On Monday I joined Transition Charlottesville-Albemarle at the at the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library for a forum to discuss water conservation and protection.  The panel included Robbi Savage (Rivanna Conservation Society), Alyson Sappington (Thomas Jefferson Soil and Water Conservation District) and me.

My remarks focused on Charlottesville Tomorrow’s news coverage of the future of the Rivanna River which joins our two communities together.  I made the point that a river is easier to protect if more people can experience it (obviously that requires some careful balance).  In my almost 30 years here, I have hardly spent any time on the 8-9 mile stretch of water between U.S. 29 and Interstate 64 at the base of Monticello.

This is the challenge given to our local planning commissions earlier this summer:

“Staff would like to recommend that the Commissions consider how to collaborate to make the Rivanna River a more prominent and accessible resource for both City and County.”

The commissions both agreed and now a joint planning effort is underway for both the Woolen Mills area and the Rivanna River.  The next opportunity for public input will be at a joint city-county work session being held September 18 (time place TBA).  

This activity certainly has the staff at Charlottesville Tomorrow thinking differently about this community as a river city.  I shared a top-10 list of questions on our mind and opportunities for the audience to consider.

    Get involved! There is an immediate opportunity to provide input on city AND county long range goals for their respective comprehensive plans.  The river will be a topic at the September 18 joint planning commissions meeting.

    What uses would the public support?  A scientific public opinion survey would provide some interesting data.

    Whatever happened to Albemarle’s reservation of land for boat access at the North Fork Soccer Complex? Would this be an attractive stretch for boating?  What water level is needed to avoid portages?

    Have the Shad returned to spawn upstream of the old Woolen Mills dam?  Other fishing opportunities?

    What are the trail gaps and what is being done to complete the trails?  Could we have a top-10 most wanted trail sections to be funded by private donors?  Talk to Rivanna Trails Foundation and our city-county officials (Dan Mahon and Bob Crickenberger in Albemarle and Chris Gensic and Brian Daly in Charlottesville).

    How would new pedestrian/bike crossings or bridges help and where should they be?  What have our city-county trail planners or master plans recommended?

    What are best practices from other cities that make rivers a key attribute of their community?  Look to see what comes out of the UVA School of Architecture in January 2013 when they do another school-wide design charette.

    What is the health of this stretch of river?  Know what’s being done to improve it and how our local comprehensive plans impact these environmental issues.

    What balance is needed for preserving/restoring natural condition (i.e. in some place you may just have trails) vs. redevelopment of existing businesses along river?  Much of the land in this stretch is private property.  What do those property owners prefer?

    Once the city and county adopt their updated comprehensive plans, get engaged again and provide feedback on the implementation and funding priorities.

What’s missing? If you can think of other items or have comments on these, please add a comment below.