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