Sunday, March 7, 2021

March Newsletter and Events

In this month's issue, we have:

  • Upcoming Events
    • Virtual Monthly Meeting - Indian River Small Area Plan - Thurs, 3/18
    • Great American Cleanup @ Indian River Civic Campus - Sat, 3/27
    • Adopt-A-Park @ Indian River Park - Sat, 4/10
    • Future Dates
  • Other News
    • Virginia Trees for Clean Water Grant Award
    • Proposed zoning change for Used Car Dealership
    • Indian River High School Scholarship
    • Pop-up Nature Program at Plymouth Park, Wed, 3/24
    • Agape Feast Community Meals for the Homeless
    • Action Alert: Chesapeake Bay Preservation Area
    • Conservation Landscape Funding

Monthly M
eeting - Indian River Small Area Plan

Date: Thursday, March 18, 7 pm
Location: Zoom Meeting, Pre-register

Our guest speaker will be Benajamin Camras from the Chesapeake Planning Department and we'll review the latest on the Indian River Small Area Plan.  This will be an opportunity to provide feedback on the proposed plan.

We'll have updates on the latest community news and hold a brief business meeting to approve our budget for 2021-2022.

Please pre-register for the event to get the Zoom meeting URL. 

Great American Cleanup

Date: Saturday, March 27, 10 am to Noon
Location: Indian River Library, 
2320 Old Greenbrier Rd

The Chesapeake Environmental Improvement Council and Green Drinks Chesapeake will be hosting a cleanup at the Indian River "Civic Campus"  (the area around the Community Center, Middle School, Library, High School, and Lake). 

Meet at Indian River Library Parking Lot at the end by the Middle School.  

Please dress in appropriate clothing and shoes for the weather. Be sure to bring your reusable water bottle. We'll provide bags, gloves, and trash grabbers. We will be covering areas around the IR Library, Middle School, Annex building & ballfield. This is a family-friendly event.

Please practice physical distancing and wear your mask when you are in close proximity to others.

Adopt-A-Park @ Indian River Park

Date: Saturday, April 10, 9 am to Noon
Location: 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.

We'll be tending to the native plant garden at the park entrance.  We may also do some  trail work, pruning, weeding, and cleanup.  Please wear closed-toe shoes, a hat and bring work gloves. If you can, bring shovels, rakes, pruners, saws and other gardening tools.  We'll have water and snacks available but we also always encourage folks to bring their own water in reusable bottles to minimize use of plastic bottles and cans. 
Participants under 18 years of age must have adult supervision.

All participants should follow Covid-19 safety precautions.  If you are sick or have been exposed to someone with Covid-19 please stay home and contact your doctor's office for care and proper quarantine procedures.  Masks must be worn properly during the cleanup.  Strive to maintain a minimum physical distance of six feet from others not in your household.  Wear gloves during the cleanup and sanitize your hands before removing your mask and/or touching your face
To speed up registration and improve social distancing at the start of the cleanup, please review and complete the online safety release form at least one day before the event.

Rain date: April 17

Future Dates - Mark Your Calendar
  • Monthly Meeting - Steven Traylor, Norfolk City Forester discussing importance of trees in urban environments - Thurs, 4/15
  • Monthly Meeting - Topic TBD - Thurs, 5/20
  • Clean the Bay Day - Tentative - Indian River Park, Sat, 6/5
  • Monthly Meeting - Topic TBD - Thurs, 6/17

Other News
Virginia Trees for Clean Water - We are very proud to report that we have been selected to receive funding through the Virginia Trees for Clean Water grant for the planting project planned at the Indian River Gateway on the east side of the Oaklette Bridge.  This fund will fund the trees and shrubs in the project.  We plan to apply to the Chesapeake License Plate Beautification Fund for additional support from the city for the site preparation and additional plants and flowers.  If all goes to plan, we should be doing this planting in October/November.  We will be needing volunteer support at that time for the planting effort.  Stay tuned for more info!

Used Car Dealership - A proposed Zoning Change has been submitted to the Planning Commission and City Council to re-zone the property at the corner of Elder Avenue and Indian River Road from B-1, Neighborhood Business District, to B-5, Urban Business District, to use it as a used car dealership.   We oppose this re-zoning.  One key goal of the Indian River Small Area Plan is to revitalize the business district along Indian River Road, re-establish it as our "Main Street", and make it a much more walkable, bikeable, and attractive destination for the more than 30,000 residents who live nearby.  Another Used Car Dealership is not consistent with this goal.  We are advocating for land uses that support the revitalization of the local community as recommended in the draft plan, incorporate.   We'll be providing more information on how you can help in the coming weeks.

Indian River High School Scholarship - 
The Friends of Indian River is again sponsoring a $500 Education Scholarship for a current Indian River High School senior who will be a college freshman next year.  The scholarship will recognize a senior who excels in leadership, citizenship, extracurricular activities and academics.  All completed applications must be returned to the IRHS Scholarship Coordinator and then given to the Indian River High School Awards Committee for final selection of the recipient. Get more info at

Pop-Up Program in Pocket Parks  On March 24, join Parks, Recreation and Tourism at Plymouth Park (605 Pond Lane) to learn about the local wildlife in the area.  Feel some animal furs, see animal skulls, and more! Please maintain physical distancing when approaching the table. Masks required. Hand sanitization required before touching the props.  From 2 - 4 pm.

Agape Feast Community Meals - Homelessness is a pervasive problem in our nation.  In Chesapeake, many area churches have banded together to help alleviate the situation through the Chesapeake Area Shelter Team (CAST) program.  But with the pandemic, those programs were greatly modified as the Chesapeake Department of Human Services took on direct responsibility to house homeless guests over the winter.  Volunteer efforts have continued to augment this program through the Agape Feast Community Meals program.  They can use help, learn how at

Action Alert: Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act - The Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act is one of the most important tools in Virginia to protect our waterways and shorelines from over-development.  In 2020, the Virginia General Assembly passed changes to strengthen these regulations with regards to protecting mature trees and incorporating climate resilience.  These regulations are now being finalized and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation is asking for support in making sure these are well implemented.  Visit their Action Alert page to submit comments!

Interested in improving the natural value of your property?  Would you like to add beauty while helping the environment?  The 
Elizabeth River Project is still offering matching funding for installing living shorelines (up to $4000), buffers (up to $1500), or maybe a Rain Garden (up to $2000). The Friends of Indian River has limited funds to kick in up to another $250 toward these projects in the Indian River section of Chesapeake.  Learn more at

While our regular Adopt-A-Road cleanups are suspended, we always encourage you as 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

Sunday, February 7, 2021

February Newsletter

 We have some good news to report this month.  The Indian River got a significantly improved score on the latest Elizabeth River "State of the River" report.  Improving from a Failing "F" grade in 2014 to a "C" in 2020.  Read all about it below!

Also in this month's issue, we have:

  • Upcoming Events
    • Great Backyard Bird Count - 2/12 - 2/15
    • Virtual Monthly Meeting - Guest speaker, Mary Russo Riley, Chesapeake Community Programs Administrator - Thurs, 2/18
  • Other News
    • State of the River Report
    • Indian River Small Area Plan Update
    • Chesapeake Environmental Awards Nominations
    • Chesapeake Clean and Green Poster Contest
    • Conservation Landscape Funding

Great Backyard Bird Count

Date: Friday, 2/12 thru Monday 2/15
ion: Everywhere and Anywhere

We won't be holding our usual guided hike for the Great Backyard Bird Count this year.  But you can still participate, right from your backyard or anywhere you are next weekend.  Reporting birds you see is fun, easy, and provides very useful science data.  To learn how to participate using your phone, tablet, or computer, visit

We'll also have a post open on our Facebook page and we'd love to see comments reporting your bird sighting, including photos if you have them.  Keep a watch on our page at

Monthly Meeting - Guest speaker, Mary Russo Riley, Chesapeake Community Programs Administrator

Date: Thursday, February 18, 7 pm
Location: Zoom Meeting, Pre-register

Our guest speaker is Mary Russo Riley from Chesapeake Division of Community Programs. We'll be discussing services offered by the City to support the homeless, community development, youth programs, and more.

We'll have updates on the latest community news.

Please pre-register for the event to get the Zoom meeting URL.

Other News
River Health Improves: The Indian River got a significantly improved score on the latest Elizabeth River "State of the River" report, improving from a Failing "F" grade in 2014 to a "C" in 2020.  The Indian River has seen a significant reduction in Nitrogen pollution (from excess fertilizer) and a corresponding improvement in levels of Dissolved Oxygen (vital for marine life) and  Phytoplankton. 

But there is still lots of work to be done: we're still seeing a failing score on Bacterial Contamination.  Past testing as shown that this contamination, which makes the river unhealthy for recreation activities that involve water contact, is mostly due to pet waste.  So congrats to us all on the progress - and scoop that poop!  

Indian River Small Area Plan is starting to wind its way through the approval stages and formal public hearing at City Hall.  The first step was a presentation by the city staff from the Planning Department to the appointed members of the Planning Commission.  You can see the 
pre-recorded presentation at and a copy of the presentation material at  Work is underway to finalize the plan document, which will kick off public hearing before its final approval.

Chesapeake Environmental Improvement Council (CEIC) is accepting nominations for its Annual Awards Program to recognize those individuals, groups, or organizations that have been involved in outstanding recycling, beautification, litter control, and environmental projects in Chesapeake.  You can learn more and submit nominations at

The CEIC is also holding its annual Clean and Green Poster Contest, open to students in grades K-12.  A great opportunity for youngest to show off their artist abilities.  Lean more at

Interested in improving the natural value of your property?  Would you like to add beauty while helping the environment?  The 
Elizabeth River Project is still offering matching funding for installing living shorelines (up to $4000), buffers (up to $1500), or maybe a Rain Garden (up to $2000). The Friends of Indian River has limited funds to kick in up to another $250 toward these projects in the Indian River section of Chesapeake.  Learn more at

Thank you to the team that went out and cleaned up under and around the Indian River Oaklette Bridge last week.  Reports are that the area was quite a mess and the family group that went out removed 10 bags of trash.  There efforts are very appreciated!

While our regular Adopt-A-Road cleanups are suspended, we always encourage you as 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

Now is a great time to become a member or renew your membership, or just make a donation online at

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

2020 Year in Review

When we held our annual meeting in January of 2020, we could not imagine the level of disruption that the year would bring.   Everyone's plans for the year were upset by the coronavirus.  Many, if not most, organized activities and meetings were cancelled to protect the health and safety of participants.  But as we approach the end of this long year, we are thankful for what was achieved despite the challenges.   

For the Friends of Indian River and our community, here are some of the highlights of the year:

  • We did have some organized volunteer events early in 2020 and in the late summer.  And many volunteers continued to work on individual efforts or ones organized online.  All in all, at least 25 volunteers completed over 500 hours of effort to make our community better.
  • One key focus for the year was keeping the Indian River Small Area Plan study moving.  Working with the Chesapeake Planning Department, we helped to kick off this effort in late 2019 and participated in stakeholder meetings at the start of 2020.  Planned in-person public meetings were ultimately replaced with online sessions that allowed progress to continue with a draft Plan  expected in early 2021
  • Our group continued volunteer and planning efforts associated with Indian River Park, Plymouth Park, the planned Blue Heron Landing Park on the Indian River, as well as beautification efforts along Indian River Road and the Oaklette Bridge.  We also held several cleanups along the roadway, around the bridge, and on the river
  • Working with Indian River High School, the Friends awarded its first ever scholarship to a senior graduating from the school interested in pursuing studies in environmental and scientific fields.
  • Participated in the Chesapeake Conservation Conference early in the year
  • Held our annual Great Backyard Bird Count walk
  • Continued with an abbreviated, online, speaker series for our monthly meetings.
As we look forward to something approaching normalcy as 2021, we hope to ramp up our activity as the year progresses.  Key focus areas will include:
  • working with the City to complete development of the Indian River Small Area Plan
  • participate in updates to the City Comprehensive Plan when that effort begins
  • working with Parks, Recreation, and Tourism to improve our local parks
  • restarting our organized cleanup and beautification events
  • continuing with our monthly speaker series
We will be holding our Annual Meeting online on Thursday, January 21 at 7 pm to discuss plans for 2021.   Please register for the meeting at

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

Year in Review

Indian River Small Area Plan

In late 2019, the Friends worked with the City's Planning Department to kick off the Indian River Small Area Plan study by giving a tour of our area to the City staff and the consultants hired for the project, showing them the good, the bad, and the ugly within the neighborhood.  Ground zero, in our opinion, included the declining business areas along Indian River Road.  We also provided detailed documentation on the area and key points of concern.  The City followed up with stakeholder meetings in the first couple of months of the year.  

Then the coronavirus hit and plans for a public meeting in March/April were derailed.  In May, when it became clear that the meeting restrictions could not be eased any time soon, the City organized virtual sessions to collect community input on concerns and priorities.   This information was used to develop proposed improvements which were presented in another virtual Public Meeting in November.  A recording of that meeting can be found on the city website

The Board of the Friends of Indian felt that the planning team did an excellent job listening to the concerns of the community.  The recommendations presented, if properly implemented, can improve the quality of life of our community and strengthen the vitality of the City of Chesapeake.  The Board provided 4 pages of detailed comments to the City on the proposal.   The expectation is to see the final recommendations in early 2021.  Then the plan will be presented to the City Council and there will be additional opportunities for public comment.

Indian River Park

There had been plans for Parks, Recreation, and Tourism (PRT) to host a public meeting in March to gather input on future improvements to Indian River Park.  The park, with its 80 acres of forest and trails, is being squeezed by development, at risk from unsustainable practices, and threatened by the spread of invasive plants.  But, this public meeting was also indefinitely postponed.  In the interim, the Friends have been working with PRT and representatives of the Eastern Virginia Mountain Bike Association (EVMA) to continue preliminary work on building a park plan.  This has included a couple of walking tours of the park, an inventory of the all "features" in the park, and work on a detailed map of the park.  Next steps would include developing a map of the "official" trails and work to remediate issues in the park.  Ultimately, public meetings will be scheduled to discuss these plans.

In the meantime, volunteers have continued maintenance of the trails and the park entrance gardens.  In January, 9 volunteers, including several Tidewater Master Naturalists, came out to the park to work on removing destructive invasive plants, which include English Ivy, Chinese Privet, Multiflora Rose, Japanese Honeysuckle, Linden Viburnum, and (visible in the summer) Japanese Stilt Grass.  The volunteers cleared an area of about 2000 sq. ft. just off the main trail of English Ivy.  Through the year, smaller efforts targeted the other invasive plants listed above.

Our dedicated gardeners worked to maintain the entrance garden, weeding and mulching.  We had a setback in the early spring when PRT crews inadvertently weed-whacked part of the garden just emerging from its winter slumber.  Most of the perennials recovered after this early cutting, except for some of the Yarrow.   Still we had magnificent blooms from spring through the fall.  In October, we held an Adopt-A-Park event and a crew of 10 volunteers weeded and mulched the garden for the winter. Soon after our lead gardener planted some new plants to add to what is there.

Plymouth Park

We kept up routine inspection at Plymouth Park.  We had some plans for planting more trees at the site, but again those were derailed by the coronavirus shutdowns.  However, PRT did install a new picnic shelter at the park over the summer.

Blue Heron Landing Park (future)

After a minor change of the proposed name for this future park along the Indian River, to be located just east of Oaklette Bridge, PRT was working on formal engineering designs for the reconstruction of the park.  The final plans have not been shared as of this writing, but the word is that the overall plans are similar to the original conceptual design.   Hopes are that the plans will be approved in 2021 and we'll see construction start soon thereafter.

Indian River Gateway

Back in 2014, the Friends worked with the City plant plum trees and golden rain trees along Indian River Road.  We also planted Bald Cypress trees in the median of Indian River Road.    Unfortunately, we have lost several of the plum trees along the road to cars speeding along Indian River Road, losing control and jumping the curve.   In September we reached out to the City's Landscape Coordinator and the Traffic Department to talk about replanting the lost trees and adding better signage to mitigate the hazard of the curve on the east side of the bridge.  Ultimately, we'd like to see traffic calming along the roadway to reduce the speeding along the road, especially in Oaklette; we also addressed this issue in the Indian River Small Area Plan.   

The City Landscape Coordinator helped to create a comprehensive proposal to do planting in the public right of way on the south side of the roadway; including berms and traffic signage.  This planting would also use native trees and shrubs to provide wildlife value.  During 2021, the Friends will work to find funding to turn the concept into reality.

Cleanups and Beautification

During this year, we've been encouraging individual efforts to help with litter reduction.   Ultimately we need to cut the littering by individuals, especially of single use plastics, to solve this problem.  

We held two organized cleanups in September for the Great American and International Coastal Cleanups.  Volunteers collected about 400 lbs. of trash around the bridge and the future Blue Heron Landing Park.  And a week later, volunteers went out by canoe and kayak to clean up along the shoreline, removing about another 100 lbs. of debris.   We know several of these volunteers have been back out since then to collect more litter and many other citizens do the same.   We thank everyone for doing their part.

Our Business Outreach Committee continued efforts to beautify Indian River Road, our "Main Street" with upkeep of planters at key locations.  The Committee kept in contact with the Chesapeake Economic Development Department on efforts related to the Indian River Shopping Center, getting updates on the owner's on-going efforts to make fa├žade improvements, hook up with the new city water lines being installed in the area, and ultimately find new tenants for the center. 

The Friends also sponsored its second annual "Main Street" Indian River Holiday Decoration Contest.  Winners were selected based on overall appearance, festiveness, and appropriateness for the site.  Top awards this year went to Affordable Transmission, Botanica Spiritual House, and Fast Food Mart.  Congratulations to the winners and all those who participated.

Nature Hikes

Our usual series of nature hikes at Indian River Park was curtailed by coronavirus safety concerns.  But we did get in our annual Great Backyard Bird Count at Indian River "Woodland" Lake between the Indian River Middle and High Schools.  The group identified 27 bird species plus an unidentified raptor (perhaps an immature eagle). 

Indian River High School Scholarship

A new program we started in 2020 was the Friends of Indian River Education Scholarship Award.  The Scholarship is awarded to a graduating senior who embodies the spirit of the Friends of Indian River mission and excels in leadership, citizenship, extracurricular activities and academics.  Our first award of this scholarship went to Jalan Davis, whose involvement in Sports, the National Honor Society, the Marching Band, community service activities, and part-time employment are all examples of a commitment to advance personal goals and to serve the community. We are very pleased to have such an exemplary student and citizen as our first ever scholarship recipient and we wish him many successes in his future endeavors. 

Graduates in the class of 2021 will be able to apply for this scholarship in the coming months.

Civic Engagement

We cancelled most of our meetings in the first half of the year, but in the fall we started to hold our meetings online via zoom.  This brought us several interesting guest speakers including:
  • Chris Epes, Norfolk Extension Agent, discussing ins and outs of creating a community garden
  • Arthur Fichter, Solar Services, Inc. speaking on installing solar for residential use
  • Chesapeake City Council Member Don Carey 
In early March, the Friends of Indian River was a sponsor and participant in the City's first ever Chesapeake Conservation Conference, hosted by the Chesapeake Environmental Improvement Council (CEIC).  The Conference brought together environmental groups and concerned citizens from across the area to discuss the status of environmental initiatives in Chesapeake.  Our Vice President, Carol Warren, sat on the Home and Garden Panel to discuss activities that groups and individuals can take to improve environmental stewardship in residential areas.  Learn more about the conference at

The Friends also worked with the CEIC to compile a list of 50 Ways to Help Our Planet for the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day -

Awards and Recognitions

Several members of our community were recognized at the CEIC's 38th Annual Environmental Awards Luncheon held in early March, in conjunction with the aforementioned Conservation Conference.
  • Jayne Whitney, founding member and past President of the Friends of Indian River, received one of the events top honors, the Chesapeake Outstanding Citizen Award
  • Sharon Komenda received a Certificate of Appreciation for the work being done by the Rokeby Garden Club on education, outreach, and beautification at the Rokeby Center.
  • Wicker's Crab Pot Seafood won the Business and Industry Award for their support environmental education in partnership with the Elizabeth River Project 
Active Supporting Members and Volunteers 2020

Joe Alvarez V
Jill Arnone M
Gary Ball V
Diane Burke MV*
Joe Burke M
Margie Carraway M
Vickie Easley V
Sonny Ertsgaard V
Alice Ertsgaard V
Lynn Gilbert MV*
Becky Greenwald V
Gilbert Griffin M
David and Lynn Greenfield M   

Helene Haluska MV*
Jim Haluska M
Jim Hartle MV*
Sara Howard V
Jean and Ron Hyson M
Walter Jacques V
Jill Jaminson V
Matt Kanz V
Lisa and Tom Kennedy M
Sharon Komenda MV*
Mella Leibrand M
Chris and Ed MatthewM
Barbara McCane V*
Keith and Debbie Moore M  

Vic Nichols M
Melanie Potter M
Jennifer Raymond MV
Mary Reno M
Rogard Ross MV*
Elaine Simpson V
Carol Warren MV*
Amy Weber MV*
Alex Whitney V
Chris Whitney MV*
Jayne Whitney MV*
Shaun Wynn-Bouder V
Alana and George YacusM

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