Kayakers in the Hoffler Creek Wildlife Preserve.
Kayakers in the Hoffler Creek Wildlife Preserve.

Hoffler hosts Waterways Weekend

Published 9:16pm Thursday, May 15, 2014

The story of Hoffler Creek Wildlife Preserve is a heart-warming one of regular citizens standing up and taking action, according to Kirsten Halverson.

Named for William Hoffler, a Revolutionary War militia captain, the 142-acre haven for critters, in Portsmouth near North Suffolk, was a camping ground for Confederate soldiers during the Civil War, and strategically important for American soldiers during the War of 1812’s Battle of Craney Island.

Halverson, programs director with the Hoffler Creek Wildlife Foundation, noted that farmers began planting the land to timber in the 1940s and ‘50s, planning to sell it to developers.

“For whatever reason, it never got developed,” Halverson said.

Residential streets encroach the preserve, though, and it was the Virginia Department of Transportation that bought the final acreage, mining sand and fill from it for the Western Freeway and Interstate 664.

When VDOT tried to sell its holding to developers in the early 1990s, folks living around the land, who Halverson said had been using it for recreation, appealed to the city of Portsmouth to buy and preserve it as green space.

“They said, ‘That’s great, but we don’t have any money; you come up with the money,’” Halverson said.

By 1997, she said, community members had raised $100,000, which became seed money for the foundation after Portsmouth got a lucky break and was able to acquire the land for $1.

“Part of the mission of the foundation is to provide education around environmental stewardship,” Halverson said.

To that end, the foundation will hold Watershed Weekend at the preserve this weekend, with free games and activities designed around environmental awareness, and particularly waterways.

On Saturday, local musician Bob Zentz will perform children’s songs from 11 a.m., and for adults and children from 2:30 p.m. Other free interactive activities will include Turtle Time from 10 a.m. and a box turtle survey, requiring pre-registration, from 11:30 a.m.

Rain barrel workshops at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., and also 2 p.m. on Sunday, cost $50 — pre-registration required — and a rain sticks craft activity at 1:30 p.m. costs $5 per pre-registered child.

Also on Sunday, self-guided activities are planned for 10 a.m. through 4 p.m., and forester Mike Aherron will lead a free tree walk from 1 p.m.

Halverson, the event’s co-organizer, is looking for some volunteers to help it run smoothly.

“I’m looking for some people to help with a few of the activities … or (to) check on people and just keep an eye on things,” she said.

To volunteer, call 686-8684 or email hofflercreek@hofflercreek.org. To register for activities, call, email or visit www.hofflercreek.org.

Hoffler Creek Wildlife Preserve is at 4510 Twin Pines Road, Portsmouth.

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