Written by Rachael Moffatt
Volunteers play a huge role in helping the James River Association achieve its mission. Much of our work would not be possible without the knowledge and dedication of our volunteers. Whether it is a trash cleanup, water quality testing, invasive species management, restoration plantings or help with office tasks, volunteers give us a direct connection to the diverse communities we work with throughout the watershed.
Meet volunteer water quality monitoring duo, brothers Allen and John Freeman! John introduced Allen to James River Watch earlier this year when they attended a training session in the Spring of 2018 and now regularly collect and process water quality samples in Scottsville. John and Allen grew up in Richmond on (and sometimes in!) the James River between Boshers and Williams Dams with three other siblings. Summers were spent fishing, swimming, and boating on the river, leading to a lifelong love of the river and all bodies of water.
Allen moved to Crozet for a career in education. He taught history, social studies, and classes for gifted students in middle school and high school – in all, he worked with Albemarle County students for 37 years! Today, Allen spends his days fishing in his pond and tending to the vegetable and flower garden that he and his wife, Jane, have maintained for over 30 years. Growing up on the James gave Allen an intimate knowledge of James River ecology which he has occasionally used to work with the local newspaper, the Richmond Times- Dispatch, to correct misconceptions about algae growth and to educate people about the local dams.
For Allen, the best part about volunteering with the James River Association has been working and connecting with his brother John on the drive from Charlottesville to their sampling site in Scottsville. It is a good time for them to reminisce about growing up on the river. Keeping tabs on water quality is one way of ensuring that the river remains clean and inviting. He is happy to see that the James is looking healthy in Scottsville and would encourage others to get involved so that they can give back to the community. He feels that the James River Association is doing important work, especially for those who love the river and the environment.
Reflecting back over the summer monitoring season, Allen remembers the first time him and John headed out to their sampling site. The river was near flood stage and they had a mess of a time getting to the testing location. The bank was slick, causing them to almost slip in the water! Heavy rains had caused pollutants to enter the water, so bacteria level readings were high. Subsequent tests over the summer have produced healthy bacteria levels, meaning the bacteria levels had gone down with the river level. Virginia still has a way to go to protect the James River watershed and the Chesapeake Bay, so vigilance is important!
Thank you Allen and John for your time and effort. Volunteers like you make programs like James River Watch possible. We couldn’t do it without you!