Volunteers plant buffer at wharf

Published 10:01 pm Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The Nansemond River received more community support with a garden project in downtown Suffolk on Wednesday.

Nansemond River Preservation Alliance president and chief executive officer Elizabeth Taraski organized volunteers to help plant a stormwater buffer garden by the waterside of Constant’s Wharf near the Hilton Garden Inn Suffolk Riverfront.

She was joined on Wednesday by representatives from Parks and Recreation, J.M. Smucker and Suffolk Business Women, along with local high school students. Susan Draper, the commissioner of the revenue, also volunteered to get her hands dirty and help the waterways.

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“It’s a community-wide effort to preserve and protect the waterways,” Taraski said.

Parks and Recreation employees cleared a bed of overgrown brush at the site and supplied the mulch and equipment needed to plant 12 wax myrtle trees. These “Don’s Dwarf” variety trees will be up to six feet tall when fully grown and will absorb storm water as their roots go deeper into the soil.

They are also resilient to local weather and other changing conditions.

“They tend to grow well with very little maintenance,” said Parks and Recreation principal planner Mike Kelly.

Draper said she knew Taraski through the Suffolk Rotary Club and Suffolk Business Women. She was glad to take a few hours out of her afternoon schedule to help solve a Suffolk dilemma.

“I grew up here, and I’ve seen (the waterways) get more and more polluted,” Draper said. “I’m hoping things like this turn things around.”

Deborah Gayle, the founder of Suffolk Business Women and TitleQuest Hampton Roads president, volunteered to give back to nature in the community and help support local wildlife.

“I’m a big nature lover,” Gayle said.

Two students from Nansemond-Suffolk Academy were among the volunteers on Wednesday. Bridget McKneely, a 15-year-old sophomore, was excited to support the project.

“We’re all on this earth, and we need to take the best care of it that we can,” McKneely said.

Taraski said one of the NRPA’s goals is to foster the environmental activism of tomorrow.

“We want to introduce the generation to taking care of the environment,” she said.

One of those future activists will be Emma Butler, a 17-year-old senior at NSA. Butler was accepted to the College of William and Mary to study environmental science. She said working with the NRPA with its data collection on Suffolk waterways was good experience for her desired career.

“I enjoy this kind of work,” she said.

Butler will join the NRPA on its upcoming projects this summer, such as a marsh field study at Bennett’s Creek and a program for kindergartners this June.

“This is the first project of many,” Taraski said.