One hundred and eighty-six miles, that’s how far the Rappahannock flows across Virginia, emptying into the Chesapeake Bay. Running through eighteen counties and municipalities, the Rappahannock River boasts healthy habitats, scenic views, recreation opportunities, and historic sites. It also is a center for environmentalism and conservation.
At Friends of the Rappahannock we regularly see all portions of the Rappahannock Watershed and its tributaries. We also see the multitude of organizations dedicated to conservation, advocacy, and environmental health.
Knowing that collaboration between these organizations is the key to success for the river, the Rappahannock Roundtable was formed. The Rappahannock River Roundtable was created to gather the Rappahannock’s environmentally-minded individuals and organizations to leverage resources, learn from each other and work together towards a common goal.
In September of 2021, The Roundtable hosted the first Rappahannock Symposium. The symposium gathered our watershed partners together to hear some of the brightest minds in their fields educate each other on issues our watershed is facing and how they are working towards fixing them. The symposium was introduced by Virginia’s Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry, Bettina Ring. She gave an inspirational speech empowering the attendees to “keep fighting the good fight for clean water and healthy lands.”
Attendees, both on Zoom and in person, then chose a variety of educational sessions to learn about everything from Grassland Bird Initiatives presented by the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute to how the Rappahannock tribe is protecting the river by combining historical and modern conservation practices. Other attendees learned about the challenges our region is facing with environmentally friendly energy sources like solar from Culpeper and Caroline County. One of the sessions even went on a tree identification field trip led by Tree Fredericksburg where they learned how to identify trees and why planting native trees in your city or town is so essential. Regardless of the sessions that attendees went to, the consensus at the end of the day was that we should have started the Symposium years ago.
Throughout the day connections were made and relationships built that will lead to lasting change along the Rappahannock. As a partner driven organization, Friends of the Rappahannock believes that this collective of individuals dedicated to protecting and serving our water and land have become the driving force behind new knowledge. This information is used in advocacy issues, restoration projects, and education programming in our watershed.
We look forward to the next Symposium and the continued partnerships we’ve gained from 2021’s.
Written by Carleigh Starkston, Communication Coordinator