First Bay Awareness Week Makes a Splash
This year, Virginia's first annual Chesapeake Bay Awareness Week (June 4 to 12) was kicked off by a longtime Virginian tradition: Clean the Bay Day. As CBF's largest yearly clean-up event, the day brought 6,000 people together to clean up harmful debris and litter from hundreds of miles of streams and shoreline in just three short hours.
Photos (top to bottom): Rep. Rob Wittman pitches in at Clean the Bay Day on the James River in Richmond; Bobby Whitescarver and Rebecca Leprell remove invasive species from a buffer in Augusta County; examing oysters at an oyster gardening workshop. Photos courtesy of Kenny Fletcher/CBF Staff.
At more than 260 sites across Virginia, the thousands of volunteers removed approximately 138,000 pounds of trash along some 440 miles of shoreline. A mix of 20 elected officials participated in the cleanup, including Congressman Rob Wittman. As usual, the most common items found were plastic bottles, plastic bags, and cigarette butts. But volunteers were also surprised by many strange finds, including a lottery ticket station, a crock pot, a jet ski, a complete car transmission and an axle, a teddy bear with Mardi Gras beads, a headless G.I. Joe doll, a mounted deer head, a screen door, a smart phone, a walkie-talkie, and two kitchen sinks.
Later in the week, CBF celebrated Awareness Week with conservation-minded farmers in the Shenandoah Valley. At David Surratt's farm in Fishersville, CBF staff and Virginia State Senator Emmett Hanger visited a newly installed stream fencing project that keeps cattle out of waterways. "It offers a win-win solution for restoring the Bay as these practices not only improve water quality but stimulate local economies and sustain our agricultural industry," Hanger told NBC 29.
A few days later, CBF Trustee Jeanne Hoffman and her husband Bobby Whitescarver hosted 56 people at their Augusta County farm for a walk along the Middle River. The hike highlighted the wildlife, native plants, and trees that have returned to the riverside since they fenced cattle out of the waterways in 2004.
"Twelve years ago beef cattle farmer Jeanne and soil and water conservationist Bobby were married," Whitescarver told the crowd. "This farm is a reflection of our mutual respect for each other. It's a marriage of values, working together as one. Jeanne wants more grass, and I want more buffer. What you see today is how we put it together to work for the cow and the river. And I think you will see as you walk the river and its tributaries that a farm can indeed produce both food and clean water."
Beyond Awareness week, we've kicked off a host of exciting events and restoration projects. This June, CBF hosted oyster gardening seminars and roundups at seven different locations across Tidewater Virginia, from the Northern Neck to Hampton Roads and the Eastern Shore.
Oyster gardening volunteers raise oysters from their dock or a marina. These events teach oyster growing basics to new gardeners and provide them with a setup and baby oysters. Returning gardeners can swap out their full-grown oysters for new baby oysters. CBF then plants the full-grown oysters on a Virginia sanctuary reef near where they were raised. This year, CBF has worked with 227 oyster gardeners so far and counting, while last year's gardeners returned more than 23,000 oysters and seed for our restoration efforts.
CBF Oyster gardeners also submitted 214 letters thanking Virginia's elected officials for strong support for clean water during the 2016 General Assembly session, while asking that we keep up the momentum next year.
It's encouraging to see that programs like these, coupled with the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, are putting us on the path to a restored Bay.
Hampton Roads Director
Chesapeake Bay Foundation