James River Advisory Council recognizes 2017 ‘Stewards of the River’

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, VA — Five individuals have been recognized as the 2017 James River Advisory Council’s Stewards of the River.

Established in 2006, the annual awards go to people or groups who’ve made measurable, positive impacts to the James River and surrounding communities. The awards were presented during JRAC’s spring meeting at Henricus Historical Park in Chesterfield County.

Photos of awardees are available at the links below.

Education Award
Meredeth Dash
Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation
Dash is active in educating people of all ages about water-quality issues. A former elementary school teacher, she works as the RiverWise Schools coordinator for the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay in Richmond. She also volunteers with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Grasses for the Masses program, where she trains other volunteers to grow underwater grasses for transplantation. Dash is a Clean Water Captain with the foundation, serving as a clean-water ambassador in her community. A resident of Hanover County, she speaks often about water issues at public meetings, churches and schools.

Communication Award
Mark Olinger
Director, City of Richmond Department of Planning and Development Review
Olinger strives to communicate the importance of preserving, promoting and enjoying the James River. He led much of the strategy for the Richmond Riverfront Plan, which aims to revitalize a 2.25-mile stretch of the James. He was also instrumental in the implementation of the T. Tyler Potterfield Memorial Bridge. Olinger emphasizes the value of water quality, air quality, environmentally sensitive lands and urban open space in the community and with stakeholders and businesses. He believes the riverfront provides not just one experience but many experiences.

Community Partnership Award
Victor Weitsao Liu and Reiko Liu
Friends of the Lower Appomattox River and the Crater Planning District Commission
The Lius have established a college scholarship fund for qualifying students in the Appomattox River watershed, which feeds the James River. The Friends of the Lower Appomattox River Scholarship, administered by the John Randolph Foundation, was established in 2016 through a generous contribution from the Lius. The driving vision behind the scholarship includes recognition for student service and commitment to natural resources conservation. The Lius believe environmental education, outreach and community engagement are vital to the complete education of future leaders.

Guardian Award
Amber Ellis
Restoration Manager, James River Association
As a landscape architect, Ellis enriches the environment by creating spaces that are natural and enjoyable for people. Through JRA’s River Hero Homes program, she encourages citizens to beautify their yards while protecting local streams and the James River. She has been an advocate in her own neighborhood, in Richmond’s Bellemeade community and at the historic Belmead Plantation in Powhatan. Ellis also has been an active member of the James River Advisory Council and managed sites for the annual James River Regional Cleanup.

Historical Values Award
Bryan Walker
Volunteer, Falling Creek Ironworks Foundation
Walker was instrumental in preserving the site of the Falling Creek Ironworks, where the nation’s first iron furnace was built in 1619. He began raising awareness about the site in the 1980s, when it was still privately owned. Today, it is owned by Chesterfield County and is being developed into a park. Walker cares for this historic waterfront property, ensuring it is protected, accessible, clean and interpreted for future generations. In the last 30 years, he also has served with other organizations and committees, such as the Chesterfield Historical Society.

Exceptional Service Award
This award is presented to a long-time JRAC member who exemplifies outstanding service and dedication.
Nancy Drumheller
Public Relations Manager, Central Virginia Waste Management Authority
Drumheller has been a hardworking and dedicated member of JRAC for more than 20 years. During that time, she has served as a site leader for the annual James River Regional Cleanup and chair of the Stewards of the River awards. She currently chairs the Membership Committee. She continues to be supportive by taking the initiative to ensure JRAC follows its mission and vision. Drumheller consistently strives to bring various parties together to protect and promote the James River to ensure it remains a valuable resource.

The James River Advisory Council’s mission is to promote and protect the James River as one of Central Virginia’s greatest assets and one of America’s unique rivers. JRAC brings people from throughout the region to a common table where representatives from local, state and federal government, businesses and industry, community organizations, as well as citizens, share ideas and talk objectively and constructively about river issues and education.

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