Here is a roundup of 2017 accomplishments and events.
River Restoration and Cleanups
Parks and Trails
It was a wonderful year for our local parks. Plymouth Park, another underused park, got renewed attention this year. New signage, picnic tables, and an information kiosk were installed. And the city got another grant to build a walkway around the south field in the park and a new pad for the picnic tables, plant shade trees along the new pathway, and install a new wooden guard rail along the roadside. These improvements should all be completed in 2018. The Friends continue to advocate for a playground and a walkway overlooking the river for the future.
The City opened the renovated Rokeby Activity Center, focused on the “55 and Better” audience, at Providence Rd end of Indian River Park. They also completed other fixes and improvements in the adjacent playground and basketball courts. In the coming months we hope to set up a bulletin board in the center and there are plans to set up an herb garden in the spring
Walkable and Bikeable Community
Main Street Revitalization
Our quarterly and ad-hoc cleanups along Indian River Road and around the Indian River-Oaklette Bridge removed at least 800 lbs. of trash that won’t get washed into our river. We also reached out to business to ask them to sweep up in front of their streets, especially prior to our quarterly cleanups.
Our Business Outreach Committee took multiple steps to develop stronger contacts with local businesses and we’ve gotten positive feedback from establishments including Wicker’s Crab Pot Seafood, Tudor’s Ace Hardware, Irwin’s Pharmacy, and Lulu’s Hot Dogs. One effort that brought visibility to our group was placing matching planters at several locations long Indian River Road centered on the Sparrow Road intersection.
Another key effort had several of our volunteers bring Oaklette United Methodist Church onboard as a River Star Business and its parsonage as a River Star Home. Our volunteers then provided expertise and resources to help the church leverage funds from the Roger Weber Memorial Fund, the Elizabeth River Project Grants program, and the Virginia Conservation Assistance Program to install rain gardens and make other stormwater retention improvements around the church and parsonage to reduce runoff into the river.
Our volunteers also participated in the “Catch the King Tide” event, organizing a local team to measure the extent of the King Tide, the highest astronomical tide (not counting for wind and weather) of the year. This citizen-science effort collected data to help meaure the impact of sea level rise.
Civic Engagement and Outreach
We held several outreach events at Indian River Park including a First Day Hike on New Year’s Day, an Earth Day event in conjunction with Adopt-A-Park, and a fall hike. For the Great Backyard Bird
We did outreach at this year’s Riverfest at Carolanne Farms Park in Virginia Beach. And we’ve been actively working with the Elizabeth River Project to identify a possible location in the Indian River area for Riverfest 2018.
At our monthly meetings, guest speakers this year included:
- Joe Rieger from the Elizabeth River Project and Raul Gonzalez from the Hampton Roads Sanitation District discussing the Indian River Restoration efforts
- Jim Haluska discussing Sea Level Rise
- Vicki Roberts of the Beekeepers Guild of Southeast Virginia discussing bees
- Dr. Laurie Fox, Horticulture Associate Virginia Tech Hampton Roads Agricultural Research and Extension Center discussing Sustainable Gardening
- Dreda Symonds, Director of Chesapeake Mosquito Control Commission discussing mosquitoes
- Jayne Whitney, Diane Burke, and Lynn Gilbert reporting on their Oyster Reef Restoration efforts
- Zach Jarjoura, Conservation Program Manager (Norfolk) for the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club
- Skip Stiles from Wetlands Watch discussing role of wetlands in mitigating flooding
- Roland Davis, Chesapeake City Council Member addressing issues
In September, the City Council held a strategic planning retreat. In reaction to this event, the Friends of Indian sent the City Council a letter with our thoughts on long term planning urging them to find a better balance between new development and revitalization efforts in our existing neighborhoods. Key considerations that we identified were to
- Budget to Support Incremental/Infill Development
- Create Safe and Welcoming Streets
- Address the Infrastructure Maintenance Backlog
- Develop a plan to respond to a changing retail landscape
- Establish a new balance between Revitalization vs. New Development
- Re-focus on our City’s Sustainability Plan
Shorter term, we are focusing on the Aqua Virginia/Indian River Shopping Center issue. After a contentious public meeting in January, the City and Aqua Virginia have been in negotiations on a deal that will improve the water quality for residents in the Aqua service area and provide for fire suppression water supply to the Indian River Shopping Center. The proposed contract would enable a potable water cross-connection between the City and Aqua for the City to provide water for emergencies and for flushing of the Aqua water pipes. The City would also be able to provide water to the Indian River Shopping Center for fire suppression which would enable redevelopment at the site. Aqua would install fire hydrants across the western side of their service area and then upgrade the piping in the eastern side over the next several years. Our understanding is that the deal has gone through various reviews but various details, including around the financial arrangements, are still being hashed out and as of December, the deal is not finalized.
Awards and Recognitions
One of our long time members, Lynn Gilbert, was the winner of this City’s Notable Yards Contest for the Indian River area this year. Her home was recognized for her commitment to healthy environmental practices and work with the Elizabeth River Project to create a living shoreline on the property.
At the annual Chesapeake Environmental Improvement Council Awards Luncheon, our own Carol Warren received a Certificate of Appreciation for her work to improve our natural areas, including her efforts to revitalize the Plymouth Community Park and establish a canoe/kayak launch site along the Indian River.
And, just this month the Elizabeth River Project has accepted our application to become a River Star Business. We are very proud to announce that they are recognizing us at the Model Level, their highest level of achievement! The Elizabeth River Project called out our exceptional accomplishments in pollution prevention, wildlife habitat enhancement, recruitment and mentoring of others in the community, and leadership in environmental stewardship.
Now on to 2018! Please join us at our annual meeting on Thursday, January 18th, at 7 pm at Oaklette United Methodist Church as we hold election for our board and review plans for the coming year.
Active Supporting Members and Volunteers 2017
Paul Atkinson V
Gary Ball MV
Glen Batt MV
Jervone Bowens V
Diane Burke MV*
Joe Burke M
William Burke V
Kamesha Champaco V
Tabitha Eddy MV
Candace Exam V
Bill Garrett M
Lynn Gilbert MV*
Debra & Pat Goodman M
Helene Haluska MV*
Jim Haluska M
Jocelyn Hamilton V
Jim Hartle MV
Sara Howard MV
Dean Howard M
Sue Hurst M
Jean Hyson V
Joe Ipock V
Lisa & Tom KennedyM
Sharon Komenda MV*
Susan Borka Lambert M
Fred Lebay V
Mu Lee V
Faith Marshall V
Chris & Ed MatthewM
Barbara McCane MV*
Keith & Debbie Moore M
Larry Nero V
Sandy Oman M
Scott Oman MV
Melanie Potter MV
Rosie Rallos V
Jim Raper M
Shalon Richardson V
Tony Riley V
June Gale Robbins M
Geney & Richard Ross M
Rogard Ross MV*
Guy & Carlyn St. John M
Katie Schemmel M
Carl Smith V
Ram Surapaneni V
Carol Warren MV*
Amy Weber MV*
Alex Whitney V
Chris Whitney MV
Jayne Whitney MV*
Wicker’s Crab Pot Seafood M
I’esha Wynn V
Shaun Wynn-Bouder MV
Another 83 Other Volutneers for
Clean the Bay Day in June
M – Supporting Member V – Volunteer
* - Completed more than 100 lifetime volunteer hours with FIR