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'You can hear birds chirping': Out on the James River

Two geese on a small patch of land in the river. One faces the camera, standing, while the other looks away
Connor Scribner
VPM News
A goose rests on one leg near the James River.

Earth Day is Saturday, April 22.

VPM News' reporter Patrick Larsen met up with Justin Doyle, director of community conservation with the James River Association. They walked down to one of Doyle's favorite spots on the James — about a 5-minute walk from the River Association’s office in downtown Richmond.

Note: This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity and grammar.

Justin Doyle: We're at one of my favorite spots in the James River Park System: Pipeline. And we're just below Pipeline Rapids — which is a wonderful rapid to run if you're a whitewater kayaker. We're pretty close to where the James River becomes tidal at the bottom of the fall line.

I like this particular location, because there's a sandy beach right here. This is kind of like our salmon run. You know, the kind of the East Coast version of the West Coast salmon run: Migratory fish species coming upriver to spawn this time of year. And there's just a lot of wildlife activity as a result of that migration.

You look at Richmond's riverfront, it's largely undeveloped, it's largely accessible to the public. And I don't think a lot of cities have that since it is very special.

And some of the work that we've done with assistance from a lot of different partners across the watershed is to expand access to the James River and its tributaries. So that as many people as possible have the ability to enjoy the river.

We feel like if people have an opportunity to enjoy the river, they're going to develop an appreciation for it and be more willing to be stewards of our natural resources and take more of an interest in the river’s health.

Two people kayak toward one another in a wide river.
Connor Scribner
VPM News
People kayak along the James River near Richmond's Belle Isle on a warm spring morning.

Some everyday things that people can do are simply picking up trash that you see lying on the ground. While you're at home, it's using less water, using native plants and conservation landscaping plants that are native to our region and are adapted to thrive here. It’s using less fertilizers or no fertilizers at all, avoiding pesticides and herbicides. Those simple actions go a long way in improving the health of James River in our ecosystem.

Even just standing down here right now, the sound of moving water and the sound of the rapids in the distance kind of drown out the sounds of everyday life. You can hear birds chirping, you can hear the fish splashing a little bit.

Just being able to drown out those sounds — it's kind of meditative in a way.

During the workday, if I get a few minutes to step away and walk down to the river, I'll take that opportunity all the time just to come down here, refresh, recharge and spend a few minutes doing nothing. Just simply being present in the moment and in the environment.

Patrick Larsen is VPM News' environment and energy reporter, and fill-in host.
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