Preparing for launch at Hunter’s Island Hike

Outreach events will have a new look and sound this spring at Friends of the Rappahannock (FOR). We want to bring our message of river advocacy and stewardship to as many people as possible, so we’ve kicked off a couple of new programs and enhanced some our most popular events from years past.

One new program for 2018 is Nuestro Rappahannock (Our Rappahannock), a Spanish-language component of our outreach tools. We’ve always tried to engage people about river safety and conservation concepts, and Nuestro Rappahannock will complement that work by reaching out to the approximately 10% of the Fredericksburg population that speaks Spanish. FOR is translating handouts and brochures that previously were available only in English. FOR has done this kind of work in the past, and Nuestro Rappahannock is a renewal of those earlier efforts, with added emphasis. We hope to meet more of our Latino community at the Wild & Scenic Film Fest, Earth Day and Riverfest. We’re also hoping to have an outreach table at Falmouth Beach a few times during the summer.

Woodie Walker interviews Joe Rowe

A couple of years ago we started developing an oral history project, and this month we officially kicked off Life Along the Rappahannock, our collection of interviews and transcripts with narrators who have had some very interesting experiences living in the Rappahannock watershed.

The first three interviews tell aspects of the Embrey Dam removal, and the next two branch out into the local history of river advocacy and a story from our Native American community. We’ll have a laptop at our Wild and Scenic Film Festivals and show clips so attendees can talk with staff and interns who are working on the project.

The third tool in our outreach box this spring is Trout in the Classroom (TIC), a partnership with the Rapidan Chapter of Trout Unlimited that puts aquariums in local science classrooms. Students help raise brook trout from eggs, and near the end of the school year, the trout fingerlings are released into a Blue Ridge Mountain stream. This is FOR’s second year in the TIC program, and it is an incredibly-effective ecology lesson for students. This year has presented some pretty tough challenges, however.

FOR helps oversee five tanks, and each of them experienced high mortality rates this year, from undetermined sources. After consulting with trout biologists, and faculty from the University of Mary Washington, we’ve decided to not release any fish from our five tanks. The chance of introducing a problem into an otherwise healthy stream is too great, so we’ll try again next year, with more knowledge and experience under our belts. Our story this spring isn’t as happy as last year’s, but the take-away message is still the same: it takes a very clean, cold, well-oxygenated, and balanced ecosystem to grow brook trout, the streams that can do that are rare, and they need to be protected.

Over the past two years, our spring interpretive events have blossomed into some pretty cool adventures. Our first hike this year is the Hunter’s Island Magical History Tour on April 14. This wooded 80-acre island is located across from the FOR office. Its owner, local architect and history enthusiast Mary Ellen Wheeler, leads attendees on the hike, exploring the area where Capt. John Smith had a firefight with Manahoac Indians more than 400 years ago. We have added a very special surprise to this year’s hike, so get tickets early. Space is limited.

The following weekend we’ll take our show on the road, all the way to Old Mill Park, for Earth Day 2018 on April 21. We have a great, hands-on geology activity for youngsters in the works, plus animal trivia in Spanish, and we hear Batgirl may make a special visit to our booth!

We’ll transition from bats to birds on May 6, when longtime River Friends Mike and Joella Killian from UMW lead our Eagles, Beetles, and Wild Edibles Hike. Last year we spent the morning watching Scarlet tanagers and Pileated woodpeckers, plus lots of other fascinating birds. Mike is quite the horticulturalist and always finds lots of interesting plants, like our large Jack-in-the-pulpits. Joella is an entomologist, but we always seem to spend more time with our eyes in the trees, rather than on the ground. We may have to roll a few logs for her this year…

Please take the time to check out our events page and get your tickets early, especially if you want a seat on the river trips, like the June 9 Civil War Paddle. We look forward to see you this spring, beginning with the Wild and Scenic Film Festivals March 24 and 31, which includes a Spanish-language short film. Nuestro Rappahannock. I like the sound of that.