Aug 30 • 16M

August 30, 2022: An update on what's new in Albemarle County parks; Spotted lanternfly effort moves into eradication phase

Another look at what's happening in the community with three stories with an outdoors bent

 
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Regular updates of what's happening in local and regional government in and around Charlottesville, Virginia from an award-winning journalist with nearly thirty years of experience.
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To stand at the edge of the shore looking out at the sea! That incomplete sentence is my poetic way of marking National Beach Day. Another option would be to learn about the history of the  Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1948, which would become known as the Clean Water Act in 1972 when it was amended. Those pieces of information are perhaps more relevant to the usual set of stories you’ll read or hear in Charlottesville Community Engagement, a newsletter and podcast that seeks to narrate as much of the ocean as possible. 

On today’s program:

  • The Rivanna Conservation Alliance and the City of Charlottesville raise concerns about bacteria levels in two city streams

  • An expert on invasive inspects provides an update on the spotted lanternfly quarantine 

  • Planning continues for Biscuit Run and other rural-area parks, but one Supervisors requests attention for parks in the development area

Sign up for free and you’ll get more of the content. Pay for a subscription and you’ll get slightly more, and will keep the info flowing!

First shout-out is for LEAP’s new Thermalize Virginia program 

In second Patreon-fueled shout-out: Have you been thinking of converting your fossil-fuel appliances and furnaces into something that will help the community reduce its greenhouse gas emissions? Your local energy nonprofit, LEAP,  has launched a new program to guide you through the steps toward electrifying your home. Thermalize Virginia will help you understand electrification and connect you with vetted contractors to get the work done and help you find any rebates or discounts. Visit thermalizeva.org to learn more and to sign up!  

Two streams in Charlottesville are subject of bacterial concern

Two waterways within the city of Charlottesville have “persistently elevated bacteria levels” according to data collected by the Rivanna Conservation Alliance and shared with the city’s water resources staff. 

“Urban streams often have some water quality impairment due to the developed nature of the lands that drain into them,” reads an information release from the city of Charlottesville. 

The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality has declared as impaired the Rivanna River, Moores Creek, Schenks Branch and Lodge Creek due to high levels of sediment and bacteria.

Ongoing monitoring by the Rivanna Conservation Alliance shows that Pollocks Branch and Meade Creek both have elevated levels of bacteria following rainstorms. Pollocks Branch flows underground in a pipe from the Downtown Mall to the Ix Art Park, after which it daylights through property owned by the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority before getting to Moores Creek. 

Meade Creek is in the Belmont neighborhood between Garden Street and Walnut Street. 

“The City and RCA are working together to identify and address the sources of the elevated bacteria levels,” the release continues. “Until further notice, the public is advised to avoid direct contact with these streams.”

Elevated levels of bacteria raise the risk of illness through pathogenic organisms that may be in the water. People shouldn’t drink any of the water and should use sanitizer where water has come into contact with the skin. 

To learn more about how the RCA monitors bacteria levels, visit their website at rivannariver.org.

A map of waterways in Charlottesville. Click here for a larger version

Spotted Lanternfly continues to menace Virginia as quarantine area expands

In February, the Albemarle Board of Supervisors were briefed on the threat posed by the Spotted Lanternfly, an insect that has come to North America from Asia. 

“It’s original territory is kind of China, southeast Asia, and it made its way over to the [United States] in 2014 and made its way hitchhiking,” said David Gianino, the program manager for the Office of Plant Industry Services for the Virginia Department of Agricultural and Consumer Services. 

“An egg mass hitchhiked on some landscape brick is what we believe, some landscape stone,” Gianino said in an interview I conducted with him last week to get an update. 

Five years later Virginia established a quarantine in the Winchester area because the insect had spread from its original North America foothold in Pennsylvania. Specimens were spotted in Albemarle County last July. 

The hope had been this winter that mitigation and treatment of sites would prevent the spread of the lanternfly and the expansion of the quarantine, but that has proven not to be the case. 

“Thirteen different states now have populations of spotted lanternfly,” Gianino said. “This particular insect, it’s a plant hopper and it’s kind of like a generalist feeder. But it’s a primary concern for our winery and vineyard industries because not only does it feed on those 100 species. One of those plant species is grapes.”

The lifecycle of the Spotted Lanternfly from a brochure put out by the Virginia Department of Agricultural and Consumer Services (download)

Gianino said spotted lanternfly can reproduce quickly and have no natural predators. That’s allowed them to spread rapidly, raising the threat to agriculture in Virginia. 

“So people really should be concerned because this pest is one that we’re working really hard to slow its spread, but we really do need everybody in the area engaged,” Gianino said. “This bug is bad. There’s no benefit to this bug at all and we want every bug to be killed, stomped, or squished.”

The quarantine area has been expanded this July to cover Albemarle County, Charlottesville and many other localities in Virginia. 

“We expanded the quarantine to include those localities where we know we have spotted lanternfly populations, where they are established and reproducing, and that those populations are within proximity to a transportation pathway,” Gianino said. 

Much of the quarantine applies to commercial vehicles that transport products used on construction where egg masses might be laid. Individuals including yourself are asked to check vehicles before driving to areas not within the quarantine zone. 

“If you’re moving a trailer of brush, we want you to look at it and make sure that if it’s going outside the quarantine that it’s free of spotted lanternfly,” Gianino said. 

Affected businesses have to go through a training program to ensure employees know to look for the insects. And here are the prohibited materials:

  • Any life stage of the spotted lanternfly;

  • Live or dead trees; nursery stock; green lumber; firewood; logs; perennial plants; garden plants or produce; stumps; branches; mulch; or composted or un-composted chips, bark, or yard waste;

  • Outdoor industrial or construction materials or equipment; concrete barriers or structures; stone, quarry material, ornamental stone, or concrete; or construction, landscaping, or remodeling waste;

  • Shipping containers, such as wood crates or boxes;

  • Outdoor household articles, including recreational vehicles; lawn tractors or mowers; grills; grill or furniture covers; tarps; mobile homes; tile; stone; deck boards; or

  • Any equipment, trucks, or vehicles not stored indoors; any means of conveyance utilized for movement of an article; any vehicle; or any trailer, wagon.

Stay tuned for more information.

For more information, visit the VDACS website for the Spotted Lanternfly

Second shout-out: Livable Cville event on zoning rewrite

In today’s second Patreon-fueled shout-out, Livable Cville wants you to mark your calendar for August 31 for an educational talk about the next steps in the Cville Plans Together initiative. They’ve invited James Freas, the city’s Director of Neighborhood Development Services, to talk about the rewrite of the city’s zoning ordinance in an online webinar.  The talk will include a presentation on the Draft Zoning Diagnostic & Approach Report and the soon to be released Market Analysis/Inclusionary Zoning Study. The talk begins at 5:30 p.m. and will include a question and answer period. Sign up to get your place at the virtual table for Livable Cville’s Update and Next Steps for the Cville Plans Together initiative. 

An update on what’s new and upcoming in Albemarle County Parks 

The summer is coming to an end, which means the closure of public beaches in Albemarle. But the work of the county’s parks and recreation department never really stops. Earlier this month, the assistant director provided an update to the Places29-Hydraulic Community Advisory Committee

“We have twelve parks that are open,” said Amy Smith, the assistant director of the parks department. 

Smith said planning for the county’s Biscuit Run park slowed during the pandemic but is now back on track as negotiations continue with the Virginia Department of Transportation for the way vehicles will travel to a new parking area. 

“We’re well into Phase1A and we should have an entrance off of Avon and Route 20 open next fall,” Smith said. “It will have probably about 12 miles of trails. Some trails are already existing in the park and we’ll have additional trails added and improvements made to trails.” 

More information on some of the parks are in the presentation that Smith gave to the Places29-Hydraulic committee

Planning for a maintenance facility as part of Phase1B will get underway this year, including planning for trails. A three-mile greenway to officially connect 5th Street Station to the park will eventually become a stone-dust trail rather than a primitive trail that’s been at place for a while. 

That pathway will tie into what’s known as the Fifth Street Trails Hub, a project funded by the Virginia Department of Transportation though the Smart Scale process.

“So in years to come, that will be a great place for people to park and congregate or they can either get to Biscuit Run or they can jump on the Rivanna Trail around the city,” Smith said.

Smith said a perimeter trail has recently opened at Simpson Park in Esmont. 

“We had a short segment of a trail in the woods and we added a stone-dust perimeter trail so it’s about a third of a mile that circles the park,” Smith said. “Back in December we had a soft opening at Western Park [in Crozet]. We have a playground out at Western Park and there’s going to be some more amenities added. A picnic shelter and a stone-dust path.”

The dog park at Darden-Towe Park has recently been expanded and around 50 native trees were planted there to make up for over a hundred Ash trees that have been lost to disease. 

“Of note, the Charlottesville Tree Stewards got involved and they wrote a grant to pay for the trees so it doesn’t cost the county anything to replant the trees,” Smith said. 

A four-mile extension of the Old Mills Trail on the banks of the Rivanna River is also in the works. This section would go from I-64 to a boat launch at Milton and it’s now a matter of getting agreements with property owners along the way. 

“We’re working with Monticello and we’re working on our easements with Monticello,” Smith said. 

Another new park that will soon open is Rivanna Village Park in the Village of Rivanna designated growth area, which Smith said should be complete next summer.

“That’s where the builder of Rivanna Village is having a turnkey park for the county,” Smith said. “They’re building the park and the amenities and they will turn over the park to us next summer.”

That will include a picnic shelter, a dog park, a small field, rest rooms, and parking. 

“It’s just not for the people who live there,” Smith said. “People will be able to drive in and park and utilize the facilities.”

Members of the Places29-Hydraulic committee had the chance to ask questions, such as this one from Planning Commissioner Julian Bivins. 

“I had a sense that there was a gift to the county on Arrowhead Valley Road or Arrowhead Valley?” Bivins said. “I was wondering if I was remembering that correctly and if that’s true, are there any plans for that piece of property?”

Bivins referred to a 400 acre plot off of U.S. 29 south of Charlottesville that’s known as the William. S. D. Woods Natural Heritage Area. The land was donated to the county by a couple who have since passed. 

“Right now, we’re just holding it,” Smith said, “It’s in our capital improvement program but it hasn’t been funded to be developed.”

Speaking of the capital improvement program, Supervisor Diantha McKeel noted that there is only one park inside of the county’s urban ring and that’s Charlotte Humphris Park. She said the county must prioritize building services for people in the development areas.

“Many of the folks that live in our community don’t have the ability to ride a bike for 15 or 20 minutes to a park or to ride a bus to a park—and many of our buses don’t even go to the parks—so I’m just starting to say let’s put our radar screens that pocket parks are really important for people who live in the urban area,” McKeel said. 

More information on some of the parks are in the presentation that Smith gave to the Places29-Hydraulic committee

Housekeeping for Episode #424

My quest to get this one completed by 1 p.m. was made more difficult by the clerk of the Board of Supervisors for Prince Edward County. In addition to this newsletter, I produce a weekly look at what’s coming up at local meetings of all elected bodies in the 24 localities of Virginia’s Fifth Congressional District. There were none this week until I got a notice yesterday . To learn more about that, you’ll have to read today’s installment

Today’s show is also three segments, but two of them are based on sound I’ve gathered. Many of you who read this may not know it’s also a podcast similar to what you might hear on public radio. After all, that’s how I got my start as a professional, over 25 years ago. So, take a listen sometime if you have not done so, and subscribe to the podcast! 

Thank you to all who support the work and help me to keep these newsletters coming on a frequent basis. This is a very complex community, I feel we need as many eyes and ears paying attention as possible, not to mention the use of the other senses. I may or may not be experimenting with versions you can touch, taste, or smell.

If you would like to support the show financially to help keep my laboratory stocked with Erlenmeyer flasks, do consider a paid subscription through Substack is the way to go. And, if you do, Ting will cover that initial payment. That could be at $5 a month or $50 a year, which gets you first-look access to stories such as Friday’s report from the Charlottesville Circuit Court on the Comprehensive Plan lawsuit, or the forthcoming September property transactions. 

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