On being a river rat

The JRA tries to be the voice and the guardian of the river. They have two goals: keep Virginia on track with regard to the Chesapeake Bay plan, and help the community realize the benefits of a healthy James River. They’ve come a long way- in the 50’s the James was one of the filthiest rivers in the US. Richmond has two mating pairs of bald eagles, boasts ____________ at every opportunity. The James has the largest oyster reef in the US and the JRA is 47% to its goal of reviving this keystone water filterer. Riparian Buffers are faring less well, with the JRA’s goal being only 30% to completion. Nitrogen, Phosphorus and sediment pollution, areas specifically targeted by the Chesapeake bay plan, are at 65% of the 2025 goal.

The riverkeeper, who led the River Rat training, and the River Rats themselves, are two important parts of the cleanup effort. River Rats are people who care deeply about the river. They paddle it frequently and it’s a big part of their lives. I don’t feel like a river rat. I feel forced into a program that means a lot to people for a class. I don’t have a car, and I don’t own a boat to paddle on the James. I don’t care enough about the river to seek out sources of pollution. I greatly respect the people that do, but when going through the training to do what they do is required for a college class, I question whether we really belong there. The riverkeeper said that he had never had a group larger than 12 people. Ours felt more like a lecture.

I think my concerns are reflected in the action project part of River Rat certification. Past action projects have been things like improving dam portages and planting native species along the river. Ours, the improvement of the Gambles Mill Corridor, feels more like somebody else’s project that we’re appropriating to check off a requirement.

The James River has vastly improved since its 1950s, kepone-poisoned self. This is in no small part to individuals like the riverkeeper, like Newton Ancarrow, and like River Rats. Efforts under the Chesapeake Bay plan are currently rated at 61%, a B-, and improvements in areas like sediment pollution and smallmouth bass population are especially large. I hope that our class can fit in to that story, I just don’t think it should be as river rats.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.