When the James River Association (JRA) was founded in 1976, the James River was considered one of the most polluted rivers in the country with large sections of it declared dead or unfit for human use. Through four decades of consistent and continued effort, JRA has helped turn the James from the most polluted to the most improved. While we celebrate the progress we have made, we also recognize that the James River remains a river at risk and that each additional step toward full health will be harder than the step before. JRA is the only organization solely dedicated to protecting and restoring the health of the James River and one of the leading conservation organizations in Virginia. JRA protects the James River and connects people to it through programs that build awareness, appreciation, action and advocacy. With the James River basin spanning 10,000 square miles, we work across the state to address the critical issues currently affecting the James River, its tributaries, and the communities along it. JRA’s strategic efforts provide a comprehensive and long-term approach to the systemic problems facing our waters, as well as to the opportunities a healthy river provides to our community.
JRA’s Education programs connect youth with river-based learning experiences that inspire confidence, ecological understanding , nature appreciation, and conservation action. We accomplish this through interdisciplinary learning experiences that are correlated to the Virginia Standards of Learning and are field-based, using the context of the James River to bring complex concepts to life. The James River Ecology School is the centerpiece of our education program on Presquile National Wildlife Refuge, a 1,329 -acre island on the James River south of Richmond. Day trips and overnight trips are available with accommodations at a bunkhouse on the island. The James River Expedition invites teachers and students on a week long river expedition connecting the rich history and ecology of the James to today’s challenges and opportunities. JRA leads these adventures to inspire young leaders and to call attention to the value and benefits of a healthy James River - teaching camping and paddling techniques along the way. The James River Leadership Program is a year-long leadership program for 10th and 11th grade students who are passionate and committed to protecting the future of our natural resources. The program consists of leadership development and skill building curriculum that equips participants with tools, methods, and resources to become leaders for the environment while encouraging further growth and development in students’ personal, academic, and professional careers.
A James River Riverkeeper is the eyes and ears of JRA, keeping it and the public abreast of situations on the river. The Upper James Riverkeeper and Lower James Riverkeeper are on the river several days per week and work with the public, including boaters, fishermen, farmers and landowners, to promote awareness of issues and good stewardship for a cleaner, healthier river. The Riverkeepers are assisted by JRA's RiverRats, a volunteer corps of river monitors who patrol their chosen stretch of waterway looking for pollution and threats to wildlife habitat.
JRA implements solutions throughout the watershed to improve water quality. Throught volunteer programs such as public and self-directed trash clean-ups, River Hero Homes and community watershed restoration projects poeple of all ages have opportunities to participate in hands-on projects designed to prevent runoff and protect their local water quality. Each project has an educational component as many of the techniques learned by the volunteers can be applied at their own homes.
JRA works with decision makers throughout the watershed to increase their knowledge of the issues facing the James River and inform them on the best solutions that are available to them to benefit the James River.
JRA’s Community Conservation Program helps communities realize the benefits of a healthy James River. Economic and quality of life benefits are derived from recreation on the James River and its tributaries. The James River Association's Community Conservationists connect individuals to the James River by working with communities to plan and promote riverfronts, public river access, as well as land and water trails. Through the collaborative Envision The James initiative, Community Conservationists work with partners across the watershed to advance conservation and recreation efforts, including the 2013 Virginia Outdoors Plan, Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, Richmond Riverfront Plan, James River Heritage Trail, and Upper James River Water Trail.