Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Blue Ridge Ski & Outing Club - Gravely Hike

On November 6th, 15 people (and one dog!) enjoyed a Blue Ridge Ski and Outing Club hike at the Gravely Nature Preserve, Henry County’s first and, at present, only interpretative park. The 75-acre Preserve is a part of the Smith River Trails system which includes multiuse trails, riverside parks, and boating access points at intervals along the entire river through Henry County and into North Carolina, where the Smith converges with the Dan River.
The group started the hike on the Jones Cliff Trail that follows a ridge 200 feet above the Smith River going by a century old tobacco barn and passing through a mature hardwood forest.
Then they split off from that trail to descend on the Rhododendron Trail to the Smith River and walk beside the chattering river rapids through a tunnel like canopy of rhododendrons. They ascended on the other end to rejoin the Jones Cliff Trail and visit the Burgess Family Cemetery dating back to the 1800’s. It was a lovely sunny day for our 2-mile adventure.
The club plans to return in the spring when the rhododendron is in bloom!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Tis the Season for Trout

The first week in December is an exciting time in our region.  Students across the Smith River Valley have anxiously awaited the arrival of a special package that heralds the beginning of a new season. They arrive as small wet bundles wrapped in cheesecloth containing hundreds of tiny pink eggs. The deliveries to schools across the area mark the beginning of another season of Trout in the Classroom.   Over the next six months, students in local area schools will take on the responsibility of caring for these brown trout as they hatch and grow into fingerlings for release into our local rivers. 
The Trout in the Classroom (TIC) program started in 2005 and this year marks the beginning of the sixth season for what has become one of Virginia’s top watershed education programs.  The brown trout eggs that were picked up last Friday are provided by The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) from the state hatchery at Wytheville, VA.  Butch Bates, hatchery manger welcomes TIC coordinators across the state and has been instrumental in the support of the program since 2006. 
This award-wining program was originally conceived by Trout Unlimited over 20 years ago but was first introduced to Virginia classrooms by Dr. David Jones, a Martinsville area Orthodontist and has become an institution here in Southwest Virginia as one of the largest single TIC programs in the country.  

 TIC staff and volunteers make the trip across 3 counties and back to pick up thousands of trout eggs and deliver them to schools participating in the program.  These eggs are just the beginning and students and teachers will be raising the trout throughout the school year as they hatch from the fragile eggs and grow into healthy young trout under their watchful care. The trout eggs are delivered  to classrooms usually around the first week in December.   

Dr. Jones, Brian Williams of the Dan River Basin Association and volunteer TIC helpers have been making the journey to the hatchery each year and according to Brian, “It’s great way to kick off the start of each season.  The students are always excited when we arrive with eggs and you can see that it really sparks an interest in learning about the trout.  It’s amazing when you think how many kids have been through the program here in our region and now it has grown to 140 tanks across the state from Richmond on through to the Blueridge.”  

 This year, Brian and TIC volunteer Lisa Hall, a local dental hygienist and member of Smith River Trout Unlimited, made the journey to Wytheville to pick up the eggs.  This is volunteer Hall’s first year helping with the program. “Wow, this program is incredible and the trip to the hatchery was a fantastic experience.  We saw the huge parent trout that provided the eggs for this year and delivering  to schools was very exciting…the kids are really excited to get their eggs, “ said Lisa. 

 TIC could not be possible without the help of the VDGIF and Butch Bates, hatchery manager at Wytheville according to Brian Williams.  “Butch has really made a difference in the program and has been extremely helpful with his knowledge of rearing trout fry. 
“I love it !, says Butch. “ With just a small investment of time we can provide these eggs that help thousands of students learn about their local watersheds and why clean water is important to the health of our rivers” We raise a lot of fish for our stocking program but TIC is one way we can really make an impact on so many kids with so little effort, its great!”  The eggs should be hatching just before Christmas break and will remain in the baskets for about 3 weeks.  Trout need cold, clean water to survive and one of the major lessons the student learn is how a healthy stream has lots of food for trout and clean water.

Egg deliveries to Henry, Franklin and Pittsylvania school began on Friday with each school receiving a bundle of 200-250 eggs.  “The program has grown to over 30 tanks in four counties and with so many schools in the program now, we don’t even make it to them all in one day and some eggs are held in tanks and delivered in the next week, “ according to Brian.  Wayne Kirpatrick, president of the Dan River basin Association and Rozina Turner of Woolwine Elementary,  will be picking up and delivering eggs for all Patrick County Schools on December 14th. Patrick County has the distinction of having a trout tank in every one of its schools this year.
Across the country, Trout in the Classroom programs are sponsored by local organizations and funded locally as well.  The Martinsville / Henry County TIC program continues to be supported by the resources from the Harvest Foundation, Dr. David Jones, the Dan River Basin Association staff and volunteers, and local civic organizations.   

The real dedication comes from the teachers and students as they are responsible for the care, feeding and eventual release of trout into the Smith and Dan Rivers. 
According to David Jones, “The teachers and students are the heroes of this program and the key to its success.  With their support, dedication and love for the program we are beginning to see the results.  
Students are learning about our local rivers and beginning to understand the importance of water quality and how it impacts to quality of life and even our economy. We have also see amazing results in attendance and learning and development in classrooms exposed to this program.”   
An avid fly fisherman and strong conservationist, Lisa Hall has seen the program in action and is anxious to help students and teachers this year.  “What a great way to start the holiday season…all I want for Christmas is hatching trout !”

For more information on the local program visit:
For information on Trout Unlimited and the national Trout in the Classroom Program visit: