Saturday, June 7, 2014

Major volunteer efforts at Indian River Park

In a tremendous burst of activity, the Friends of Indian River, with help from a lot other groups and individuals, logged 180 volunteer hours over the last 2 days working in Indian River Park.

 On Friday, 20 volunteers from the Friends of Indian River and a crew from Banyan Grove apartments in Virginia Beach, were at the park planting trees and shrubs around the new parking area at Rokeby and Main.   The Chesapeake Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism arrived early with the native trees, compost, and a water truck to support our effort.   The trees and shrubs came from the nursery at the Chesapeake Arboretum, thanks to support from the local Virginia Cooperative Extension Agent, Mike Andrucyzk.  

The volunteers received guidance from several Chesapeake Master Gardeners and help from a Parks maintenance crew member wielding a powered auger.    Through the morning, the volunteers dug holes, carefully planted and watered the young trees, including a screen of Atlantic White Cedars and several Bald Cypresses, the official city tree.   Then we started to move around mulch to create neat beds around the new trees.

This is only the first phase of efforts around the parking lot.  Parks Planner Lennie Luke tells us that over the summer the Parks Department plans to add picnic tables, railing, an information kiosk, and more.   In the fall, the Friends will be out there again to finish creating a demonstration native plant garden next to the parking area.   There are plans to include our park in a tour of sites during the Virginian Native Plant Society Annual Conference this fall.

But we weren't done yet.   On Saturday, many of the same volunteers returned to the park to lead the Clean the Bay Day event.   This time 40 volunteers – grateful for the new parking area -descended on the park to clean up trash in the park.   Volunteers came from our Friends group, the Tidewater Master Naturalists, the Cub Scouts, Centura College, the Kempsville Presbyterian Church, and as individuals, to help find and pick up trash.  This annual event, started by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and supported by counties and cities across Virginia, including the City of Chesapeake, aims to clear the trash that spoils of shores and endangers wildlife. 

Indian River Park protects the headwaters of the Indian River which flows into the Bay.  While the trails in the park are reasonably well kept and usually have minimal litter, over the year a significant volume of litter gets washed down the stream and is spread over the flood plain. Much of this is thoughtlessly discarded bottles, cans, food wrappers, and cigarette butts that are washed in from the surrounding neighborhoods as storm waters wash them from yards and streets into the park.    This year our volunteers trudged into the flood plain and pulled out nearly 1000 pounds of trash including all previously mentioned items, several tires, and - winning the prize for oddest item - a 10' kiddie slide.   Afterwards, many of volunteers got together to enjoy a well-deserved picnic.

We owe a tremendous thank you to all the volunteers who came out over the past couple of days and really over the past year.  Without their efforts we could not have accomplished the many projects we've been involved in including the tree planting along Indian River Road, the gardens at the bridge, roadside cleanups, the new nature trail at the park, and several other efforts.