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!