A good place for rats

Published 10:08 pm Tuesday, April 15, 2014

You might not think you’d want river rats running around Suffolk. As it turns out, however, one of the best things that could happen to the ecosystem of the James River watershed that lies in Suffolk is for a small family of River Rats to take up “residence” here.

In this case, the River Rats would be the two-legged variety, and they most likely would ply the Nansemond River, Chuckatuck Creek and their tributaries by boat, looking for situations that would contribute to ecological problems along Suffolk’s waterways.

Unpermitted structures, illegal discharges, dangerous runoff — all of those things can threaten the plants and animals that call the ecosystem surrounding Suffolk’s waterways home. Many of the threats are man-made, and the James River Association’s Riverkeeper program thinks a network of River Rats can be effective at helping their neighbors understand the impact their actions and activities have on the precious resource the waterways represent.


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“A lot of times, they recognize something somebody’s doing that’s not the best for the river and engage in (a) conversation. That’s what we want to go for: change somebody’s mind,” Riverkeeper Jamie Brunkow said this week.

The River Rats would be charged with making three patrols a year along the waterways and their shores, looking for chances to engage the folks who live on or use those waterways in constructive conversations about the importance of keeping them clean.

Becoming a River Rat involves a half-day of training, and the next local session is May 3 in Smithfield at the Smithfield Innovation Center, 401 N. Church St., from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m.

Applications can be downloaded at www.jamesriverassociation.org/get-involved/volunteer/riverrats. The program is a great opportunity for folks who love the waterways in Suffolk to help make sure those waterways will be healthy and vibrant for many years to come.