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.
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.