Tuesday, December 27, 2022

2022 Year In Review

This year marks the 10-year anniversary of Friends of Indian River.  Ten years ago, we called a meeting with the goal of finding like-minded people who wanted to improve the quality of life for all the residents of the Indian River neighborhoods.   Many turned out for that first meeting, and many kept coming back.  Over the past decade, hundreds of volunteers have performed nearly 8000 hours of service in projects in our community organized by the Friends of Indian River.  We are sincerely thankful for everyone's contribution.

In 2022, our signature project was the planting over 40 native trees and shrubs, plus various grasses and flowers in the Indian River Gateway Tree Planting by the Indian River Oaklette Bridge.  Funded by 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, this was a major project to beautify the area.  

Some other highlights of the year include: 

  • On-going efforts at Indian River Park including maintaining the Native Plant Garden, Invasive Plant Removal, Trail Maintenance, and working on planning efforts with the Parks, Recreations and Tourism (PRT) Department.
  • Planting 5 trees and shrubs and maintaining entrance landscaping at Plymouth Park  
  • 2000 lbs. of trash removed from our streets, parks, and waterways during multiple volunteer cleanups around the area as part of our Adopt-A-Road program on Indian River Road, Clean the Bay Day, and the International Coastal Cleanup.  
  • Seven hikes and walks including a First Day Hike, the Great Backyard Bird Count, several Second Saturday Hikes at Indian River Park, and a History Walk through parts of the Norfolk Highlands and Oaklette neighborhoods. 
  • Four guest speakers at our bi-monthly meetings and a spring picnic.
  • Fourth annual "Main Street" Indian River Holiday Decoration Contest in December
  • Friends of Indian River Education Scholarship Award to a worthy graduate of Indian River High School for third consecutive year
  • The Friends of Indian River received the Chesapeake Environmental Improvement Council's Environmental Award for Community Organizations
  • Altogether, 72 volunteers performed over 680 hours of service in the community.
On the flip side, there were some important priorities that saw little progress in 2022, especially around the Indian River Planning Area Study.  Early in 2022, the City approved capital funding to create Commercial Design Guidelines and to implement bike lanes along Indian River Road called for in the Study, but neither effort has progressed much due to staffing shortages in both the City Planning and Procurement departments.  Likewise, plans to create a steering committee to coordinate work around the Planning Area Study are still pending.   A Request for Bids on the construction of the new Blue Heron Landing Park on the Indian River was put out early in 2022, but the bids came in far above the projected budget and the City decided to modify the Request to put it out for re-bidding; that new Request is also still being reviewed by Procurement.  In 2023, we also hope to see work start on developing a City-wide Trails and Open Space Plan and an Urban Forestry Management Plan.  These are all key efforts to which the Friends of Indian River hope to support in 2023.  

Please join us for our Annual Meeting to help us plan for 2023 and hold elections for our Board.  The meeting will be on Thursday, January 19 at 7 pm at Oaklette United Methodist Church, 520 Oaklette Drive.   All are welcome.

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 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.  In 2021, 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 redo the landscaping in this area.  Working with a professional landscaper in the spring of this year, we landscaped and planted 14 native trees (magnolias, red cedars, fringe trees, a red bud, and a black gum) 27 native shrubs, 30 native muhly and fountain grasses, and hundreds of daylilies.  Just before our planting, Hampton Roads Transit installed a new bus shelter at the site and City Public Works installed new turn chevron signs on the bridge approach.  Now our volunteers are doing the on-going work to keep the landscaping weeded and good looking.  

Still on the books 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.  As with several other projects, work on this is still pending and now targeted for completion in 2023.  

Volunteer Events

We got back into the swing of things with volunteer events this year.   We held four Adopt-A-Road Cleanups along Indian River Road, held a Clean the Bay Day event at Indian River Park in partnership with the Southern Auto Volkswagen Dealership in the spring, and did a waterborne International Coastal Cleanup on the river in the fall.    All together our volunteers removed about 2000 lbs. of trash from the community's streets, parks, and shoreline

We held several Adopt-A-Park events at Indian River Park, both to tend to the Native Plant Garden at the trailhead and do invasive plant management in the park.  We had on-going efforts by trained individuals and small groups to manage and remove English Ivy, Japanese Stilt Grass, Linden Viburnum and Chinese Privet in the park.  For Earth Day, a team from Dollar Tree came out with one of our trained volunteers to cut English Ivy encroaching on the park trees.  

We also continued trail maintenance activities, removing minor trail blockages and working with Parks, Recreations and Tourism (PRT) Department to deal with any larger issues.  PRT continued work to rebuild several key bridges over the creeks in the park, including several on the north end of the park and the key bridge at the power lines.  

In September, PRT held a well-attended Public Planning Meeting to gather input on opportunities for improving visitor experience for the many user groups who love the park. Some of the key comments we heard: What do folks love about the park?   The mature forest, the location nearby, the multiple use options.  What changes would you like to see?  Better trail maintenance and signage, removal of invasives, some requests for more "wooden features" for bikers, better erosion control, port-a-potties, a water station, and more trash cans.  The Friends will continue to work with PRT on planning and implementing improvements at the park.  

At Plymouth Park, another volunteer focused on caring for its flower bed, keeping an eye on the tree plantings, and doing ad hoc litter cleanups.   We also did a volunteer tree planting at Plymouth Park, planting 2 Persimmon Trees, 2 Hazelnut Trees, and a False Indigo Bush, all of which are native to this area.   On the same day another effort led by the Chesapeake Tree Board, planted saplings along Border Road which will eventually help absorb runoff as part of a stormwater swale.   

And of course, there was various "back office" work to keep up the organization and do outreach and communication.  All told, our 72 volunteers reported more than 680 hours of effort this year.

We also want to thank the Chesapeake Environmental Improvement Council also organized another cleanup at Indian River Park for the Great American Cleanup in March.  Also, the Chesapeake Master Gardeners and Cooperative Extension Office which worked with local residents to the Plymouth Park neighborhood to do residential tree plantings in both the spring and fall. 

Connecting with Nature

We had several more Second Saturday Hikes at Indian River Park in 2022 and plan to continue with these in 2023.   We also did a hike around the Indian River Civic Campus (Community Center/ Library/ Middle School/ High School/ Lake area) for the Great Backyard Bird Count in February.  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.

Civic Engagement

In 2022, we switched to a bi-monthly meeting schedule.  Guest speakers this year included:
Norfolk Highlands Primary
School c. 1913
  • Rogard Ross giving a presentation on the History of the Indian River Area
  • Mickie Nance, Hoffler Creek Wildlife Preserve
  • Karen and Steve McCurdy, Butterfly Society of Virginia
  • Mayor Rick West, City of Chesapeake
In June, we had held a picnic instead of a regular indoor meeting.   We'll discuss making this an annual event.  In October, we organized a History Walk around Norfolk Highlands and Oaklette area, talking about how the name Indian River originated, some of the initial colonial land grants, and the development of the community from a trolley-car suburb in the early 1900's to today.  

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 fourth 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. 
Winners this year were Midway Veterinary Hospital, Vohringer & Bryant Chiropractic, and Trade Team USA.

Honorable Mentions go to Affordable Transmission, Botanica Spiritual House,  Colorscapes Painting and Design, Direct Auto Insurance, Moulton Tax Service, The Pig Shop BBQ Eatery, Popeyes, Hair2O Studio, Fast Food Mart, and the NAE Federal Credit Union.

Indian River High School Scholarship

This was the third 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 Abigale Sloniker, who is interested in pursuing Biochemistry or Chemistry as an area of study in college.  Among other accomplishments, she was a student representative to the City's Human Services Advisory Board.  

Graduates in the class of 2023 will be able to apply for this scholarship in the coming months.

Awards and Recognitions

The Friends of Indian River received the Chesapeake Environmental Improvement Council's Environmental Award for Community Organizations, recognizing our restoration work in our watershed.  

Active Supporting Members and Volunteers 2022

Affordable Transmissions M
Jill Arnone M
Kevin Bailey M
Gary Ball MV
Susan Ball M
Madison Barton V
Andrew Bates V
Larry Bender V
Mark Bunker V
Diane Burke MV*
Joe Burke M
Margie Carraway M
Dollar Tree V
Brian Easley MV
Vickie Easley MV
Lynn Gilbert M*
Grace Gonzales V
Sarah Kelly Gonzales V
David and Lynn Greenfield M 

Gilbert Griffin MV
Helene Haluska MV*
Jim Haluska M
Jim Harrison M
Jim Hartle MV*
Eric Holsinger V
Jill Jamison MV
Lisa and Tom Kennedy M
Janet Kerns V
Elizabeth Kessler M
Rachel Knight V
Sharon Komenda MV*
Mella Leibrand V
Shamar Mason V
Chris MathewMV
Ed MathewMV
Barbara McCane M*
Nicolas McConlogue V
Karen and Davis Mellott M
Debbie Moore M 
Keith Moore MV
Michael Nerino M
Vic Nichols M
Amy PetersenM
Jennifer Raymond MV
Dennie Reno M
Rogard Ross MV*
Jack Saladino V
Shore Consulting Group, LLC M
Edward Sorey and family V
Susan and Emily Vitale V
Carol Warren MV*
Amy Weber MV*
Shirley Whitehurst M
Alex Whitney V
Chris Whitney MV*
Jayne Whitney MV*
Shaun Wynn-Bouder M

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

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