Located near Virginia’s capital, Richmond, the City of Hopewell sits on 11 square miles at the confluence of the Appomattox and James Rivers. The city developed into an industrial hub in the early 1900s, with many manufacturing giants, including DuPont, Allied Chemical, and WestRock, building their factories in Hopewell.
Like many older cities, much of Hopewell was built prior to requirements for stormwater management, resulting in large expanses of impervious surfaces with no stormwater controls. As a result, many streams within the city have suffered dramatic erosion. Pollution from decades of commercial use and economic disinvestment has reduced the environmental and aesthetic benefits local waterways could provide for residents. And the increased flooding risk from stormwater runoff can cause repeated and costly damage to homes and businesses.
Unfortunately, the lack of stormwater controls and eroding channels contributed to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality listing segments of the Appomattox River and the tidal James River on its “Dirty Waters List.” The Virginia Department of Health has placed the Appomattox River in Hopewell on its fish consumption advisory list for 23 species of fish due to PCB contaminations, and for all fish species because of Kepone contamination (Kepone is a pesticide manufactured by Allied Chemical and illegally dumped into Hopewell rivers in the 1960s and 1970s, eventually resulting in significant fines and environmental awareness in Virginia and across the country.)
In 2018, the city, with the help of CBF and other project partners, completed its Riverside Park Greenway. This effort restored one of Hopewell’s oldest parks, connected the city marina to green space, and made progress towards the city’s Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint goals by preventing significant amounts of pollutants and sediment from reaching local waterways.
We are now working with the city to build on this work, restoring eroding stream channels and reestablishing floodplain wetlands.
CBF has also committed to serve the diverse and low-income populations of Hopewell through our urban trees canopy initiative. Research shows that trees have benefits for pulmonary and cardiovascular health, mental health, and children’s birthweight—all issues that need to be addressed in Hopewell. CBF created a tree canopy assessment for the city in summer 2018. This assessment revealed a direct correlation between low-income areas and areas with a low percentage of tree canopy. These same census blocks also have lower life expectancies. Not surprisingly, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation County Health Rankings ranked Hopewell near the bottom of Virginia localities in terms of health outcomes
Project Activities for 2019-2020
This project will engage 280 volunteers who will contribute an estimated 1,110 hours of their time on water-quality management initiatives.
Increase Urban Tree Canopy: CBF is leading efforts to increase the urban tree canopy in Hopewell. First, we are conducting street-by-street site visits in targeted low income, low tree canopy areas of the city to design and map a planting plan. As suitable sites are selected and refined with community engagement, volunteers will plant trees. In addition, we will work with Hopewell’s Department of Recreation and Parks to plant trees in recently upgraded city parks. A total of 250 trees will be planted as part of the effort.
Tree Stewards Program: To increase the survivability of the trees planted in the city, CBF is establishing a Tree Stewards program. Volunteers will be trained to work with the city’s arborist to stake, water, prune, weed, and mulch the city’s trees. The Tree Stewards will also assist the city in identifying future planting opportunities and trees that need to be replaced due to age or disease. The Tree Stewards curriculum will be taught by Virginia Department of Urban Forestry Community Forestry Specialists, Virginia Cooperation Extension Urban Forestry Specialists, and Tree Stewards from neighboring localities.
Community Tree Giveaway: CBF is also engaging the wider city community by giving away approximately 400 bare-root trees at community events held near Arbor Day. We are providing planting guides and tips for caring for young trees and asking participants to sign a pledge that they will plant and care for their trees.
Stream Restoration Project: City staff is leading a stream restoration project adjacent to Hopewell High School, Patrick Copeland Elementary School, and Mathis Park—the most heavily used city park. Between the schools and the park, this is one of the area’s most active community gathering spots. The project will restore close to a quarter mile of actively eroding stream channel and re-establish adjacent floodplain wetlands.
Meaningful Watershed Education Experience: CBF and Hopewell City Schools are partnering to train Hopewell High School and Patrick Copeland Elementary School teachers to develop curricula that takes advantage of the stream restoration project mentioned above. CBF will offer a five-day teacher professional learning course that will focus on the cause-and-effect relationship between land use and stream channel erosion, and resulting habitat loss and water quality impairments. The stream restoration project will provide a hands-on learning resource for both teachers and students.
Habitat at Home: CBF will partner with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries to deliver two Habitat at Home programs. These workshops educate residents about the important connections between native plants, habitat health, biodiversity, and improved water quality. We will also lead two conservation landscaping workshops demonstrating how to design living landscapes. These workshops will include opportunities for participants to receive site evaluation, design, and installation of “conservation corners” on their residential property. Conservation corners are a way to reduce managed turf and increase infiltration by incorporating organic matter, which improves soil health, reduces flooding, and educates homeowners about their role in helping improve water quality.
Bees, Trees, and Clean Water Workshop: CBF will partner with Xerces Society to offer this daylong workshop teaching Hopewell residents about Virginia’s native bee populations and the connections between native plants and water quality.
Invasive Species Removal Events: CBF and Hopewell Stormwater and Recreation and Parks staff will offer four invasive species removal events.
Project Funders and Partners
CBF is thankful to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for funding the continuation of our work in Hopewell. We are also appreciative of our partners that are helping CBF meet the project deliverables, including the City of Hopewell, especially the Department of Public Works, the Department of Recreation and Parks, and Hopewell Public Schools; Friends of the Lower Appomattox; Virginia Cooperative Extension; Virginia Department of Forestry; Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries; and Xerces Society.