VIRGINIA UPDATE

From the Desk of Rebecca LePrell
Summer 2016
 

First Bay Awareness Week Makes a Splash  

This year, Virginia's first annual Chesapeake Bay Awareness Week (June 4 to 12) was kicked off by a longtime Virginian tradition: Clean the Bay Day. As CBF's largest yearly clean-up event, the day brought 6,000 people together to clean up harmful debris and litter from hundreds of miles of streams and shoreline in just three short hours.

Rep. Rob Wittman at Clean the Bay Day.

Bobby Whitescarver and Rebecca LePrell.
Photos (top to bottom): Rep. Rob Wittman pitches in at Clean the Bay Day on the James River in Richmond; Bobby Whitescarver and Rebecca Leprell remove invasive species from a buffer in Augusta County. Photos courtesy of Kenny Fletcher/CBF Staff. 

At more than 260 sites across Virginia, the thousands of volunteers removed approximately 138,000 pounds of trash along some 440 miles of shoreline. A mix of 20 elected officials participated in the cleanup, including Congressman Rob Wittman. As usual, the most common items found were plastic bottles, plastic bags, and cigarette butts. But volunteers were also surprised by many strange finds, including a lottery ticket station, a crock pot, a jet ski, a complete car transmission and an axle, a teddy bear with Mardi Gras beads, a headless G.I. Joe doll, a mounted deer head, a screen door, a smart phone, a walkie-talkie, and two kitchen sinks.

Later in the week, CBF celebrated Awareness Week with conservation-minded farmers in the Shenandoah Valley. At David Surratt's farm in Fishersville, CBF staff and Virginia State Senator Emmett Hanger visited a newly installed stream fencing project that keeps cattle out of waterways. "It offers a win-win solution for restoring the Bay as these practices not only improve water quality but stimulate local economies and sustain our agricultural industry," Hanger told NBC 29.

A few days later, CBF Trustee Jeanne Hoffman and her husband Bobby Whitescarver hosted 56 people at their Augusta County farm for a walk along the Middle River. The hike highlighted the wildlife, native plants, and trees that have returned to the riverside since they fenced cattle out of the waterways in 2004. 

"Twelve years ago beef cattle farmer Jeanne and soil and water conservationist Bobby were married," Whitescarver told the crowd. "This farm is a reflection of our mutual respect for each other. It's a marriage of values, working together as one. Jeanne wants more grass, and I want more buffer. What you see today is how we put it together to work for the cow and the river. And I think you will see as you walk the river and its tributaries that a farm can indeed produce both food and clean water."

Beyond Awareness Week, we've kicked off a host of exciting events and restoration projects. Starting in late winter this year, 279 CBF volunteers cultivated underwater grasses in large tubs indoors as part of our successful Grasses for the Masses program, led by CBF's Blair Blanchette. When the grasses grew large enough to make it on their own, our volunteers planted them at restoration sites on the James and Potomac Rivers in May and June. 

In all, volunteers grew 40,000 grass seeds for planting across more than 300 square feet of Virginia river bottom. We're even more pleased by the recent news of the Bay-wide rebound of grasses, which are up by 20 percent across the Chesapeake

It's encouraging to see that programs like these, coupled with the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, are putting us on the path to a restored Bay.

—Rebecca LePrell
Virginia Executive Director
Chesapeake Bay Foundation
 

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