The Nansemond River Preservation Alliance was established in 2009 with the mission to “raise public awareness and encourage environmental stewardship of the Nansemond River, Chuckatuck Creek, Bennett’s Creek and their tributaries and wetlands by developing and implementing programs and initiating collaborative actions with individuals, businesses, civic organizations and governmental agencies.” Longtime president and CEO Elizabeth Taraski stepped down earlier this year and was replaced by Beth Cross in February. Beth comes to NRPA with a long background in nonprofit work. Her most recent position was the Vice President of Student Life at Mid-Atlantic
Christian University, however, her leadership and experience in nonprofits really flourished with her 9 years working at Help & Emergency Response Shelter (HER) in Portsmouth. She began as the volunteer coordinator before being promoted to executive director. Because her degree is in nonprofit management and finance, she sees nonprofits through a business-minded perspective.
She is grateful that NRPA is already so strong because of its incredible volunteer base of over 200 skilled individuals. Beth is eager to expand her volunteer base even further so that NRPA members can educate more youth and show them the adventures that they can have in their own backyards. One of her priorities is advocating to maintain Suffolk’s shorelines as the city continues to develop. A huge part of how healthy the river and all of the creatures that live in and near it is the shoreline’s health and stability, and it cannot simply be replaced with landscaping.
There are a multitude of ways that youth and adults can immediately get involved with the NRPA. There are six different committees that interested volunteers can become members of: marketing, shoreline, water quality and research, environmental education, public access, and oyster restoration. Volunteers frequently travel along Suffolk’s waterways as citizen scientists and conduct water quality testing. I had the opportunity to take two of my high school students with me on a three hour water testing trip, and we learned so much through this hands-on learning opportunity. It’s
incredibly eye-opening to see our city through a completely different point of view and to get a real-time understanding of the health of our waterways. Most people don’t realize it, but there is a beautiful stretch of river behind the Walmart downtown, and you might even have the pleasure of
spotting eagles circling above the store. Beth believes that if you “come connect with nature, you’ll see why it counts,” and these interactive and exploratory activities help youth and adults alike to have a deeper understanding of water’s vital role in their lives and to see that “the river is part of their narrative.”
If you are available on Saturday June 17th at 9AM, there will be a monthly shoreline cleanup at Sleepy Hole Park. I took two of my students to an early spring cleanup, and it was a great
opportunity to learn more about native plants and the important work of maintaining the shoreline. The community of NRPA is so supportive and welcoming, and I am looking forward to working with them again! Additionally, at 10AM on the 17th, there will be an oyster cleaning event at a volunteer’s home. Please email Beth for more information about how to get involved!
Beth believes that it is the everyday decisions that make a significant difference in the river’s health. Planting native plants in your backyard, avoiding over-fertilizing your lawn, cleaning up properly after your pets, and avoiding dumping things like oil down the drain all help to contribute to healthier
waterways. There are so many resources to find which plants are native to our area, and members of the NRPA will be happy to point you in the right direction! If you are planning to have an oyster roast this fall, Beth urges you to bring your shells to the collection bin at Bennetts Creek Park so that
they can be returned to the river in the spring. Even better, if you live on or near the water, the NRPA would love to have you raise an oyster garden or reef.
At Rose Hill Heritage Farm 1630, we are committed to being good stewards of our land so that it can be enjoyed for generations to come. We do not use insecticides or herbicides, and we are careful
with our fertilizer use. We are committed to not creating harmful run-off that pollutes our waterways. Our low-till restorative practices are done with the intention to heal and maintain the land.
More information about the Nansemond River Preservation Alliance can be found at their website: https://www.cleanmyrivers.com/
Beth Cross’ email is: firstname.lastname@example.org