The James River Advisory Council recognized five outstanding individuals with the organization’s annual Stewards of the River Awards in a ceremony Thursday morning at the Robins Nature and Visitor Center at Maymont.
Each spring, members of the regional council, which serves as a forum to discuss river issues, nominate individuals who have shown uncommon dedication and commitment to the James River. Recipients of the awards need not be JRAC members to be selected.
The following were named JRAC’s 2013 Stewards of the River:
Ralph White, Exceptional Service Award — From his active membership on several JRAC committees to his unwavering dedication to be a voice for the river and the community through which it flows, White, the recently retired manager of Richmond’s James River Park System, has for years placed the river’s importance as a natural and recreational resource at the forefront of regional discussions. Never afraid to voice concerns or throw kudos to where they are truly deserved, White continues to harness the potential of an entire metropolitan region to adopt the James River Park System as an invaluable urban wilderness.
Jessica Noll and Matt McClain, Communication Award — This husband-and-wife team is well-known for their work at WTVR-TV CBS 6. Noll, executive producer, and McClain, creative services director, for years have shown outstanding dedication to promoting JRAC’s hallmark events, the James River Regional Cleanup and the James River Parade of Lights. In addition to the considerable airtime they devote to JRAC, which helps to attract thousands to the river, they roll up their sleeves for the annual cleanup and get dirty as part of a boat crew that visits out-of-the-way places to pull bulky trash from the muddy shorelines.
Gabe Silver, Education Award — During his time working for the James River Association, the former education and outreach manager inspired thousands of youths through hands-on programs on the river. In addition to spearheading the development of a number of programs and events, Silver also worked to help establish and increase awareness of the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail and James River Ecology School at Presquile National Wildlife Refuge.
Lorne Field, Community Partnership Award — Field, the environmental outreach coordinator for the Chesterfield County Environmental Engineering Department, leads the county’s Rain Garden Installation and Design Project and is a significant voice for outreach and public awareness programs related to the river and water quality, including the “Stop the Drop” campaign that encourages pet owners to pick up after their pets. Field also publishes JRAC’s e-newsletter and uses social media to reach out to new audiences.