Integrating Stormwater Management with Natural Beauty along the James
Apr 14, 2017, 13:54
Hopewell, Virginia sits on an overlook near the confluence of the beautiful James and Appomattox Rivers. With a $200,000 grant from the NFWF Chesapeake Bay Stewardship Fund (CBSF) and matching funds of $115,000 from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the City hopes to augment its industrial base to become more walkable and livable. Funding for new permeable paver stones for city parking garages, a concerted urban garden planting effort and reduction of industrial rooftop and parking lot stormwater comprise the projects to meet those high hopes.
In comparison to other rivers feeding the Chesapeake Bay, the James River watershed is a relative success, with the highest level of dissolved oxygen of all tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay. However, the industrial base of Hopewell and its chemical industry past, as well as nutrients from farming in the area, have been cause for concern.
Today, city planners and the Hopewell Downtown Economic Partnership are teaming with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Virginia State University and faith-based groups to revitalize Hopewell. Hopewell residents recently passed a stormwater utility fee to help finance conservation improvements. The efforts include urban agriculture projects to provide sustainable local produce for the community, spearheaded by faculty and students at the Historically Black College, Virginia State University.
“Hopewell has some of the most beautiful natural areas with bluffs over the water, a marina and parks that should be featured in our design work,” said Ann Jurczyk, Virginia outreach and advocacy manager with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. “This is also a really good time for revitalizing downtown— and planners are starting to realize that Hopewell has beautiful assets being right on the water,” she added.
“Hopewell wants to be listed as a ‘Tree City, USA’ and we are looking at the tree population right now for improved canopies,” she added. “Studies show that people are more willing to stay in town and are attracted to tree-lined areas.” CBF will assist in planting over 100 trees for erosion control and canopy.
One of the more popular programs will be Watershed Walks: “We organized a Watershed Walk in the middle of Goose Creek,” she said. “We take students, neighborhood kids, out with a seining net, and kick-up some neat species in the gravel, so they can see both aquatic life and the benthic life,” said Jurczyk. Some of these species are indicative of cleaner water; we offer an educational lesson on the banks of that creek. It’s a learning opportunity, a chance to play in the creek, and then kids can be teachers of their parents and families.”
Dr. Leonard Githinji, assistant professor and extension specialist in sustainable and urban agriculture at Virginia State University, said, “students are learning how to grow food and create gardens at the Ag center and will be directly involved in planting vegetables which also serve as ground cover crops.”
“We are taking advantage of the volunteers and people in Hopewell and Richmond who may want to grow their own food,” said Dr. Githinji. “It’s a welcome current topic that addresses what scientists are calling the ‘food desert.’ Places like Hopewell and Petersburg, Virginia are urban centers and it is very hard to have access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Unlike the major metro area of Richmond, we have convenience stores but don’t have fresh markets or food stores. So, lower income people cannot get healthy foods and this creates that food desert. Also, people who don’t have accessibility can garden and create their own food, minimizing the impact of the food desert.”
VUS’s urban gardens in Richmond have been so successful there is now a weekly small farmer’s market for fresh produce.