Thinking back on this year brings to mind all of the buzzwords you would expect – resiliency, creativity, perseverance, flexibility, etc. Of course, these are things that are necessary to survive during a crisis. However, I think what makes these words different for me and FOR is that these are the words I would use to describe our organization during a non-crisis time. These are the traits that have brought FOR success over the past 36 years!
This year I am especially proud of the growth of our organization, not only programmatically, but also our interpersonal growth. While we have been working in the upper Rappahannock and Rapidan region for many years, this year we hired a full time educator dedicated to the region. This is another step towards having a fully staffed and fully resourced office serving the upper watershed, a longtime goal for us.
FOR has always recognized the power of collaboration and collective impact. This year we took that to another level. The Rappahannock River Roundtable has grown in membership and was able to leverage resources to accomplish some big goals, such as record number of trees in the ground and more acres of oyster reef restoration. In addition, the Roundtable launched a new program, the Rappahannock Symposium, which brought together partners to share the latest research and data about the health of the Rappahannock River.
FOR grew in other ways, too. We built upon our Spanish language initiative, Nuestro Rappahannock, by hiring two Spanish-speaking River Ambassadors to do outreach about river safety and stewardship at the busiest river access points this summer. We learned a lot about what access to this shared resource means to many different folks, and it informed the work of FOR moving forward.
These few items are only highlighting a very small amount of the things that have been accomplished for the river this year. At the heart of these accomplishments are our community, rallying together to support and preserve this ecological treasure. While our staff have the official job titles of protecting the Rappahannock River, our community has taken on the unofficial title of steward to our river, crisis or not.
Thank you for preserving and protecting our river year after year. I hope you enjoy hearing our “Best of 2021” moments.
For the River,