NRPA to host panel talk at cultural arts center

Published 10:45 pm Friday, April 18, 2014

The Nansemond River Preservation Alliance invites citizens to a free panel discussion in downtown Suffolk Thursday on balancing the city’s growth with the surrounding natural environment.

At the Suffolk Center for the Cultural Arts, panelists will include local waterman Robbie Johnson, former Naval Station Norfolk commanding officer Joseph F. Bouchard and William C. Baker, Chesapeake Bay Foundation president and CEO. Mayor Linda T. Johnson will deliver opening comments.

The event is part of the alliance’s River Talk series, previously held in North Suffolk at the Ruritan Hall in Eclipse, in coordination with another group, Suffolk River Heritage.

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A recently formed partnership with the cultural arts center, which has facilitated next week’s event, will extend the alliance’s ability to reach a broader audience, said Elizabeth Taraski, its executive director.

“What we envisioned was three different views about the one topic,” she said of the panel discussion.

Owner of Johnson and Sons Seafood in Eclipse, Johnson depends on healthy waterways for his family’s livelihood, Taraski noted.

“It’s a business,” upon which the state of the environment has an economic impact, she said.

Baker is across the different practices of watershed states toward the Chesapeake Bay, Taraski said. “It’s the Mid-Atlantic, regional perspective,” she added.

Bouchard, meanwhile, was responsible during his tenure at the naval station for ensuring the military’s preparation for sea-level rise, according to Taraski.

“He understands rising sea levels,” she said. “He also has perspective on regional and state issues,” having served in the General Assembly.

Two questions will be posed, Taraski said: What best-practices should be applied in Suffolk to balance development with environmental health? What are the opportunities for Suffolk are presented by its waterways?

Panelists will each have eight to ten minutes to answer each question, and audience members will ask questions live, according to Taraski, who will moderate.

“I have been going throughout the community over the last three years – and other (alliance) members – to speak before different community groups,” she said.

“This is just a different type of event for us. It’s a wonderful opportunity … and we have very much cherished our relationship with the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts.”

After a half-hour reception, the program begins at 7:30 p.m. Registration is not required.