James Changer Awards are given annually to individuals and organizations who have gone above and beyond in their commitment to the James River watershed, including those who protect the James, connect people to the James, support the James, and volunteer for the James.

Award recipients included John and Dan Mays, the proprietors of Twin River Outfitters and Alleghany Outdoors, and longtime partners of JRA. Over the past decade, they have supported several JRA volunteer programs and played a leadership role in planning and developing the Upper James River Water Trail in collaboration with local governments and organizations.

Filmmakers and adventure partners Justin Black, Will Gemma, Stephen Kuester, Andrew Murray, and Dietrich Teschner were awarded for their dedication to the James through visionary environmental documentary, Headwaters Down, which chronicles a paddling trip from the headwaters of the James to Richmond. The film highlights several conservation issues and calls-to-action to protect the James, and has won several awards at film festivals in 2022 including the RVA Environmental Film Festival and the Richmond International Film Festival.

Robertnette Williams took home an award for his continued partnership and advocacy of JRA’s Walkable Watershed project in Petersburg, VA. As a long-established resident of the Lakemont neighborhood, Mr. Williams joined the project in 2015, and was crucial to ensuring his fellow neighbors’ voices were heard. He has participated in everything from grassroots flyering efforts to drainage studies and project implementation to tackle stormwater and flooding issues in the Lakemont community. He remains an integral part of the project’s efforts today.

Senator Emmett Hanger was awarded for his commitment to the Chesapeake Bay and Virginia’s agricultural industry. Since Senator Hanger joined the Senate Finance Committee in 2004, over $2.7 billion have been invested in clean water programs like the Water Quality Investment Fund and the Stormwater Local Assistance Fund. This past General Assembly session, with Senator Hanger’s dogged support, Virginia finally reached an elusive goal and historic milestone for the Virginia Agricultural Cost-Share Program by fully funding the state’s share of the program’s needs for the first time in its history.

Awarded for their extraordinary support, The Cabell Foundation granted JRA an incredible $2 million gift towards the organization’s $25 million James Changer Campaign. JRA has been grateful to enjoy a very long standing relationship with The Cabell Foundation, and $1 million of the gift was designated to be used as a challenge grant which provided JRA new opportunity to inspire potential donors. The Cabell Foundation’s generosity will enhance and increase JRA’s ability to serve more students across the watershed at River Centers in Lynchburg, Richmond, and Williamsburg.

In addition to presenting James Changing accolades to those who have helped to improve the health of the river, JRA is also celebrating the CWA anniversary by highlighting the impact of the river on members of the community through their Stories by the James project. A storytelling platform that features diverse voices sharing how the river has influenced their lives, Stories by the James aims to create connection and understanding by driving home the point that while we may all have different backgrounds and experiences, the river is a common current running through all our stories, and bringing us together.

“The Clean Water Act has been transformational for the health of our waterways, especially the James River,” said Bill Street, JRA’s CEO. “50 years ago, the River was one of the most polluted rivers in the nation, suffering from untreated sewage and unchecked chemical dumping. The water was too toxic for local wildlife and risky for recreation. Five decades of hard work and investment later, the James is once again a major attraction for fishing, swimming, and enjoying the river. This is in large part due to the Clean Water Act, as well as organizations like JRA and our dedicated community members and James Changers.”

River lovers can currently take action to help ensure strong state water funding in honor of the CWA by clicking here. To find out more information about how the James River Association has taken critical actions to promote conservation and responsible stewardship of the James River for more than 45 years, visit thejamesriver.org.

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Trevor Dickerson is the Editor and Co-Founder of RVAHub.

Outdoors

Sports Backers kicks off ‘Building a Vibrant Community’ fundraising campaign

The $3 million, five-year campaign has raised more than $1.5 million to date.

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Sports Backers, a non-profit organization dedicated to inspiring people to live actively, kicked off their ‘Building a Vibrant Community’ campaign with the announcement that the campaign has already raised more than $1.5 million towards its $3 million, five-year goal.

“The Building a Vibrant Community campaign will raise funds to make a lasting impact on the Richmond region,” said Jon Lugbill, Executive Director of Sports Backers. “This campaign will help us grow and create major events, expand the number of group fitness and youth activity programs we offer, build world-class bike and pedestrian infrastructure, and empower volunteer leaders and our region’s best and brightest scholar-athletes. As a result, our region will be a healthier and more vibrant place to live, work, and play.”

The initial success of the Building a Vibrant Community campaign is thanks to contribution pledges from corporations, foundations, community leaders, and regional governments. The campaign is led by Chairman Daniel Gecker, Chair and Partner for Urban Development Associates. Members of the Campaign Committee include the following community leaders:

  • Carrie Roth, Chair of Sports Backers Board of Directors, Commissioner of the Virginia Employment Commission
  • Neil Agnihotri, Surgeon, Agnihotri Cosmetic Facial Surgery
  • Lashrecse Aird, Richard Bland College of William & Mary
  • Neil Amin, CEO, Shamin Hotels
  • Bob Blue, CEO, Dominion Energy
  • Suzanne Gardner, Banking Relationship Manager, Wells Fargo Bank
  • Roy Grier, Community Volunteer
  • Burke King, Community Volunteer
  • Kim MacLeod, Finance Partner, Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP
  • Sam Mintz, Financial Advisor, Truist
  • Clark Mercer, Community Volunteer
  • Ken Shepard, Managing Director and Head of Wealth Portfolio Strategy, Bank of America
  • Bobby Ukrop, CEO & President, Ukrop’s Homestyle Foods
  • Tom Vozenilek, Executive Vice President, Colliers International

An investment in this $3 million campaign benefits the Richmond region by:

  • Energizing the Richmond community by reinvesting in significant events, expanding the goal-setting impacts of all events, and creating new events
  • Advocating for active living infrastructure, including the Fall Line trail, and creating an active living hub for the region
  • Hosting group fitness programs, including weekly fitness classes, youth fitness clubs, and training teams, as well as a scholar-athlete leadership program

“My confidence in the impact Sports Backers will continue to have on the health and vibrancy of our community has never been stronger,” said campaign chairman Daniel Gecker. “Sports Backers’ ingenuity and dedication to their mission has helped keep our entire community moving during one of the most challenging periods of our lives. This campaign will build on that and provide even more opportunities to get us moving, which is something we all have a renewed appreciation for.”

The following foundations, individuals, companies, and jurisdictions have already made significant contributions to the Building a Vibrant Community campaign: 

  • Lashrecse Aird
  • Allianz Partners
  • Astrya
  • Bank of America
  • Bob & Liz Blue
  • Margaret & Al Broaddus
  • Cameron Foundation
  • Community Foundation for a Greater Richmond
  • Cushman & Wakefield | Thalhimer
  • Davis Elkins Charitable Foundation Trust
  • Susan & Lennart Freeman
  • Don & Betsy Garber
  • Suzanne Gardner
  • Matt & Kirsti Goodwin
  • Greater Richmond Partnership
  • Roy & Charlotte Grier
  • Hanover County
  • Henrico County
  • Heritage Wealth Advisors
  • Hunton Andrews Kurth
  • Dorothy Jaeckle
  • John Randolph Foundation
  • Chris & Nancy Jo Kantner
  • Burke & Gay King
  • KPMG
  • Maria (Keech) leGrand
  • David Lyons
  • Kim MacLeod
  • Clark Mercer
  • Sam Mintz
  • Randy & Mary Lloyd Parks
  • Frank & Caren Payne
  • P.D. Brooks
  • Maria Purcell
  • City of Richmond
  • Richmond Region Tourism
  • Richmond Times-Dispatch
  • Road Runners Club of America
  • RMC Events
  • Sam & Nikki Young
  • S.B. Cox
  • Scott* and Karen Schricker
  • Shamin Hotels
  • Ken & Brooke Shepard
  • Bob & Melinda Sledd
  • Buck Stinson
  • Barbara J. Thalhimer & William B. Thalhimer, Jr. Family Fund
  • Jayne & Bobby Ukrop
  • Tom & Betty Baugh Vozenilek
  • Tamara Wagner
  • Lee & Margie Warfield
  • Craig & Anita Waters

(* Denotes deceased)

To learn more about Sports Backers and the Building a Vibrant Community campaign, visitwww.sportsbackers.org or contact Megan Capito, Director of Development, at 804-285-9495 or[email protected].

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Community

Virginia Freshwater Mussel Restoration Advances Under New Grants

A single mussel can filter up to 15 gallons of water per day, which prevents pollutants such as nitrogen from flowing downstream, leading to clearer and cleaner water.

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Freshwater mussel restoration in Virginia is taking another step forward with new projects by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) and James River Association (JRA) under two recently announced National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) grants.

The projects follow a report issued last year that called for a comprehensive regional plan for mussel restoration to address dramatic declines in freshwater mussel populations in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

“Momentum is growing in Virginia to bring back these amazing freshwater mussels, but we hear time and again that we need a plan to focus these efforts,” said CBF Virginia Senior Scientist Joe Wood, Ph.D. “Freshwater mussels are an important part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed’s natural heritage. These projects will set the stage for more freshwater mussels, cleaner water in fishing spots along our headwater streams, and a healthier Chesapeake Bay.”

The efforts by JRA and CBF would lay the groundwork for additional mussel restoration across the region through developing maps, plans, and identifying next steps. Administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), these grants are supported by the first round of federal funding under the new Chesapeake WILD program.

About 23 species of mussels live in Virginia freshwater rivers and streams that flow into the Chesapeake Bay, from the James River to the Shenandoah Valley to small mountain streams. But mussels are threatened by pollution, dams, climate change, viruses, and loss of habitat. Mussel populations in the Chesapeake Bay watershed are estimated to have fallen by 90 percent since European colonists arrived in the 1600s.

Photo Credit: James River Association (JRA)

A single mussel can filter up to 15 gallons of water per day, which prevents pollutants such as nitrogen from flowing downstream, leading to clearer and cleaner water. Mussel beds create habitat for small aquatic creatures, which in turn become food for fish.

For years, freshwater mussels have been raised and planted in rivers and streams by the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). That work has led to recent successes such as the re-introduction this year of the endangered James Spinymussel. But mussel restoration in Virginia has been limited by scarce funding and the lack of a big-picture approach.

Under the grant, CBF is launching the project Establishing a Plan for Freshwater Mussels: Protect, Restore, and Engage. Together with the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation and DWR, CBF will create an interactive map of Virginia that highlights stretches of streams and rivers with critical freshwater mussel habitat, which will guide future restoration and conservation efforts.

The map will also show where buffers of trees along streams can best protect and revitalize mussel populations. Because work to plant forested buffers is increasing, this map can show where planting trees can most effectively lead to healthy streams.

To raise awareness about the rich diversity of mussels in Virginia, the project will create realistic 3D printed models of mussel shells representing all the species in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, working together with the Smithsonian Institution and Florida Museum of Natural History. The scans will be open-source and available to everyone. A set of mussel models will be used in CBF’s award-winning environmental education programs.

With its NFWF grant funding, JRA will work with experts from universities, state and federal agencies, private industry, and nonprofits on a collaborative project to Establish a Freshwater Mussel Restoration Plan in the James River Basin.

Over the past three years, JRA has partnered with DWR and the USFWS Harrison Lake Fish Hatchery to plant more than 10,000 freshwater mussels in the James River and its tributaries, conduct population assessments, and identify quality mussel habitat. Through the course of this work, JRA recognized the need for a proactive restoration plan to guide planting activities, identify areas for further surveys and investigation, and establish strategic restoration objectives for the James.

“The success of our mussel planting work to date shows that it is possible to bring these unique species back to James River, with all of the water quality and habitat benefits that they provide,” said Erin Reilly, Senior Staff Scientist for the James River Association. “This grant will buoy efforts to bring the experts together and chart a common course for mussel restoration in the James.”

The plan will serve as an important tool for state agencies, federal hatcheries, nonprofits, the state legislature, and other funding agencies to determine where projects will be beneficial, facilitate planning, increase capacity, and drive research. The collaborative process, and the resulting plan, will also serve as a model for other rivers across the state.

These projects are among the first under the Chesapeake WILD program, established by Congress in 2020 to support restoration efforts in the Chesapeake Bay watershed that improve the health of our streams and rivers and the aquatic life that calls them home.

“We are excited to receive one of the inaugural Chesapeake WILD grants. Healthy fish and wildlife habitat are vital to a healthy Bay ecosystem, and projects like these that put boots on the ground restoring habitats across the watershed are vital to saving the Bay and tributaries like the James River. CBF urges Congress to fully fund Chesapeake WILD when lawmakers reconvene in November to finish work on this year’s budget,” said CBF Interim Federal Director Keisha Sedlacek.

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ABOUT THE JAMES RIVER ASSOCIATION: The James River Association is a member-supported nonprofit organization founded in 1976 to serve as a guardian and voice for the James River. Throughout the James River’s 10,000-square mile watershed, the James River Association works toward its vision of a fully healthy James River supporting thriving communities. The James River Association believes that “when you change the James, the James changes you”. With offices in Lynchburg, Richmond, Williamsburg, and Scottsville, the James River Association is committed to protecting the James River and connecting people to it. For more information visit www.thejamesriver.org.

ABOUT THE CHESAPEAKE BAY FOUNDATION: Founded in 1966, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation is the largest independent conservation organization dedicated solely to saving the Bay. Serving as a watchdog, we fight for effective, science-based solutions to the pollution degrading the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and streams. Our motto, “Save the Bay,” is a regional rallying cry for pollution reduction throughout the Chesapeake’s six-state, 64,000-square-mile watershed, which is home to more than 18 million people and 3,000 species of plants and animals.

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Community

A James Changing Celebration for the 50th Anniversary of the Clean Water Act

The James River Association and Partners will Host their 2022 Annual Meeting on October 17th at Hardywood West Creek.

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The James River Association’s (JRA) Annual Meeting is back and better than ever for 2022 with a very special celebration in honor of the 50th Anniversary of the Clean Water Act (CWA), originally passed on October 18, 1972.

The organization is doing a complete takeover of Hardywood Park Craft Brewery’s beautiful West Creek property, providing a unique event highlighting the importance of a clean river, including live musical performances from local favorites Høly River and Elizabeth Wise, river-themed art installations by Artspace, an impressive showcase of JRA’s programming including their storytelling project, Stories by the James, and the announcement of their 2022 James Changer Awards.

Elizabeth Wise – Photo Credit: Dave Parrish

This year’s Annual Meeting will be open to the public with free entry, although consideration of a $50 donation to JRA in honor of the CWA 50th anniversary would be greatly appreciated. Guests also have the option of upgrading their experience by donating $2,500 to reserve a table for 8 on the lawn or donating $5,000 to reserve a gazebo for 10 which includes oyster shucking and a taste test by JRA’s CEO, Bill Street. Additionally, a $5,000 donation will  reserve space for two guests under the Celebration Tent with those donations going towards JRA’s new James A. Buzzard River Education Center.

Bill Street will be leading the main presentation during the evening, sharing updates on JRA’s work and plans for the future, honoring this year’s James Changer Award winners, and toasting to the successful completion of JRA’s three-year, $25 million James Changer Campaign, which includes exciting plans to build a cutting edge River Education Center in downtown Richmond, along the waterfront.

Immediately following the presentation, guests will be treated to an exclusive sneak preview of an upcoming episode of Daytime Emmy nominated TV docu-series, The Good Road, yet to be released later this fall during the third season of the show’s run. Craig Martin, co-host and producer of the show, will host a brief Q&A before sharing the episode, which focuses on Richmond, the James River, and the surrounding river community. Høly River and JRA are both featured in the episode.

“We have much to celebrate this year, and we are thrilled to extend an invitation to JRA’s 2022 Annual Meeting to our entire river community for the first time,” said Kristen Armstrong, Assistant Director of Development for JRA. “We hope that James River lovers from far and wide will gather with us on October 17th to experience art, music, and stories inspired by the river, and to commemorate our collective impact on the river’s health.”

Hardywood will be selling their standard and seasonal craft beer, and local food vendors Monique’s Crepes, Rappahannock Oyster Co, K&M Salmon Balls & Cakes, and Carytown Burgers & Fries will have delectable dishes available for purchase.

Photo Credit: The Good Road

JRA sincerely thanks Hardywood Park Craft Brewery for hosting this special event at their beautiful West Creek campus. Additional thanks to our event sponsors Spherient Advisors, River Run Law, and ReMax Commonwealth for making the event possible.

To find out more information please go to https://thejamesriver.org/whats-happening/annual-meeting/.

ABOUT THE JAMES RIVER ASSOCIATION: The James River Association is a member-supported nonprofit organization founded in 1976 to serve as a guardian and voice for the James River. Throughout the James River’s 10,000-square mile watershed, the James River Association works toward its vision of a fully healthy James River supporting thriving communities. The James River Association believes that “when you change the James, the James changes you”. With offices in Lynchburg, Richmond, Williamsburg, and Scottsville, the James River Association is committed to protecting the James River and connecting people to it. For more information visit www.thejamesriver.org.

Will you help support independent, local journalism?

We need your help. RVAHub is a small, independent publication, and we depend on our readers to help us provide a vital community service. If you enjoy our content, would you consider a donation as small as $5? We would be immensely grateful! Interested in advertising your business, organization, or event? Get the details here.

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