Tag Archives: River Lovers

RIVER LOVERS: Betsy Slade, Friends of James River Park

Betsy Slade, Friends of James River ParkNAME & PROFESSION: Betsy Slade, retired.
JAMES RIVER ORGANIZATION: Friends of James River Park

WHY YOU LOVE THE JAMES: Peace, serenity, escape from daily hubbub, beauty of an eternal river that is always there and always different. (Note: She can often be found at the river with her canine companion, Baxter)

HOW YOU HELP THE RIVER: Trash pick-up, trail maintenance by reporting problems, cutting down invasive vines, recycling all the stuff I find in the summer — clothes, towels, cigarette lighters, blankets — and once a stripped down stolen VW.
WHAT WOULD YOU IMPROVE OR CHANGE: Put some gravel in a few mud holes.


Think you have what it takes to be a River Lover?

The River Lovers profile feature allows James River News Hub to introduce the people who help preserve, maintain, build, shape and play on the James River. Find out why they love the James, how they help and what they would do to improve the James. So far, we have profiled:

We need more people to declare their love for the James River, but you don’t have to be part of an organization to be profiled. Interested?  We keep it simple and have people submit answers to five general questions, and if possible either send a good river photo of themselves at the river. 
Fill in the information below and submit it to jamesrivernews@gmail.com:

RIVER LOVERS: Christine Beish, Enrichmond Foundation

Christine Beish with her girls at Belle IsleNAME & PROFESSION: Christine Beish, Paralegal, Kerns & Kastenbaum, PLC
JAMES RIVER ORGANIZATION(S):  Volunteer, Enrichmond Foundation
WHY YOU LOVE THE JAMES:  For me, the James River is a great place to take my kids.  They love jumping around on the rocks, exploring the trails, and searching for clams, snakes, fish and other wildlife.  We visit the JRPS about once a month, and we like to encourage our friends to join us.  There are so many different parks to enjoy, and since they are always changing with the seasons, we never seem to run out of new adventures.  While we’re hiking, we’ll talk about the history of the area, the many ways Richmonders have been using the James for work and play for centuries, and what we can do as citizens to keep the river healthy. I’m hopeful that exposing my children and their friends to all the gifts the river has to offer will inspire them to fall in love with and be passionate about the James and its conservation and health.

HOW YOU HELP THE RIVER:  I think keeping the James clean and healthy is one of the most important responsibilities we citizens have.  In June of this year, I participated in the 11th annual James River Advisory Council river clean-up at Reedy Creek.  This is a fantastic and well-organized event, and I was amazed at how much was accomplished in a such short amount of time with a clean-up effort of this size and scale.

Also, over at the Enrichmond Foundation, I’m working with executive director Noel McKenzie to establish some social media tools like Facebook and Twitter to communicate about various events, conservation issues and clean-up efforts in all of the City of Richmond’s parks, including the JRPS.
WHAT WOULD YOU IMPROVE OR CHANGE: I would like to see Richmond offer more opportunities for children to enjoy the James. Classes like paddling, boating and fishing could be offered, along with family friendly clean-up efforts, guided river walks, and conservation classes. Just to name a few!  I’d also like to see more prominent signage and better access points for all age groups be incorporated in the parks.

RIVER LOVERS: Matt Perry, Riverside Outfitters

Matt Perry of Riverside OutfittersNAME & PROFESSION: Matt Perry, President and co-owner Riverside Outfitters. 

JAMES RIVER ORGANIZATIONS: Friends of the James River Park, James River Outdoor Coalition, James River Association. 

WHY YOU LOVE THE JAMES: It’s incredible, natural beauty that changes with the seasons. Diversity of recreation options. Nature dictates the character of the river — not men and dam release schedules. It’s a collective backyard for us all in a time when “apart” seems to be more prevalent than “together.”

Matt Perry, President and co-owner Riverside Outfitters. HOW YOU HELP THE RIVER: Help people fall in love (or back in love) with it. Advocate publicly for its protection and conservation. Donate time and money to river-based causes. Clean up litter. Dislodge severe strainers. Ensure my kids understand its importance and magnificence. Keep it company every chance I get. Deeply appreciate it. 

WHAT WOULD YOU IMPROVE OR CHANGE: Spread the love from two or three areas of high-density river use (Belle Isle, Pony Pasture, Huguenot Flatwater) to five or six areas of lower-density use (including better access and parking at Bosher’s Dam, Powhite or  maybe the Pump House).

RIVER LOVERS: Molly Dellinger-Wray, Friends of James River Park

Molly Dellinger-Wray, Friends of James River ParkNAME & PROFESSION: Molly Dellinger-Wray, Project Coordinator at VCU’s Partnership for People with Disabilities 

JAMES RIVER ORGANIZATION: Friends of James River Park

WHY YOU LOVE THE JAMES: As a proud city dweller, I love living in a neighborhood where I can walk to my bank, job, grocery store and post office. Ralph White calls James River Park, “A little bit of wilderness in the heart of the city.” I take a break from the urban landscape by walking the trails of James River Park. I leave refreshed and ready to focus upon my responsibilities again. I have walked there everyday for 10 years with my best buddy, a golden retriever named Zorro. He passed away last summer, but I am teaching our new puppy about the joys of James River Park. My husband and I also love to pack lunch and kayak over to one of the many islands in the James for a picnic. 

HOW YOU HELP THE RIVER: I have volunteered countless hours for the Friends of James River Park over the past 10 years. I think that I have held every leadership office, and helped coordinate their ongoing efforts for park improvements. In addition to rolling our sleeves up and helping the park staff with whatever they need, the Friends of James River Park does important advocacy work to promote the park with our city and state officials. We conducted a user survey one summer that showed that over 50 percent of this city park’s visitors reside outside of the city limits. Yet, James River Park remains funded solely through the city of Richmond. For me, everyday is a clean up day in James River Park. I always pick up trash when I see it and urge others to do the same. 


  • I would like everyone who uses the park to support the Friends of James River Park and their many efforts for park improvement! It’s not expensive and easy to join through the website: www.jamesriverpark.org
  • I would like to meet with city officials, and river groups to brainstorm a solution to the many cars looking for parking places. Park visitors need easy transportation that can transport people, dogs, boats, inner tubes, and picnic coolers.
  • I would love to see Park Rangers in the park to provide impromptu education and answer questions and remind folks when it is not safe to go rock hopping if the river is too high.
  • I would like the surrounding counties to recognize James River Park for its regional value, and contribute to its maintenance and upkeep.

RIVER LOVERS: Jess Barton, Va. Grassroots Coordinator

Jess Barton, Virginia Grassroots Coordinator with the Chesapeake Bay FoundationMeet Jess Barton, Virginia Grassroots Coordinator with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and find out why she loves the James River, how she helps it and what she would do to improve the river.

NAME & PROFESSION: Jess Barton, VA Grassroots Coordinator

JAMES RIVER ORGANIZATION(S): Chesapeake Bay Foundation

WHY YOU LOVE THE JAMES: Richmond and Richmonders are very lucky to have a beautiful river running right through the city. The James provides beauty, wildlife, outdoor adventures, and unique scenery to our city and our state.

Jess Barton leading a clean up at Belle Isle, Spring 2010HOW YOU HELP THE RIVER: Through my position at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation I’ve been able to help organize various clean-ups along the James and tributaries to the James; as well as invasive species removal, trail reclamation projects, and native flower and tree plantings. I also enjoy taking friends to parks along to James River to show them the local beauty we have right here in our backyard.

WHAT WOULD YOU IMPROVE OR CHANGE: I would like for more people to learn about the James River and start to care for it. People’s actions can improve the James – whether it is applying less or no fertilizer, planting native plants, using less water, driving less or picking up after their pet.

RIVER LOVERS: Gabe Silver, James River Association

Gabe Silver, Environmental Educator with the James River AssociationMeet Gabe Silver, Environmental Educator with the James River Association, and find out why he loves the James River, how he helps it and what he would do to improve the river.

NAME & PROFESSION: Gabe Silver, Environmental Educator with the James River Association


WHY YOU LOVE THE JAMES: I’ve always lived in the watershed, grew up paddling and fishing its tributaries around Charlottesville, and now live in Richmond, a city that wouldn’t exist and certainly wouldn’t be much fun without the James River. Every time I drink a glass of water, take a shower, or water our garden, I use the James River. When I turn on the lights I know that the electricity I use could not be produced without the cooling waters of the James used by the power plant. So I love the James River for keeping me alive and giving me comfort.

I have the great honor of getting to work to protect and restore the river, but even I have long days in front of a computer at the office. After those days, in about 15 minutes, I can be out of the office and down on the river, paddling some of the best urban whitewater in the country or catching a nice rockfish from a canoe with the Richmond skyline behind me. I can daydream of longer river trips to come or recall a hidden gorge on the Jackson River where I caught trout as a kid and remember that some of the water flowing past me today in Richmond came through that very spot. I cannot imagine a better way to restore the human spirit. I love the James for how it wakes me up, surprises me, and grounds me.  

Lastly, I love the James because it belongs to us all and binds us with a mutual responsibility. Just as in a family or a community, there are folks both upstream and downstream of us. We expect the people upriver to keep the water clean for us and we owe the same to our friends living downriver. The law of the land here in the U.S. and in Virginia shows great wisdom in asserting the public nature of our rivers. The James belongs to the people and the creatures of this land. We have a right to it and a great responsibility to it.

Gabe Silver, Environmental Educator with the James River AssociationHOW YOU HELP THE RIVER: Working for the James River Association as an Environmental Educator, I dedicate myself to the very long-range vision of a healthy James River. I introduce students to nature and to the river, hoping to awaken a sense of awe and love for the natural world. People become conservationists and environmentalists not because they have been preached at, but because they have experienced and understood a healthy ecosystem, and can connect this, in the big picture, to their own well-being. I want people to know that the James River is a rich blessing we all share, and that we can choose to do right by it, so that is can continue to heal from a polluted past and be a cleaner river for our the generations to come.

I also try to help the river by conserving energy and water at home, biking to work, using rain barrels, avoiding toxic chemicals, and writing my representatives when there is environmental legislation pending. JRA has a list of seven simple things to do to help the river.

WHAT WOULD YOU IMPROVE OR CHANGE: First, I would get students in our schools outside and down to the river to learn in nature much more often. I would teach more kids the skills they need to enjoy and understand the river.

Second, I would encourage Virginia to avoid complacency with water quality in the James. Our state government recently indicated that the James might be getting too clean! Looking at the algal blooms, high bacteria levels, and fish kills that beset the James each spring and summer, it seems to me that we can and should do better.

Third, I would improve public access and ecological interpretation along the James. This would mean more places to launch a kayak, walk along the river, watch wildlife, and particularly camp. The James River from Iron Gate to Richmond could become a world-class multi-day water trail with more public investment. That would help Virginia’s economy and help ensure that there will always be advocates for the River.