Monday, January 3, 2022

January Newsletter and Events

Join us online at our Annual Meeting on Thursday, Jan 20 to help plan what our group needs to do in 2022 to start turning the just approved Indian River Redevelopment Strategy into real change for our community.  See all the details below!

Also in this month's newsletter, we have:

  • 2021 Year in Review
  • Upcoming Events
    • Annual Meeting, Thur, Jan 20, 7 pm
    • Adopt-A-Park/Invasive Species Workshop, Sat, Jan 22, 9 am
    • No Second Saturday Hike this January
  • Other News
    • Holiday Lights & Decoration Contest Winners
    • Tree Planting on Indian River Road - Update
    • New Rain Garden at Indian River Park


2021 Year in Review

We were very happy to end 2021 on a high note: on December 21st the Chesapeake City Council unanimously approved the Indian River Planning Area Study and Redevelopment Strategy, wrapping up two years of work with the City Planning Department. The plan outlines a strong, interconnected combination of actions that provide a roadmap to improve the quality of life of the community. But turning them into reality will require persistent engagement with the City and our other partners.  Implementing this plan will be a key topic at our Annual Meeting on Thursday, January 20th, 7 pm, and we will need your continued involvement to make that a success.  

Overall in 2021, our volunteers completed nearly 900 hours of effort doing cleanups, gardening and beautification, planning for the tree planting project at the Oaklette Bridge (see below), various outreach programs, working with the City and our other partners, and much more.  View our full Year End Report at http://www.friendsofindianriver.org/2021/12/2021-year-in-review.html



Annual Meeting

Date: Thursday, Jan 20, 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm

Location:  Online - Zoom - sign up at https://forms.gle/thmvFKLg5kCFqPBNA

Please join us at our Annual Meeting.  We will hold elections for our board and review plans for the coming year.  We will review the just approved Indian River Planning Area Study and Redevelopment Strategy to see what steps our group needs to take in this year to start turning the plan into reality.

We'll also have the latest community news.

Adopt-A-Park/Invasive Species Workshop @ Indian River Park

Date: Saturday, Jan 22, 9:00 am to Noon

Location: Meet at the Indian River Park entrance at Rokeby Ave. and Main St. (2001 Rokeby Ave.) which is located just south of Military Highway, i.e. across Military Highway from the Fire Station.

Learn to identify various invasive plant species that threaten Indian River Park and natural areas across the Tidewater region.  Those found in the park include English Ivy, Chinese Privet, Multiflora Rose, Linden Viburnum, and others.  

Then we'll have a work effort to clear some outbreaks of the English Ivy. The more volunteers that come out, the more that we can accomplish! 

Please wear closed-toe shoes, a hat and bring work gloves. We'll be working both to remove Ivy on the ground and on trees.  Bring pruning clippers, loppers, screwdrivers (which are amazingly useful in prying ivy off tree trunks) and/or pruning saws if you have them.  We will have water and snacks, but we also always encourage folks to bring their own water in reusable bottles to minimize use of single use cans and bottles. Participants under 18 years of age must have adult supervision.

To save time and allow for better social distancing, please pre-register at https://forms.gle/NKq7m3pMS4JwyV5X6


No Second Saturday Hike this January



Other News

Holiday Lights & Decoration Contest

Our judges had a hard time picking winners for the 3rd Annual “Main Street” Indian River Holiday Lighting & Decoration Contest.  Multiple businesses did an excellent job and we finally narrowed it down to 3 Winners and 2 Runners-up.  The winners are E and E Auto Sales, Affordable Transmission, and Mobile Pig-Nic Catering / The Pig Shop Restaurant. The Runners-Up were Wickers Crab Pot and Botanica Spiritual House.  See a close up of the winners at https://www.facebook.com/FriendsofIndianRiver/posts/4856554121076567

Honorable Mentions go to Hair20 Studio, NAE Federal Credit Union, Subway, Trade Team USA, Moulton Tax Service, Holloman-Brown Funeral Home, and Vohringer & Bryant Chiropractic.   

Next year we may expand our categories to include Best Lights, Best Christmas Tree/Holiday Display, and Best Wreath.  So, start dreaming about next year's Holiday Season!

Tree Planting along Indian River Road at Oaklette Bridge 

Work on the tree planting by the landscape contractor is now planned for the middle of January.  We're hoping for good weather. We'll still need volunteers to support planting of 30 shrubs and 34 muhly and fountain grasses at the site, but this will now likely be in March.

New Rain Garden at Indian River Park

Thank you to the team of volunteers who planted the new rain garden at Indian River Park in early December.   The plants are small today, but we look forward to seeing them grow!   

We always encourage you as an individual to pick up any stray litter that you come across along our roads, parking lots, and in our parks.  Every piece of trash collected is one less that causes harm to wildlife in our natural areas and waterways.  And just as important, reduce your use of single use packaging to not create litter in the first place.  Take The Pledge to keep Virginia Litter Free at https://loversnotlitter.org/pledge/



Now is a great time to become a member or renew your membership, or just make a donation online at http://www.friendsofindianriver.org/p/membership.html

Sunday, December 26, 2021

2021 Year in Review

We are very happy to end 2021 on a high note: on December 21st the Chesapeake City Council unanimously approved the Indian River Planning Area Study and Redevelopment Strategy, wrapping up two years of work with the City Planning Department. The plan outlines a strong, interconnected combination of actions that provide a roadmap to improve the quality of life of the community, but turning them into reality will require persistent engagement with the City and our other partners.  Implementing this plan will be a key topic at our Annual Meeting on Thursday, January 20th, 7 pm, and we will need your continued involvement to make that a success.  

While we've focused on the Planning Area Study this year, we did have other major accomplishments this year:

  • The Friends of Indian River won grants from the Virginia Department of Forestry Virginia Trees for Clean Water Grant and the City of Chesapeake License Plate for Beautification and Conservation Fund to give the wide median at the Indian River Gateway next to the Indian River Oaklette Bridge a major landscaping makeover with trees, shrubs, grasses, and flowers.  Work on the project has been delayed due to Covid, but the landscaper we've engaged still plans to do the site preparation and tree planting this coming January, weather allowing.
  • Across the street from the planned tree planting, work on of our other major goals, the future Blue Heron Landing Park and canoe/kayak launch, is progressing.  Chesapeake Parks, Recreation and Tourism (PRT) got all the permits for the development of the site and requests for bids on this project are expected to go out soon. Construction could start in 2022.
  • The Friends of Indian River have actively participated in the development of the next 5 year iteration of the Elizabeth River Watershed Action Plan.   This plan being prepared by Elizabeth River Project updates the environmental restoration plans for the Elizabeth River, including our Indian River watershed.
  • We've been easing back into group volunteer events with two major cleanups and several gardening efforts at Indian River Park during 2021.  Combined with many individual efforts, our volunteers reported 878 hours of effort this year, and counting.
  • On the outreach side, we've started a regular series of Second Saturday Hikes at Indian River Park and other locales.  In June, we held a Moth Night at Indian River Park to observe these nocturnal jewels.  In October, our members did a field trip to the Hermitage Museum and Gardens.  In December, we sponsored the third annual "Main Street" Indian River Holiday Decoration Contest.  And we had several speakers for our monthly meetings, all of which were virtual except the November meeting.
  • The Friends of Indian River Education Scholarship Award entered its second year, granting another scholarship to a worthy graduate of Indian River High School
  • The Friends of Indian River were recognized as a Sustained Distinguished Performance River Star Business at the Model Level by the Elizabeth River Project
Key focuses areas for 2022 will include
  • Completing the tree planting at the Indian River Oaklette Bridge
  • Working with the City to start implementing the Indian River Planning Area Study and Redevelopment Strategy
  • Supporting goals of the Elizabeth River Watershed Action Plan 
  • Continuing our cleanup, beautification, and outreach events
  • Working with Parks, Recreation, and Tourism to improve our local parks
  • Participating in updates to the City Comprehensive Plan when they begins
We will be holding our Annual Meeting on Thursday, January 20 at 7 pm to discuss these plans for 2021. We hope to hold the meeting in-person at Oaklette United Methodist Church, 520 Oaklette Drive.

The Friends of Indian River is an all-volunteer, local 501(c)(3) non-profit.  You can support our efforts by becoming a member, renewing your membership, or just making a contribution online at http://www.friendsofindianriver.org/p/membership.html

Year in Review

Indian River Small Area Plan

Throughout 2021 we focused on the Indian River Planning Area Study and Redevelopment Strategy, the "Plan".  This project kicked off before the pandemic in December 2019 and information gathering continued through 2020. By early 2021, the City published the first draft of the Plan and held virtual public input meetings in May.  The Friends of Indian River provided comprehensive comments and input on the Plan's actions, goals, and proposed implementation timelines.  The final draft of the Plan was published in late August and in October the plan was unanimously approved by the Planning Commission.  Just before Christmas, the City Council enthusiastically passed the Plan by a 9-0 vote.

This Plan lays out a strong, interconnected combination of actions that, when implemented, should improve the quality of life of our community. Find an overview of the plan and link to the full document at http://www.friendsofindianriver.org/2021/10/action-alert-indian-river-planning-area.html

But really, this is just the start of the work. Join us as we focus on implementation of the plan starting in 2022.

Indian River Gateway Tree Planting

The east side of the Indian River Oaklette Bridge is identified as a key Recreational/Civic Node in the Indian River Planning Area Study, serving as a Gateway to the community and the river. Back in 2014, we participated with the City in a tree planting including plum and golden rain trees on the southside of the road and Bald Cypress trees in the median.   Unfortunately, we lost several plum trees to car accidents where speeding cars lost control and jumped the curve.   In 2020, the City Landscape Coordinator prepared a comprehensive proposal to replant the south side median with more native trees and shrubs, for beautification and wildlife value, and install berms and traffic signage.  

To make this a reality the Friends of Indian River applied for funding from the Virginia Department of Forestry Virginia Trees for Clean Water Grant and the City of Chesapeake License Plate for Beautification and Conservation Fund and in 2021, we won funding from both of these grants. We had expected the City to take the lead in the project using the License Plate Fund, as they had with similar projects in the past.  But in a twist, they asked the Friends to take the lead in the project and hire a landscaping firm to implement the project.  This required us to go through a proposal, bid, and contracting process which, as with so many efforts in 2021, ran into delays.  A contract was finally in place with Basnight Land and Lawn by early November.  But work on the project was further delayed and is now expected to start in mid-January.  The landscaper will do the site prep and plant the trees.  Subsequently we'll have a volunteer day to plant additional shrubs, grasses, and flowers in the spring of 2022.

In a related effort, Hampton Roads Transit is putting in a bus shelter at the corner of Lilac and Indian River Road, which will meld nicely into the landscaping plan.   Also on the books for 2022 is rehabilitation work by the Public Works Department on the Oaklette Bridge, installing "pile jackets" to protect the bridge piling from corrosion and doing bridge joint, deck and beam small repairs.


Blue Heron Landing Park (future)

Also at the Indian River Gateway, across the street from the Gateway Tree Planting, work is progressing on the planned Blue Heron Landing Park and canoe/kayak launch.  The Friends of Indian River started to advocate for this location as a public park to access the river in 2015; the City acquired the property in 2017 and has been working toward developing the park since.  This year, the City completed design work and obtained the required permits for the project from the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, Army Corps of Engineers, Chesapeake Bay Preservation Area Board, and other.  Requests for bids on the project are expected to go out soon. Construction could start in 2022.

Elizabeth River Watershed Action Plan

The Friends of Indian River are proud of our strong partnership with the Elizabeth River Project.  In the latest Elizabeth River "State of the River" report published at the end of 2020, the Indian River got a water quality grade of  "C", a significant improvement of the Failing "F" grade we got in 2014.  But a "C" leaves a lot of room for improvement.  This year several of our board members have been working on the next iteration of the Elizabeth River Watershed Action Plan with the Elizabeth River Project.  The draft is still being finalized but the action steps outlined in the document cover a range of issues relevant to the Indian River, including (but not limited to) preparing for sea level rise, working to make our waterways cleaner by reducing pollution inputs, encouraging Chesapeake to develop a green infrastructure plan, making littering "uncool" by addressing behaviors such as the use of single use plastics, creating more living shorelines, planting more trees and encouraging protection of mature trees, and promoting conservation landscaping for homes, business, schools, and municipal buildings.  The Friends will be working to incorporate the Watershed Action Plan efforts into our own local goals and projects.

Volunteer Events

The number of volunteer events was still reduced this year but we held two major cleanups.  For Clean The Bay Day in June, 16 volunteers ventured deep into the Indian River Park flood plain and other parts of the park to pull out just under 400 pounds of trash.   For the International Coastal Cleanup in September around the Indian River-Oaklette Bridge and the future Blue Heron Landing Park, 12 volunteers removed another 400 pounds of litter and debris from along the river.

We held several Adopt-A-Park events at the Native Plant Garden at Indian River Park: in April, a pair of events in October, and one in December.  For one of the events in October, we got a big boost with volunteers from Chapter 78 of Association of Aviation Ordinancemen (AAO) off the USS Gerald R. Ford.  They rolled up their sleeves and dug the bed for a new rain garden at the park which we then planted at the December event.

Aside from the scheduled group events, our volunteers did a lot of individual work around the area including ad hoc litter cleanup, caring for the gardens and trees by the Indian River Oaklette Bridge, and refreshing the flower planters in the Indian River business area.  At Indian River Park there was on-going work to weed and maintain the Native Plant Garden, ad hoc litter cleanups, trail maintenance, and persistent efforts to manage and remove invasive plants including English Ivy, Japanese Stilt Grass, and Linden Viburnum.  Another volunteer focused on Plymouth Park, caring for its flower bed, checking on the young trees planted there, and doing ad hoc litter cleanups.   And of course, there was various "back office" work to keep up the organization and do outreach and communication.  

All told, our volunteers reported 878 hours of effort this year, and counting.

We'd also like to say thank you to the Chesapeake Environmental Improvement Council (CEIC), the Chesapeake Tree Board, and the Chesapeake Master Gardeners for organizing and supporting several additional volunteer events in our area.  These included the CEIC sponsored Great American Cleanup at the Indian River Civic Campus (Community Center/Library/Middle School/High School/Lake area) in March, Tree Board organized tree plantings at Oaklette United Methodist Church and Bethany Baptist Church in May, and Master Gardener led tree plantings in the Campostella and Cuffee Center area in October.  Oaklette United Methodist Church also made use of another CEIC License Plate Fund Grant to plant additional trees on their property in November. 

Connecting with Nature

This year the Friends of Indian River started a new series of Second Saturday Hikes at Indian River Park and one at the Indian River Civic Campus (Community Center/Library/Middle School/High School/Lake area).   These hikes provide an opportunity to learn about the history of the park, the native trees and plants in this century old forest in the park, discover some of the local butterfly, bird, and wildlife populations, and just get together with other folks interested in exploring our natural areas.

Working with the Butterfly Society and PRT, we hosted a "Moth Night" at Indian River Park in June.  On a fine evening, 10 "citizen scientists" identified about 2 dozen species of moths and other insects at Indian River Park.

In October, our members did a field trip to the Hermitage Museum and Gardens.  We had guided tour of the Sloane mansion and a walking tour of the gardens and grounds.  Participants learned about the garden history and the many varieties of plants that have a home at the Hermitage.  We also got to see their living shoreline restoration efforts, which was one of the first of its kind in the region.

Civic Engagement

Our monthly meetings continued to be online until our November meeting, which was our first in person membership meeting since January 2020.  Guest speakers this year included:
  • Mary Russo Riley, Chesapeake Community Programs Administrator
  • Benjamin Camras, Chesapeake Planning Department 
  • Steven Traylor, Norfolk City Forester 
  • Joe Rieger, Elizabeth River Project
  • Elizabeth Taraski,  Nansemond River Preservation Alliance
  • Meghan Mulroy-Goldman, Community Forester, Virginia Department of Forestry
  • Susan Vitale, Chesapeake City Council Member
Of course, we continued our online outreach through our monthly newsletter, Facebook, Instagram, Next Door, and our website.  

The Friends of Indian River also sponsored the third annual "Main Street" Indian River Holiday Decoration Contest.  Winners were selected based on overall appearance, festiveness, and decorations being fresh and appropriate for the site. 
Multiple businesses did an excellent job; winners were E and E Auto Sales, Affordable Transmission, and Mobile Pig-Nic Catering / The Pig Shop Restaurant; runners-up were  Wickers Crab Pot and Botanica Spiritual House.

Indian River High School Scholarship

This was the second year of the Friends of Indian River Education Scholarship Award.  The Scholarship is awarded to an Indian River High School graduating senior who embodies the spirit of the Friends of Indian River mission and excels in leadership, citizenship, extracurricular activities and academics.  The award this year went to A’kei Slocumb, who is interested in pursuing Biological Science as an area of study in college.  His involvement in Sports, Advanced Placement classes, and community service activities are examples of a commitment to advance personal goals and to serve the community.  

Graduates in the class of 2022 will be able to apply for this scholarship in the coming months.

Awards and Recognitions

The Friends of Indian River were recognized as a Sustained Distinguished Performance River Star Business at the Model Level by the Elizabeth River Project River Restoration Advisory Committee for our on-going efforts and new initiatives.

Active Supporting Members and Volunteers 2020

Affordable Transmissions M
Jill Arnone M
Chapter 78 Association of
     Aviation Ordnanceman
 V
Gary Ball MV
Diane Burke MV*
Geoffrey Burke MV
Joe Burke M
Margie Carraway M
Vickie Easley M
Bettina Essert M
Darcy Garrenton V
Leslie Garret V
Lynn Gilbert MV*
David and Lynn Greenfield 
Gilbert Griffin MV  

Helene Haluska MV*
Jim Haluska M
Jim and Corinne Harrison V
Jim Hartle M*
Sunday and Ian Hill M
Mike Hoffman and family V
Steve Holderbaum V
Jill Jaminson V
Lisa and Tom Kennedy M
Bruce Knoblock V
Sharon Komenda M*
Mella Leibrand M
Chris MatthewMV
Ed MatthewMV
Devin Malamphy V
Barbara McCane V*

Karen and Davis Mellott M
Keith and Debbie Moore M 
Vic Nichols M
Amy PetersenM
Jennifer Raymond MV
Dennie Reno M
Rogard Ross MV*
Tabitha and Caroline Short V
Brett Skipper V
Carol Warren MV*
Amy Weber MV*
Alex Whitney V
Chris Whitney MV*
Jayne Whitney MV*
Alana and George YacusM


M – Supporting Member       V – Volunteer     
* - Completed more than 100 lifetime volunteer hours with FIR


Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Approved: Indian River Planning Area Study going to City Council

Update: 12/22/2021

Great news.   Last night the City Council enthusiastically passed the Indian River Small Area Plan by a 9-0 vote.  Mayor West specifically mentioned all the e-mails that the City Council had received in support of the plan.   Thank you all very much for your support in getting this plan across the finish line. 

But really, this is just the start of the work.  The plan lays out a strong roadmap for implementing the goals it outlines, but making it happen will require persistent engagement with the City and our other partners.  And we will need your continued involvement to make that a success.   Implementing the plan will be a key topic to discuss at our Annual Meeting on Thursday, January 20th, 7 pm.   We hope that you'll be able to join us as we continue this important work.

******************************************************************************

The Final Draft of the Indian River Planning Area Study has been rescheduled for a Public Hearing by the City Council on Tuesday, Dec 21, 6:30 pm at City Hall.

Tell the City Council that you support the Plan which provides a strong, interconnected combination of actions that, if well implemented, will improve the quality of life of the community.   The plan revitalizes Indian River Road, including the Indian River Shopping Center, and redesigns the road as our "Main Street", preserves and rehabilitates the residential character of our community, provides connections between our neighborhoods, parks, the river, and a new civic campus, and increases the overall environmental quality of the community through increased tree canopy, natural areas and shorelines, and green infrastructure.

Key elements to support in the plan include:

    "Main Street"
  • Redesign Indian River Road to be our “Main Street” including features such as buffered bicycle lanes and  streetscape enhancements to reduce speeding, improve safety, and spur economic activity.
  • Pursue the addition of shopping and restaurant tenants to enhance the “main street” feel of the corridor.  Look at redeveloping Hazel Ct. with a mix of uses that complement its waterfront location
  • Establishing tax-increment financing and/or other incentives to encourage redevelopment of business corridor
  • Work toward redevelopment of the Indian River Shopping Center and possibly surrounding commercial properties into higher density mixed-use development
    Neighborhoods
  • Implement a strong set of actions to encourage and enable the preservation and rehabilitation of the area’s existing residential housing
  • Develop a residential pattern book to provide guidance on the recommended look and design for new development
  • Ensure that infrastructure for water, sewer, and stormwater are sufficient to accommodate any infill development
  • Install signage to identify historic areas such as Oaklette, Queen City, Norfolk Highlands, Seminole Park, and Foundation Park
    Community and Environment
  • Incentivize tree preservation and planting
  • Preserve, restore, and expand riparian/shoreline buffer vegetation 
  • Reach out to homeowners about restoration and flood mitigation funding such as Virginia Conservation Assistance Fund, Virginia Community Flood Preparedness Fund, the Elizabeth River River Star Program, and other such programs.  
  • Educate homeowners on the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Area
  • Install “wayfinding” signage along Military Highway to show direction to local destinations such as Community Center, Library, Rokeby Center, Indian River Park, Conference Center, etc.
  • Identify bus stops that need improvement and increase bus frequency 
    Open Space and Greenways
  • Create a “civic campus” including the Indian River High School, Community Center, Middle School, Chesapeake Center for Student Success, and Library with the lake at its center
  • Complete Blue Heron Landing Park, develop a trail management plan and add amenities at Indian River Park, and create an overlook at Plymouth Park
  • Establish a network of “greenways” along  Indian River neighborhoods streets including sidewalks, bikeways and green stormwater infrastructure
  • Create a bike route along Lilac Ave. and crosswalk at Lilac Ave. and Indian River Road to provide link from Indian River Road bike paths and Blue Heron Park to Rokeby Ave. and Indian River Park
  • Provide a safe pedestrian and bicycle crossing at Rokeby Ave. and Military Highway to connect to Indian River Park
This is Agenda Item K - PLN-COMP-2021-002.