PHOTOS: Alternative Spring Break

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - By Phil Riggan – bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – Volunteers with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation have been planting and working cleanup projects this week along the James River watershed.

Groups of as many as 40 students and other volunteers have worked each day at sites such as Belle Isle, Bryan Park, Horsepen Branch in Henrico County, the James River National Wildlife Refuge in Prince George County.  They ended the "Alternative Spring Break" week with a clean up and celebration Friday at the VCU Rice Center, an award-winning green building in Charles City County.

"I didn't do much volunteering before," said Virginia Commonwealth University student Nick Karakashian, who volunteered almost every day of the project.  "I'll hopefully find more ways to get out now."

An example of the work that has been done: On Monday, the group cleaned collected 18 bags of trash along with 50 yards of synthetic material from the creek at Bryan Park in northside Richmond. The creek, Jordan's Branch, is a tributary of the Chickahominy River, which eventually flows into the James River.

On Belle Isle, more than 20 volunteers helped replant a wildflower meadow in an area known to have been an infamous Civil War prison. The work involved tilling, raking, and removing trash and debris such as roots and rocks from the soil before spreading wildflower seeds.  It encourages native insects and animals to use the meadow, as well as helping to retain the soil and prevent more runoff from the island.

Charmaine Lam, a junior at VCU, participated in several days of the project and said she just wanted to enjoy the great early spring weather and be outside.

"I make regular visits to this dirt patch," she said of the wildflower meadow at Belle Isle. "I'm here spending time in nature."

Chesapeake Bay Foundation plans to do the same work in the meadows at Pony Pasture Rapids Park and wants volunteer groups sign up to help.  See and click the calendar link. 

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