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
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)
Elizabeth River Watershed Action Plan
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.
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.
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.
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 M
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
Devin Malamphy V
Barbara McCane V*
Karen and Davis Mellott M
Keith and Debbie Moore M
Vic Nichols M
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
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