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