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A Look Back at 2021: A Banner Year

Hello Friends, All.

This really has been a year for the books. From the continuing challenges of the pandemic, to the perseverance of our supporters and partners, we have made many shining accomplishments this year. We entered 2021 with a staff that had nearly doubled in number, and whose enthusiasm for our work has been clear throughout. You can read more about our many successes in the paragraphs and images below. Know that we have you — our members, donors, partners, and our community supports, friends, and families — to thank. You each play a critical role in all of our work for the North Fork Shenandoah Watershed. We can all be Shenandoah proud.

This video highlights our work and some of our favorite photos from 2021. Watch above and read below to see all we have accomplished, together.

Enjoy, stay warm, and stay safe.

Riparian Buffer Support Program

In the spring of 2021, Friends launched a new program to engage volunteers in supporting new forested buffer plantings to improve water quality in the watershed. Volunteers provided maintenance for 17 acres of new plantings, removing competing weeds, righting stakes and tree tubes, and flagging for trees in need of replanting. Thanks to the Virginia Department of Forestry for providing training and support!

Benthic MacroInvertebrate Monitoring

Friends jumped in with both feet this year for the launch of our Benthic Macroinvertebrate (BMI) Monitoring Program. Through the Virginia Save Our Streams program, and the Izaak Walton League, many of our volunteers were certified as official BMI monitors. With their help we gathered data from our first 8 locations along the North Fork and its tributaries. With Friend’s staff, Julia Sargent and Daisy Blakely, becoming Certified Trainers for the program, we are now perfectly poised to grow the program in 2022. Friends has plans to continue training and adding sites to our monitoring rotation for the upcoming year.

North Fork Conservation Corps

This year, Friends nearly tripled enrollment of NFCC teens at Seven Bends State Park. With two sessions in the early spring, NFCC members built supports for two universally accessible riverside platforms on the park’s Gokotta trail, and they participated in a super array of educational and recreational activities at the park. Several NFCC teens even returned in the summer to help build picnic tables with park staff.

Connecting our River Community with “Voices of the Shenandoah River — In Story and Song

The river is something that connects us all, and we saw that is true with our Voices of the Shenandoah events. These three highly entertaining events were held at breweries around the Valley, showcasing stories, poems, and original music by people from throughout our river community — with every story and song having been inspired by the river we love. People from all around the Valley made connections throughout the night while listening to these fun summer programs.

Summer Camps

Summer camps were designed under a different vision this year, where 50 campers were emerged in an outdoor-based and science learning experience. All of our campers covered a wide range of topics related to the river and the watershed. Campers engaged in a week full of outdoor activities, taking trips to the river, canoeing, collecting river bugs, and more! Campers also spent a day at Seven Bends State Park and experienced all the beauty, knowledge, and experience the park provides. Watch for our camps again in summer 2022… sign those kiddies up!

Spring and Autumn Lectures

Friends lectures this year were held virtually, where a wider range of the community could attend and enjoy a variety of topics during our Spring Lecture Series: “How Water Shapes the Valley“. As a result of the success of our spring series, and out of concern over the algal blooms that occurred during the summer, Friends developed an autumn lecture series to address algal blooms from several critical approaches. Watch for our lectures again in the coming year, where we’ll bring many fresh and intriguing topics.

Friends of Seven Bends State Park

It has been a remarkable year for Friends of Seven Bends State Park (FSBSP). As a facet of Friends of the North Fork, FSBSP has its own standing committee to guide our support of the Park. In addition to hosting a wide range of free public workshops, Friends of Seven Bends rallied volunteers this year to remove invasive species, create accessible pathways, and plant over 120 trees along the riverbank to provide long-term stability to the bank and to eventually provide shade for the Lupton entrance’s picnic areas. FSBSP is now holding bimonthly open public meetings to inform and to provide opportunities to take a hand in the fun at Seven Bends State Park.

River Cleanups

Through both organized and self-led cleanups in 2021, FNFSR and volunteers cleaned up truckloads of trash from in and around the North Fork.

Algal Blooms

The North Fork faced its own challenges this summer when algal blooms started popping up on large areas of its surface. Concern was brought up when many of the blooms were tested, and a 6 mile segment of the North Fork was placed under a Harmful Algae Bloom (HAB) warning by the Virginia Department of Health. After seeing suspect algae outside of the original impaired section, our Volunteer Coordinator, Julia Sargent, created a public program called Algae Watch as a way for anyone in the larger community to gather and share visual data about algae throughout the river. Volunteers around the area observed and documented the status of the algal blooms by taking photos, providing descriptions, and submitting them to Friends. We then compiled these data on an interactive map, allowing us all to visualize the extent of the blooms. And we went further, sharing our data with the Virginia Department of Health and with our conservation partners in the Valley. At its peak, the HAB area, including the use of our volunteers’ data, was expanded to cover a 42 mile segment of the North Fork- from Chapman’s Landing all the way to Riverton. Although cooler weather and water temperatures prevailed eventually, we will be ready to engage our Algae Watch program again this coming summer.

How You Can Support All of This

All this work requires support – contributions from anyone who loves the North Fork. We count on donations to support our hard-working staff to bring all of this good work to bear on the river, through education in our schools, lectures, summer camps, and park programs, through community science programs like those listed above, and so much more. Please join us, whether as a new Friend, or restoring an old bond. It’s as easy as clicking here.

You can also make a contribution in the name of a friend or loved one in your life by Giving the Gift of a Healthy River here. It’s a wonderful way to support our work, and honor someone dear to you.

Cheers to a year where we grew as an organization, faced important issues on the North Fork head-on, and built new programs that will continue to grow as we move forward together!

In service of the River,

Help make 2022 a stronger year in service of the river. Consider making an end-of-year donation, give the gift of a healthy river, make a special gift, renew your membership, or become a new member!