Waterways event set

Published 9:44 pm Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Nansemond River Preservation Alliance’s second annual River and Creek Fest this Saturday will give citizens, especially children, an opportunity to learn more about Suffolk’s natural environment.

After the event attracted about 150 visitors last year, Elizabeth Taraski, alliance executive director, hopes it will draw twice as many to Bennett’s Creek Park this weekend.

“This year we have expanded, with new participating organizations,” she said, listing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Virginia Living Museum, Mike’s Rain Barrels and Virginia Master Naturalists among the additions.

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Other participating groups will include Smithfield Gardens, Suffolk River Heritage, the Izaak Walton League of Suffolk, Master Gardeners and the city of Suffolk Department of Parks and Recreation, while the Nansemond River Power Squadron has also been invited.

Parks and Recreation will be on hand to promote its plans for kayak and canoe launches around Suffolk, Taraski said.

“All over, it’s an opportunity to experience the waterways,” she said. “So many people don’t have that opportunity, so we are bringing the experience (to them).

“It’s really an educational program, so people understand and respect our waterways.”

Displays will focus on interactivity, Taraski said, with many opportunities for visitors to get involved.

The fest will expand children’s understanding of the environment, she said, teaching them “they are part of it … the waterfowl and the critters are all part of the ecosystem, and they are part of the ecosystem also.”

River and Creek Fest will run from 9:30 a.m. to noon. Between about 9 and 10 a.m., Taraski said, local students participating in an alliance oyster gardening project will set out from the park’s boat launch to “plant” baby mollusks.

This project is designed to teach students stewardship of the river; about 35,000 oysters were raised last year.

Saturday’s event will link with science lessons students are learning in the classroom, Taraski said.

“We are giving them hands-on experience, and that’s what I would really emphasize,” she said.

“They can understand firsthand what we are doing.”

The free event coincides with the 25th annual Clean the Bay Day, a Chesapeake Bay Foundation initiative to clean up waterways.

Suffolk citizens can still register for Clean the Bay Day, which since 2009 has involved more than 122,000 volunteers, who have removed about 5.8 million pounds of debris from almost 5,500 miles of Virginia shoreline, according to the foundation.

To sign up for Clean the Bay Day, visit www.cbf.org/clean.