RFV: Chairman’s Report February 2007


Minutes of Annual Board Meeting – February 10, 2007

Download the 2007 Chariman’s Report

The meeting of The Rockfish Valley Foundation (RVF) Board of Trustees was called to order by the chairman Peter Agelasto at 2:30 p.m, February 10, 2007. Members present were Peter Agelasto, Parker Agelasto, Joe Prueher, Waite Rawls, Michael LeChance, and Chris Gensic. Absent was Peter Agelasto IV.

Mr. Agelasto began the meeting with a discussion of the RVF mission statement. It was decided that the current mission statement was too lengthy and too specific. The mission statement should be divided into “what is the mission?” and then list the goals as bullet points. The new mission statement was approved and a copy filed with these minutes as attachment 1.

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LILLY when she arrived

The star attraction

LILLY was born May 11, 2005. She arrived at the Rockfish Vally in June 2005. She is the mascott of the Rockfish Valley Foundation. She has spend the winter at her barn on the East side of the highway at Rockfish Valley Farm with her Friends Bambi and Buddy. She will move to her summer home on the West side of Rt 151 as soon as her sheep arrive.

RFV: Chairman’s Report June 2006

The Chairman noted that over the course of the last year, with Chris Gensic as a consultant, the Foundation has refined its mission statement, created a website: rockfishvalley.org, opened the trail system and undertaken much work to improve the experience of the visitor. As he finished his year, we have identified two University of Virginia faculty members who have agreed to undertake student projects for our geology trail and our bog enhancement. We have begun the feasibility study of the Master Naturalist Program and are prepared to file for a grant request with DCR as soon as it is advertised. We will miss him as a consultant but welcome him as a member of the Board of Trustees and wish him well in his career with the City of Charlottesville.

The Chairman reported that the Rockfish Valley Loop Trail system has been mowed. The Camille Memorial Trail Head parking has stabilized. It seems as many as 100 are using that section of the trail each week.

We have come a long way with maps and signage and the website. More and better signage and trail directions are a priority but until fencing is installed , issues will remain. Laminated maps have been added and trail maps printed. The Kiosk at Spruce Creek Park was updated with a large aerial map and other information. A permanent map along with many other enhancements awaits grant funding.

Our Virginia Blue Bird Trail is being monitored weekly by volunteers under the direction of Millie Colella. More than 50 bluebirds have fledged. Bird houses will be increased from 21 currently as soon as the fencing project is completed. Two bat boxes were received from Chris. The Volunteer system is working well. A special note of thanks to Pete Gatje for his outstanding leadership. John Hauser from Rockbridge plans to start fencing in July. This major project supported in part by funds from VDOT, CREP and Thomas Jefferson Soil and Water Conservation District and will define the trail and create pastures for livestock. David Magann is waiting to put in his well and extend our alternative water source to pastures.

The loop trails run along the Rockfish River and Reid’s Creek as well as Glenthorne Loop and the Rockfish Valley Highway. All Contiguous waterways and roads have been adopted through various State Agency programs and volunteers have done several clean ups. Our volunteer system is growing. VDOT is nearing completion of its repair to the river project and will watch the structures for years to come. There was considerable damage from a storm event last November. The stream should be even more stable and attractive as the result of this second effort.

Signage is important and tells a story of what is what. The VA Department of Game and Inland Fisheries has recognized our birding trail and signage is being installed on Rt 151. We have signs recognizing the Conservation Easement granted to Virginia Outdoor Foundation and the Virginia Blue Bird Trail signs have been received. Signs for recognition of the Virginia Adopt a Stream program for the South Fork of the Rockfish River and Reid’s Creek are expected in weeks from the Commonwealth of VA Dept of Conservation and Recreation. VDOT Adopt a Highway signs are in place. The advertising of the trails improvement grant from VA Dept of Conservation and Recreation has been delayed until around July 1 but since there is no word from the Internal Revenue Service as to issuance of the 501c3 status, the delay is not too bad. The number of applications is large as a result Katrina. In the interim, Virginia Organizing Project, with offices in Chalottesville, Virginia has agreed to serve as a conduit for funds received from successful grant applications in the meantime.

We are excited about the potential of The Master Naturalist Program here and a feasibility study is progressing. Check out virginiamasternaturalist.org. A decision should be clear before the end of July. Local partnerships and a new hire by Nelson 4-H will make a difference. We are getting great support from Michelle Prysby out of the Charlottesville headquarters of MN and our board member, Michael Lachance is working closely with us on the feasibility study. Most likely there will be a public forum once a decision is made and the Coordinating Committee formed. The mission of MN fits well with our mission and we have seen much community interest for the program already. Our site seems perfect for the program and we are seeking additional partners.

A warm season grasses project with Chesapeake Wildlife Heritage is planned for the spring. Switch grass as well as blended warm season grasses will allow for habitat studies and serve as a border for the trails along Reid’s Creek and the Rockfish River. Resources and plans for egg laying chickens and beef cattle for the model farm are also coming into focus. We will pursue a 4-H project for the chickens.

On a personal note, it is very gratifying to see the number of person on the trails. After the fencing is complete it will be appropriate to publish limitations and trail etiquette rules. We received our first cash gift January 29,2006 from the Blue Ridge Sierra Club and recently were offered 3 picnic tables for the trail heads by an individual who had walked the trail. He has expressed interest to become more involved later this year and we look forward to that. There have been a great number of positive comments and it is obvious that the loop trail system is serving a need that had gone unsupported in Nelson County and the Rockfish Valley in particular. More volunteers and support are welcome.


Peter A. Agelasto III
June 2006

RFV: Chairman’s Report – Fall 2006

This report is my second and is in lieu of our September meeting. It is time we consider an annual meeting. More about that later. I am pleased to report that a number of our initiatives are moving right along.

The VDOT work along the Rockfish is winding down. Their project cost is close to $2,000,000. The field work for the “as built” survey along the two miles of reconstructed Rockfish River was completed this week and there are about 250 marked stakes along the river trail. By the end of the year this survey will have been put on paper and we will have a copy. It will include cross sections, elevations and location of conservation easement boundaries.

The FENCE project is 95% complete and is over 1.5 miles of board and woven wire fencing. The trail is now more easily identified as being between the fences and the waterways. We are in bad need of signage however. We do have signs to post: Department of Game and Inland Fisheries Birding Trail, VA. Blue Bird Society Trail, Virginia Outdoor Foundation Conservation easement, Adopt A Stream for both Rockfish and Reid’s Creek, and after December 6, 2006 brass plaques that acknowledge the registration of the farm and buildings with VA Department of Historic Resources and U.S. Department of Interior. ELK HILL will join the Old Wintergreen Country Store at Spruce Creek Park trail head as an historic property registered in the Rockfish Valley. It joins River Bluff (circa 1795) which received this designation over a decade ago.

Visitation is beyond expectation even with the lack of signage. I estimate 100 persons a week and maybe 20 dogs. Problems are minimal. Knock on wood. We have our public foundation letter from the IRS and are a 501c3 eligible for tax deductible gifts. Our volunteer system is started but needs energy. We fledged 57 bluebirds and countless other birds from our trail boxes. Plans are underway for planting of riparian buffer areas with 300 trees in February and I will report more on that.

Plans for the Virginia Master Naturalist Chapter have reached the point that the Rockfish Valley Foundation as the initiating partner has coordinated and will attend the meeting to propose The Central Blue Ridge Chapter on October 18th, confirm a name for the proposed chapter, form the local coordinating committee, and petition the State Steering committee for approval. First training course could be Fall 2007. If you have not done so please learn more about VMN program at virginiamasternaturalist.org. This is a great concept, successful in a dozen other states and a perfect fit for our mission.

A Board of Trustees annual meeting needs to be held. An added impetus is our successful bid at a silent auction for The Wintergreen Nature Foundation of a dinner for 14 prepared by Chef Ellen English. It will be a treat to have her at Elk Hill. A meeting in November or early December would be great but I suspect it will be near impossible to get a date available to all. Let’s shoot for January when the air will be nippy … a work agenda could include burning several debris piles and bundling up for trail tours.

The VA Department of Conservation and Recreation Grant timing is back on track. I am advised it might be posted for January applications. We will seek $60,000 and it is very competitive. If we are awarded funds we could acquire ECO toilets at two trail heads ($15000 each), kiosks, maps, signage, trail maps, bridge improvements and last but not least a multi step exercise system at Spruce Creek Park. The grant requires a partial match. We already have an offer of picnic tables and a cash gift which will help there.

Our initiatives at the University of Virginia are moving slowly in the Department of Environmental Science. We have the Eco Club undertaking a small project this term and promises for two faculty members with larger projects next term. Top on our list is a Geology Trail and interpretative kiosk and markers for the geology of the valley, the water courses and Hurricane Camille.

There are a number of policy issues and plans to be discussed and determined at the annual meeting:

  1. Friend raising for volunteers and fund raising with an annual fund
  2. Areas for dogs on leash
  3. Hours of access
  4. Rules, picnic tables; special events such as a kite flying event, night sky star gazing, and a 5K run.
  5. Plan to enlarge the trail system as conceived.
  6. T-Shirt design and review of website. Son Peter and his staff are working to update the web site now.
  7. Intern for 2007. Our internships for the last two years were a big help.
  8. Birding Trail improvements

The idea for the annual meeting is for the eight Trustees to meet each other, enjoy a celebration dinner, visit the project and take trail tours as well as undertake some business. We will send out some dates in the near future. If anyone already has void weekends in January please let me know.

Respectfully Submitted,

Peter A. Agelasto III
Rockfish Valley Foundation

RFV: Chairman Report December 2006 – Year End Newsletter

Well there is plenty of good news and our mission could be greatly advanced in the new year. As you know, we exist to advance environmental values and enhance the rural life in Nelson. The Rockfish Valley Loop Trail system has prospered in the year it has been open; all that is left for the VDOT river restoration project is planting of trees and shrubs along the waterway. Even though fences now give the trail a boundary and basic improvements to three trail heads help, we are in bad need of kiosks, maps and signage. Usage continues to increase with perhaps 100 or more cars per week. Our vision will be closer to reality if we can make major improvements in 2207 with grant funds.

The future of the trail system and utilization of the Rockfish Valley as a laboratory and educational venue depends on the success of 4 grants that are being sought. Each grant will add a critical block to the wall of success and although independent, each builds on the other. It is appropriate that the first grant application goes to the Community Foundation of the Blue Ridge which raises funds here in Nelson and funds worthwhile projects in Nelson County as well as Augusta County, Staunton and Waynesboro. A grant of $4000 is being sought for a kiosk, trail map at the Camille Trail Head and signage to mark the trails along the Rockfish The lack thereof is the major deficiency of the trail system.

The second application will be to the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation for $4000 and BamaWorks for $3000. The former grant would allow us to tell the story of Hurricane Camille which devastated this area and took the lives of two people at the Trail Head. The project would include a Department of Historic Resources Highway Marker and geologic interpretive materials along the trail and at the kiosk relating to Camille. The geology trail would be funded by the BAMA Works grant and would feature a rock collection of indigenous rocks and interpretative signage along the trail which would present the geologic history and formation of the Rockfish Valley, the Rockfish Fault and plate tectonics. The research and design is being done by two students of the Department of Environmental Science at the University of Virginia for class credit. Members of the Environmental Club at UVA are undertaking a year of monitoring 11 miles of the Rockfish River, which has been listed as an impaired stream in Virginia. This is being done in coordination with the VA Department of Environmental Quality and the Nelson County Service Authority which operates the Wintergreen Treatment Plant. The goal of this project is to identify hot spots along the Rockfish and to be chosen for a DEQ monitoring program for 2008. Grants will be sought in future years to clean up waste water problems in Nellysford and Beech Grove. The loop trail system will bring awareness to the situation and build support for the solutions.

In February 2007 a fourth grant will be applied for through the VA Department of Conservation and Recreation in the amount of $60,000. 00. This large and important grant would be used for environmental toilets at the Camille Trail Head and the Spruce Creek park Trail Head, an exercise station trail, and improvements to parking areas, additional signage and further development of the trail system.

The lack of access for the public to enjoy the beauty and environment of the county has been a big problem. Hopefully our projects will encourage others to provide access to waterways, trails and picnic spots.

The second item to report on is proposals for interesting events in 2007. Your chairman and Michael Lachance, a Trustee of the Foundation and chapter advisor to the proposed Central Blue Ridge Chapter of the new VA Master Naturalist Program, will attend a two day conference in January with representatives of other founding chapters. Our initiative to create the Central Blue Ridge Chapter lead to a partnership between the Rockfish Valley Foundation, The Wintergreen Nature Foundation, Nature Camp, Wildlife Center of Virginia and the U S Forest Service/ Blue Ridge Parkway and Sherando Lake and others to form the chapter. The first class with its 40 hour natural science curriculum would occur in the fall of 2007. Land adjoining the loop trails is available as class room, laboratory and environmental site and a place where graduates of the program could give their future volunteer time. Other events to be discussed at the upcoming annual meeting of the Trustees include a Paint Out in partnership with Spruce Creek Gallery, a Walk A Thon extending upstream and around the valley as a special fundraising event, a kite flying family day and an evening of starry nights and camp fire songs. 2007 promises to be a watershed (pun intended) year for the Rockfish Valley Foundation. I must add that all hinges on the success of the grant process which is not guaranteed to say the least. All the grants are very competitive but we feel we have a very compelling story. Funding would have a major impact on rural tourism and community building in one of the most special parts of the state of Virginia.

The last thing I should mention is the expansion of the VA Blue Bird Society Trails. Added bird houses and volunteers are identified. Almost 3 dozen houses will be monitored in 2007. This VA Department of Game and Inland Fisheries recognized trail has come a long way since its dedication by Connie Brennan and David Whitehurst of DGIF in September 2005. A bird sanctuary may be proposed for the S. Rockfish Valley as well and already the annual County butterfly count takes place along part of the trail. Other initiatives and programs are under way or being considered and all of this will be possible if the grant applications are successful. We have our fingers crossed.

Respectfully submitted,

Peter A. Agelasto III

PS. Just yesterday we decided to create a special section of the website for posting historic photos of the South Rockfish Valley. We are looking for photos. With the registration of ELK HILL and the old Wintergreen Country Store as historic landmarks, there is more awareness of the great agricultural past of the South Rockfish Valley. It is hoped that local residents will provide photos and enjoy seeing those posted by others. I have been told the area would qualify as an historic district and it appears that more than a dozen other dwellings and farms are eligible for recognition. Stay tuned.

RFV: Chairman’s Report June 2008

From my office window at ELK HILL, I can monitor the Rockfish River trail head activity. It is both surprising and gratifying to see usage grow so fast. We must focus on completing the community grant projects so that the information provided at that trail head will be more complete. Please understand that Charlotte Rae is an integrall part of our success. She is determined to get our files organized and motivates me to get the administrative detail accomplished. A lot of our progress is due to the fact that she and I meet and work 3 hours a week in my office. She also does countless other things at home and recently has been facilitating things with people like Kinkos and Staples. It’s so important to have her support ..as was underscored by a Trustee in March, she is way underpaid.

Signage still remains inadequate. However, the Camille Historic Marker is now installed by the parking area and soon DGIF will provide birding trail signs north and south of the trail head. No definite word when VDOT will put the base stone on the parking area, but drainage problems were reduced during the renovation of the compacted construction roadway in the fields which adjoin the trail.

TRAIL BRIDGES. Recent trail improvements include the decking of both Reid Creek bridges. Matthew Wood and his crew did fine work. David Morris, a retired UVA professor of engineering, contributed structural advice and visited the bridges after completion. I am happy to say we structurally overbuilt the bridges and the completed bridges have made the loop trail accessible to anyone. Funding came from the Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund.

INVASIVES. The river restoration project unleashed invasive plant populations including garlic mustard, thistles, lespedeza and spotted knot weed. The Central Blue Ridge Master Naturalist Chapter volunteers have spent nearly 50 hours eradicating invasives. I have spent an additional 50 or more hours doing the same. The job will take several years but work continues. Invasives crowd out native plants along the Rockfish and Reid’s Creek. They are also a problem in the warm season grass project. Some additional effort seems required in that area.

BIRDING. This is our number 1 success story. Our birding committee consists of Tim Hodge, Allen Hale, Paul Davis, Jeff Trolinger, Marshall Feintich, Millie Collela and myself. We are developing a bird walk schedule for the fall. Bird walks have taken place; Marshall’s fabulous photos are posted on his website and will be linked to the RVF website; and a list of species that have been sighted is posted on the kiosk. Guest bird hike leaders and enhanced habitat are all in the works. Paul Davis and his blue bird boxes were featured in Nelson County Life. It is a great committee and we have a very important birding trail.

Additionally, the birth of over 100 birds in the 42 Blue Bird trail boxes has been a success that will surely be exceeded. You have not seen anything until you see the face of a youngster who is shown the babies being tended by their mothers.

Less, you think the birding committee does not have enough going on, there is discussion about creation of a bird sanctuary in the Valley. Not only are we interested but we have the support of several adjacent neighborhoods. It is safe to say this will happen. It just takes time and energy.

PASTURE COMPACTION. Unfortunately, heavy equipment during the river restoration compacted the soil inside the sheep pasture and upstream along the Rockfish River. Renovation has been completed with rock removal and soil additions but the upstream trail is currently closed to allow the new seed mixture to take hold. When the trail is re-opened, dogs may be allowed only on a leash upstream of the bridge or with specific permission. Dogs will continue to be allowed off leash downstream even though that impacts birding. That too may change.

EAST HAY FIELD RENOVATION. The Reid’s Creek trail borders the 43 acre field. This field is being renovated through a series of crop plantings. Recently the first crop – winter wheat – was harvested. It was a bumper crop of 181 bales of wheat and 35 bales of fescue/orchard grass. Sudan grass will be planted next and harvested in July. Later a hay mix of orchard grass, timothy, clover and rye will be planted in early fall. We have had the advice and support of Augusta Farm Co-op and several laboratories for soil sampling and plant study. We expect the hay field to become the best it can be with the first crop in 2009. After that crop is cut, we will consider adding a one mile loop around that field and connect it to the trail head at the bridge. This field is also an option for the proposed spring 2009 kite flying event. Planning will begin for that once a committee is formed.

SPRUCE CREEK PARK DEVELOPMENT. Louie’s Place, a dog park, has two hurdles to overcome. The first is zoning which the County says must be changed to allow a dog park. The second is funding. Initial efforts to seek a commitment for a challenge grant were not successful. This status and future options will be discussed by the Dog Park committee. A Croquet Court development is underway. Stan Driver has been improving the site, and Hank Gibb and I visited a court in Charlottesville and discussed turf and nutrient options with the owner and his grounds’ keeper. A plan should be determined in the next weeks and play on the court start in the near future. Work is currently being done to make the turf better and to build interest.

CAPACITY BUILDING, PUBLIC RELATIONS and EVENTS. Our first Starry Night was held on May 16th and the efforts of Charlottesville Astronomical Society were much appreciated. They are good teachers and have incredible equipment. A second event will be planned for the fall. Thanks in particular go to local residents David Miller and John Avallone. We learned a lot during and after – in particular that publicity is critical and that there is much interest in regular star watch events in the Rockfish Valley. Michael McConkey contributed camp fire music. This should become a signature event for the community.

Charlotte Rae and I are working hard to create a publicity template for events. It will be used for the bird walks and starry night program in the fall and the kite event next spring. In the interim we will seek a major story on Rockfish Valley Foundation in the local press.

MASTER PLAN AND BROCHURE. We are so fortunate to have McKee Carson providing certain pro bono services for development of a Master Plan and for laying out a much needed brochure with a trail map. We are indebted to Hunter McCardle and Eugene Ryang for their guidance and work. We must also acknowledge with deep gratitude a recent unsolicited gift of $1000 which will help defray printing of a 6 panel brochure. This will be included in the mailing for the Fall Community Fund Drive. It will also be available, hopefully by September, for visitors to the trail.

FALL COMMUNITY FUND DRIVE. A request to the community to support operations, events and trail development is necessary. The bridges provide naming opportunities to bring in funds to support events, operations and trail development. For example, the pedestrian bridge could be named by a donor of a $5000 gift and the vehicular bridge named with a $10,000 gift. The cost of the two was nearly $10,000. Kiosks can be named, trails can be named. We are also considering an annual party at ELK HILL for donors of more than $250. I will need your input on how to design and undertake this campaign. Specific projects will be identified and funds sought to complete them.

OTHER ITEMS. Picnic tables are being delivered as a gift to the Foundation. The web site is being refreshed and redesigned by Bluewall LLC. No grant filings are planned until 2009 but hopefully, the master plan will prioritize and identify that direction.

FUTURE PLANS. The feasibility of a Community Water Summit is being considered. I am meeting with several other non profits and foundations to consider this. The concept would be a community facilitated workshop focused on both ground and surface water issues in the Rockfish Valley. Several desired outcomes have been identified and we will have a discussion with potential partners in the next several months. The Community Water Summit would be held in late winter.

Our ability to reach out to others and to partner in our undertakings is important and has been successful. Earl Swift , Stephan Bechtel, our local supervisors, geologists and environmentalists, heads of other Nelson groups – we have been and we need to continue working with all of them. An example of this is our intention to dedicate the Camille historic marker on August 19. Please mark it on your calendar. We may keep it low key or we may bring in someone to speak from the VA Dept of Historic Resources to comment on the area and our plan for an historic district in the South Rockfish Valley. Already our committee of Russ Reid, Bob Carter and Elizabeth Richardson has done research, viewed the area and put the concept into an action plan.

We are proud to be one of the initiating partners of the The Central Blue Ridge Master Naturalist Chapter. Through its volunteers and programs, more environmental activities will take place on the Foundation lands. In August we will apply for a DEQ grant for water monitoring equipment. It will permit us to continue our education on water quality in the Valley.

In closing, we must seek operation and development funds from the community in order to accomplish our mission to enhance the trails, the website, the programs and events we know are important. Capacity building is the key, volunteers are critical to all our efforts, and the growth of Rockfish Valley Foundation dictates that we seek financial support from the community in order to grow our success.

As usual, we appreciate your comments and suggestions.

Peter A. Agelasto III

Founding chairman, Rockfish Valley Foundation


Press Release

Please join the ROCKFISH VALLEY FOUNDATION and FRIENDS OF ROCKFISH WATERSHED for a pleasant afternoon on the Rockfish River. This invitation is extended to members of the Wintergreen Community and all citizens of Nelson County at Camille Park Trail Head which is located at the Rt. 151 Bridge over the Rockfish River next to ELK HILL. Reservations required.

We are fortunate to have as guest speakers and walk leaders Doug Hutzell, engineer with Environmental Services, Hagerstown, Maryland, Brett Waller, geologist from VDOT and John McClain, VDOT project engineer for the Rockfish River restoration project. There will be two walks lead by these men. They will discuss the geology of the Rockfish Valley, the Rockfish Fault, and the river restoration. You can expect to learn the “what and why” of the design and construction, what may be working and what may not, how the Rockfish Valley was formed and the significance of the Rockfish Fault and plate tectonics. Each of these men has special expertise and we are fortunate to have them share that with us. The guided walks will be followed by a picnic supper. Cost 15. Please make reservation by calling 361-2251, emailing Agelasto@mindspring.com or send reservation to Friends of Rockfish Watershed at P O Box 115, Lovingston, VA 22949. The event is free but contributions are gladly accepted. Limited to 100 persons.