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Sunday, May 19, 2024

James River Association Recognizes Community Members and Shares River Stories

The James River Association held its 2022 Annual Meeting Monday at Hardywood Park Craft Brewery’s West Creek location in Richmond. (The James River Association)

RICHMOND — The James River Association (JRA) held its 2022 Annual Meeting Monday at Hardywood Park Craft Brewery’s West Creek location in Richmond, presenting five “James Changer” awards to community members who made impacts on the James River over the past year.

The scheduling of the meeting coincided with the 50th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, passed on Oct. 18, 1972.

The organization’s James Changer Awards are given annually to individuals and organizations who have gone above and beyond in their commitment to the James River watershed, including those who protect the James, connect people to the James, support the James, and volunteer for the James, according to a press release.

Award recipients included John and Dan Mays, the proprietors of Twin River Outfitters and Alleghany Outdoors. Longtime partners of JRA, over the past decade, they have supported several JRA volunteer programs and played a leadership role in planning and developing the Upper James River Water Trail in collaboration with local governments and organizations, JRA said.

Filmmakers and adventure partners Justin Black, Will Gemma, Stephen Kuester, Andrew Murray, and Dietrich Teschner were also awarded for their environmental documentary, “Headwaters Down,” which chronicles a paddling trip from the headwaters of the James to Richmond and highlights conservation issues and calls-to-action to protect the James. The film has won several awards at film festivals in 2022 including the RVA Environmental Film Festival and the Richmond International Film Festival.

Robertnette Williams took home an award for his continued partnership and advocacy of JRA’s Walkable Watershed project in Petersburg, with the organization noting he has participated a wide range of activities, from grassroots flyering efforts to drainage studies and project implementation to tackle stormwater and flooding issues in the Lakemont community.

Sen. Emmett Hanger was awarded for his commitment to the Chesapeake Bay and Virginia’s agricultural industry, particularly in his role with the Senate Finance Committee, with JRA noting since he joined the committee in 2004, over $2.7 billion have been invested in clean water programs. The organization also cited his influence in the state fully funding the Virginia Agricultural Cost-Share Program for the first time in its history.

JRA also touted The Cabell Foundation’s grant of $2 million gift towards the organization’s $25 million James Changer Campaign, $1 million of which was designated to be used as a challenge grant, providing JRA a new opportunity to inspire potential donors.

(The James River Association)

JRA also celebrated its Stories by the James project, a storytelling platform that features diverse voices sharing how the river has influenced their lives to create connection and understanding.

“The Clean Water Act has been transformational for the health of our waterways, especially the James River,” said Bill Street, JRA’s CEO. “50 years ago, the River was one of the most polluted rivers in the nation, suffering from untreated sewage and unchecked chemical dumping. The water was too toxic for local wildlife and risky for recreation. Five decades of hard work and investment later, the James is once again a major attraction for fishing, swimming, and enjoying the river. This is in large part due to the Clean Water Act, as well as organizations like JRA and our dedicated community members and James Changers.”

Those interested can support JRA’s efforts by clicking here. For more information about the James River Association’s actions to promote conservation and responsible stewardship of the James River, visit

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