Thursday, October 30, 2014

Restoring Habitat on Chapel Island

On Wednesday, October 22, 2014 volunteers braved the rain to help JRA remove invasive species and replant the understory on Chapel Island at Great Shiplock Park in Richmond. 

Thanks to the 22 volunteers that came out that day, piles of invasive plant species including Privet and Japanese Honeysuckle were removed from the island. This made room to plant nearly 300 native shrubs, grasses and perennial plants that provide habitat for wildlife and reduce stormwater runoff.

Some of the plants used in this project include Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis), Virginia Sweetspire (Itea virginica), Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnate), Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica) and River Oats (Chasmanthium latifolium). To find out more about native plants, visit

This project was inspired by the Envision the James' James River Wildlife and Landscape Conservation Initiative in partnership with the James River Park System, Chesapeake Conservancy, Capital Trees, Groundwork RVA and HandsOn Greater Richmond. It also compliments recent efforts to enhance Great Shiplock Park and Chapel Island. 

Thank you to the DuPont Clear into the Future grant for making this possible.

Another volunteer day is planned for Thursday, November 20, 2014. Join us on Chapel Island to help remove more invasive species and replant the understory with beautiful native plants. Register for the volunteer day here.

Friday, October 17, 2014

4th RiverRats Annual Raft-Up

By Amber Ellis, JRA Volunteer Coordinator

The 4th Annual RiverRats Raft-Up was held at the Natural Bridge Hotel in Natural Bridge on October 4-5, 2014. The weekend started with a talk on the Terrain 360 project on the James River by speakers Ryan Abrahamsen with Terrain 360 and Andy Thompson with Richmond Outside. The website is still being developed, but it’s going to be a great resource for river users.

RiverRats had the opportunity to choose from two advanced training options. The first option was “Planning and Planting a Riparian Buffer”, led by Amber Ellis, JRA’s Wastershed Associate and Rob Campbell, JRA’s Lynchburg Outreach Coordinator. Sediment continues to be an issue facing the health of the James River and hopefully our RiverRats are encouraged to take on buffer planting as their Action Projects.   

The second training option was focused on the emerging threats to the James River related to the train derailment and oil spill in Lynchburg in April 2014.  This training session was led by JRA’s Riverkeepers, Pat Calvert and Jamie Brunkow, and JRA’s Williamsburg Outreach Coordinator, Christiana Tambone.

After meeting and talking with other river lovers over lunch, the afternoon was spent paddling the James River from Buchanan to Arcadia! Some RiverRats brought their own boats, others went on kayaks provided by Twin River Outfitters. The fall colors had begun to show and the temperature definitely felt like fall!

That evening, four awards were given out to those RiverRats who have gone above and beyond their duties. The Upper James award went to Dale and Diane East, Middle James to Jennifer Styrsky, and Lower James to Jack Snell. Steve Forrest received an award for his overall commitment to helping the James River.

Some folks stayed the night in the cabins across the street from the hotel and got to enjoy a warm fire with local musicians Blake Shester, Burr Datz, and Chris McGrath. They call themselves The Fermenters.   

Sunday morning, everyone enjoyed a huge breakfast at the Natural Bridge Hotel. Then some of the braver folks went rafting from Glasgow to Snowden through Balcony Falls guided by Twin River Outfitters. The morning started off chilly, but everyone had an amazing time through this beautiful part of the James River.

 It was a great weekend to meet other RiverRats, explore what the upper James River has to offer, and learn a few things. The James River Association couldn’t do what it does without this hardworking and passionate group of RiverRats. All of them thanked JRA staff throughout the weekend for holding this event for them, but the bigger thanks goes to them for all they do for the James River! THANK YOU!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Help JRA do ‘Amazing’ things through Give Richmond’s Amazing Raise.

The Amazing Raise is a 36-hour giving campaign that takes place from 6 am, September 17 to 6 pm, September 18.  During this exciting 36-hour giving campaign more than 500 Richmond-area nonprofit organizations will collect donations and compete for the chance to win additional incentive prizes ranging from $500 to $15,000!  See complete list of prizes here.

Here’s how YOU can do something AMAZING for the James…
  •  Starting on September 17 at 6 am visit JRA’s website and use the form to donate. Or you can revisit this blog and donate below. 
  • All donations must be made online by credit or debit card. Minimum donation is $25.
  • Only gifts made through the donation form between 6 am on September 17 and 6 pm on September 18  count toward JRA’s The Amazing Raise total.
  • You can make your gift in honor or memory of a loved one. And, you can track JRA’s progress on the realtime leaderboard here.

What AMAZING things has JRA done this past year?
Here are just a few examples. Thanks to the support of people like you, JRA has…
  • Helped build a new Chickahominy River access point.
  • Served 2,403 students through our Education Program.
  • Created the third artificial sturgeon spawning reef.
  •          Trained over 40 new JRA volunteer RiverRats. JRA currently has over 180 RiverRats who patrol 85% of the main-stem of the James River.

Help JRA do more AMAZING things to protect America’s Founding River through your donation of $50 or more during the Amazing Raise, 6 am September 17 to 6 pm September 18! Go to to donate and learn more about the Amazing James!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Stormwater Runoff Reduction in Petersburg

By Matthew Perry, JRA Intern

On July 22, JRA and the Center for Watershed Protection (CWP) trained the City of Petersburg’s executive staff on the importance of stormwater management. The training focused on how the City’s departments could work together to limit its stormwater runoff and how they could foster a sense of environmental stewardship in its communities. From the head of the Municipal Golf Course to the Police Chief, everyone in the meeting room remained engaged and involved during presentations from both JRA and CWP.

This was the inaugural training of JRA’s Promoting Green Infrastructure program, which is designed to increase the understanding and facilitate the implementation of green stormwater projects. The program focuses on three urban areas within the James River watershed: Lynchburg, Charlottesville, and Petersburg. In each locality, JRA will work to increase stormwater knowledge, engage local citizens on stormwater issues, and establish a “Walkable Watershed” in a neighborhood. The walkable watersheds will connect a community to a nearby creek or stream, establish safe passage routes for pedestrians and cyclists to schools and community centers, and contain watershed improvements that help slow, infiltrate, and clean rain water. Not only will the neighborhood that hosts the walkable watershed reduce its stormwater impact, it will also benefit from the beautification and community-building that comes from making green space an important component of their area. This concept was introduced to all attendees at the meeting and was met with considerable approval.

Although the implementation process has not yet begun in Petersburg, this meeting marked a crucial step in the program: getting government officials educated and involved. Every official left the meeting with a new understanding of stormwater issues and how to address them. By establishing an environmentally-friendly mentality in Petersburg, JRA can ensure that all government departments will work together to make green infrastructure a reality in their city. Citizens and city officials both share the motivation for pollution reduction and both are ready to meet the challenge with assistance from JRA and CWP. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Free Trees for Richmond City Residents

Do you live in the City of Richmond?  Are you interested in planting trees in your yard and becoming a River Hero Home?  If you answered yes to both of these questions JRA wants to give you free trees! 

During the fall planting season, JRA is offering free trees to Richmond City residents. You can receive up to a $200 reimbursement per home for trees planted on your property.

Trees are an important feature for any property because they reduce stormwater runoff and provide aesthetic value. Tree canopies capture and store rainfall and reduce soil erosion. They take up a large amount of water from the soil and provide important habitat for wildlife. Their shade can also help homeowners reduce the cost of cooling their home.

This tree incentive program is only open to City of Richmond residents and reimbursements are available September through November 2014. You must be an existing River Hero Home or submit an application to become a new River Hero Home to qualify.

River Hero Homes is JRA’s certification program that recognizes homeowners who are successfully taking steps to improve water quality by reducing the amount of stormwater and pollution leaving their property. To become certified, JRA requires homeowners to install a river-friendly practice, such as planting trees or installing a rain barrel, as well as following some simple everyday actions to reduce pollution. These actions, which include picking up after your pet or planting native plants, may seem small, but when adopted on a wide scale, can have a significant impact on local water quality.

Tree reimbursements are available on a first-come, first-serve basis and will be available until funding runs out. For more information about this program, and to find out if your property qualifies, go to  

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Top 5 Overnight Paddles on the James River

by Amber Ellis, JRA's Watershed Restoration Associate/Volunteer Coordinator

Summer time is upon us and what better way to enjoy the long days then to go for an overnight weekend paddle trip! Below are a few that our JRA RiverRats and staff have recommended as their top picks. They are listed in order from the headwaters to the middle James.

Please remember to stay safe on the river, and check river level conditions before you head out:

1.     Iron Gate to Eagle Rock: This is a 14 mile trip that starts at the Iron Gate boat launch below Route 220, just a mile below the confluence of the Jackson and Cowpasture River (aka the start of the James River!).  It’s a beautiful stretch that is surrounded by mountains, rocky bluffs, and contains Class I and II rapids. The first stretch from Iron Gate to Gala is 10 miles and camping is available at Gala River Front Campground. Day 2 is a 4 mile stretch, which has several of Class I rapids. The take out is at the DGIF Craig Creek access at Eagle Rock. To see pictures Click Here.

2.     Glen Maury Park to Snowden:  This roughly 15 mile trip starts in Buena Vista at Glen Maury Park. The put in is at the park on river right across the 10th St bridge. The paddle begins on the Maury River and ends on the James, winding through lush green mountains. It is for the more experienced paddler and goes through Class I, II, and III rapids including Balcony Falls. The camping area is just before Balcony Falls on river right and is on property owned by the National Forest Service. Many folks consider this the best camping spot on the James! Get a good rest and go through Balcony Falls on day 2. Take out is at Snowden on river left right after these Class III rapids.

3.     Bent Creek to Wingina:  This 14.5 mile trip is great for all levels of paddlers as it passes through easy Class I and II rapids. This section is filled with islands and you will see quite a bit of tubers as well. The put in is at Bent Creek at the Route 60 bridge with camping 7 miles downriver at James River State Park on river right. On day 2 head out and go another 7 miles to the take out at Wingina at the Route 56 bridge. Click here for a more detailed description.

4.     Howardsville to Bremo Bluff: This is a 25 mile stretch that could be broken into a smaller trip such as or Howardsville to Scottsville or Scottsville to Bremo, or any other combination. This stretch contains some Class I and II rapids. You can camp on either side of the river in Scottsville and enjoy a night walking through town. This is a favorite stretch by several of JRA’s RiverRats.  A local outfitter out of Scottsville, James River Reeling and Rafting, offers trips if this is your first overnight or if you don’t own a boat. Click Here for a more detailed description of the trip.

5.     Cartersville to Maidens: This is about a 17 mile stretch with the put in at the Cartersville boat landing. It’s a very easy stretch with flatwater and the characteristic rolling hills of the piedmont region. There are a few Class I riffles, but is a great option for beginners or fisherman. Camping is at Powhatan State Park at their new canoe-in campground.

If you are looking at some other options or more information, visit the links below.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Students represent the James through Eco Art

Every year Megan Wright, an art teacher at St. Bridget’s School, puts on an art show to showcase her students’ work. This year’s theme was EcoArt and focused on the flora and fauna of the Richmond region. Projects included watercolors of birds native to Virginia and a forest made out of recycled paper. First graders at the school were tasked with creating Atlantic sturgeon using paints and pastels to swim through a representation of the James River.

Before the first graders could create their sturgeon, they needed to learn about these ancient giants. They watched JRA’s new documentary The Great Return of the Atlantic Sturgeon, and marveled at the size of these fish, learning about their prehistoric existence and their triumph as the “fish that saved Jamestown.” Most importantly, students learned that by keeping the James River clean, they can help protect the environment and bring back more sturgeon to Virginia. 

Even though weeks have passed since
their EcoArt showcase, Ms. Wright reports that her students are still fascinated by Atlantic sturgeon. They have taken it upon themselves to educate their families about this miraculous fish and about how they can help the James River. 

Education is at the heart of JRA’s mission and we couldn’t be more excited to learn about a new group of future river guardians!

To learn more about St. Bridget’s School’s EcoArt project, visit