James River Association Celebrates 40 Years of Improvements to Our Watery Playground

If you do anything in your day that includes water, you should appreciate how important it is for it to be clean and free of pollution.

“A fully healthy James River will help our community thrive,” said Bill Street, the CEO of the James River Association. “It can be our greatest asset or our greatest liability.”

James River Association 40th Anniversary Celebration at The Boathouse, Oct. 27, 2016

James River Association 40th Anniversary Celebration at The Boathouse, Oct. 27, 2016

Street was speaking in Richmond Thursday evening during the celebration of the James River Association’s 40th Anniversary, which included an oyster roast, great food and cocktails at The Boathouse restaurant at Rocketts Landing. The meeting was the final of three annual meetings held throughout the watershed. The first two were held in Williamsburg and Lynchburg and included updates on the nonprofit’s progress as well as a look to the future.

He and other speakers on the evening spoke about nature deficit disorder and our need as a society to spend more time connecting with Mother Nature. “Studies have shown us that if people have a personal experience outdoors, they are twice as likely to care and say that they are willing to do their share and invest in protecting the environment,” he said.

What better way than a visit to your favorite sport on the river?

According to the 2015 State of the James River Report, the overall health of the river was graded as a B-minus. Street said that 40 years ago when the James River Association was formed, the river was graded as a D-minus.

“Now it is one of the most improved rivers in the country” and one of the healthiest tributaries to the Chesapeake Bay, he said. “Where the Boathouse is [now] was once one of the most polluted in the country.”

Street told a few touching stories about how nasty the river had become. Hard to believe we would tolerate that kind of abuse, especially since it is the primary source of drinking water for the Richmond region.

“We had really just reached the low point,” he said. The river had been shut down to fishing. Pollution made the river unsafe for recreational use. “The James was looked at as dispose all, a dumping ground…raw sewage was released into the river,” he said. “Truly we had reached the depths.”

If you’ve never read about Newton Ancarrow, you may not know about how unhealthy and polluted the James River was in by the 1970s. It is safe to say that people like Ancarrow were the inspiration for people like Ralph White (retired James River Park manager) that made Richmond take notice of this beautiful asset – which is now a watery playground for so many after decades of neglect.

Now we have the highest concentration of bald eagles on the East Coast and one of the most robust populations of Atlantic Sturgeon as well.

Street said that the JRA was challenged to look ahead to 10 years from now and how they should celebrate at their 50th anniversary. He mentioned several developments and initiatives that will help in the next decade:

Street said the James River Association helped open 20 new access points along the James River in the past year. Also, they have continued to push for improvements to the Richmond Riverfront and have continued to help plan for more recreational options on rivers that feed the Chesapeake Bay by participating in the Regional Rivers Plan.

At the event, the JRA recognized this year’s River Hero Award winners: Alyson Sappington from the Thomas Jefferson Soil and Water Conservation District and Julie Coleman, an educator who is currently at Monacan High School in Chesterfield County.

home page

Tour new ecology school on island in James

Credit: JRA

Credit: JRA

In Sunday’s Times-Dispatch column, I wrote about the James River Association’s now-complete ecology school on Presquile National Wildlife Refuge, an island 20 miles south of Richmond in the tidal James River. I traveled out there for a press junket this past Thursday, and I plan on going back on April 13th when the JRA holds its grand opening celebration, which is open to the public.

According to the JRA, the day-long event will include:

There will be boat shuttles to and from the island between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. If you’ve never been to Presquile (or never even heard of it), this is a great opportunity to see an overlooked gem of a natural area that isn’t generally open to the public. It will also be a great way to get the kids out exploring nature. Programs tailored specifically to youth will be available.


home page

The James River: Past, Present and Future

The James River Association is dedicated to helping clean and protect America’s Founding River, see these opportunities for you to help:Read More

home page

JRA unveils new online map resource

The James River Association has a cool new tool on their website that river lovers will find useful. It’s called James River Watch, and it allows users to check on a number of water quality indicators from home via an interactive map.

To avoid this beast on the lower James, check out James River Watch before you swim.

From a press release: “James River Watch features an easy-to-understand, interactive map that gives up-to-the-hour information such as river height and water temperature. Color-coded dots at public boat landings provide local condition information. In the Upper and Middle James, information is provided by U.S. Geological Survey river gauge stations. In the Lower James, information including wave height, is provided by National Oceanic Atmospheric Association river buoys.”

Let’s say you plan on going swimming in the James down by Williamsburg. If you go to the site first, you can find out if stinging nettles, harmful algae and bacteria have shown up in that area and at what levels. Farther upstream you can check conditions like water temperature at a number of different James River tributaries. It’s a great resource, and the JRA hopes to include additional features, like fishing conditions and pollution alerts, in the future.

home page

Are you tired of seeing trash in our rivers, streams, streets, and parks?

Are you tired of seeing trash in our rivers, streams, streets, and parks? See this release from the James River Association and let them help you plan a trash cleanup. Read More

home page

James River Association announces ‘River Hero Homes’

Spring showers are just around the corner and to help homeowners reduce the amount of stormwater and pollution leaving their property, the James River Association has launched a new certification program called River Hero Homes! Read More

home page

JRA needs comments on Presquile proposal

The James River Association has been working on a project at Presquile National Wildlife Refuge to help educate children and the plan is currently open for public comment.Read More

home page

Q&A: James River’s overall health down to C

Andy Thompson’s Sunday column was a Q&A with the James River Association‘s Bill Street, discussing the health of the James River.Read More

home page

“State of the James” report gives river a grade of “C”

The James at the rocks at 42nd Street.

This just-released report shows stalled progress on the overall health of the James River as the James River Association’s “State of the James” gives river a grade of “C.”Read More

home page

Experiencing nature while volunteering with JRA at Presquile

I went on a field trip down with Andy Thompson to the southeastern tip of Chesterfield County this week to volunteer with the James River Association at Presquile Island. Big adventure time!Read More

home page