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2012 River Heroes

The Boathouse and Friends of the James River Park announced that Robert Steidel, Director of Richmond's Department of Public Utilities and Greg Velzy, Adventure Programmer for Chesterfield County Parks and Recreation are 2012 River Heroes!

River Hero winners
Our Heroes, Bob Steidel and Greg Velzy, with FOJRP co-president Betsy Slade.

Both gentlemen go well beyond their job descriptions and have championed the James River in fundamental ways. Here are excerpts from the winning nominations.

About Bob Steidel:

"Some years ago, the joke among whitewater paddlers was that you could put your boat on the river, but could not take it off. One takeout after another had been taken away from paddlers in the downtown area below the rapids. Mayors, city managers, and councilpersons were asked to give some attention to the problem, with no response. Nothing happened.

Mr. Steidel was approached and in short order we were walking DPU property to see what might be feasible. That was followed by a Memorandum of Understanding between DPU and the Parks Department designating riverside property as a takeout. DPU moved a fence or two and James River Park employees and dozens of James River Outdoor Coalition volunteers pitched in to create a first-rate take-out facility.

Currently another MOU is underway to formalize the practice of having the James River Park manage Williams Island, a significant nature preserve on the James River.

Many public officials take a narrow view of their responsibilities and therefore miss opportunities to contribute to the public good. Robert Steidel takes a broader view, and as a result has contributed significantly to the James River in ways others in his position would likely miss.

About Greg Velzy:

As the Adventure Programmer for Chesterfield Parks and Recreation Greg has been able to introduce thousands of people, of all ages, to the best playground that any region could ever have, the James River.

Whether these folks are interested in the serenity of the Dutch Gap Conservation Area, the riffles and pools of Pony Pasture, or the vigorous rapids coursing through downtown, Greg has taught them how to enjoy our river and its environs to the fullest extent, while doing it in ways that are safe and have minimal impact. Despite being an expert paddler himself, Greg's patient nature encourages novice boaters to step out of their comfort zones and many have become hooked on paddling. After completing the course, each participant has progressed from someone whose only contact with the water may have been to drive over a bridge, to perhaps becoming a regular paddler or at the very least, another steward of the James River.

He became active with JROC (the James River Outdoor Coalition) when it was a fledgling organization in the late '90s. His work with Coastal Canoeists and JRAC encouraged Governor Warner to appoint him to sit on the Falls of the James Scenic River Advisory Board. His excellent leadership skills led him to be named Chair of the Falls Advisory Committee.

We'd also like to thank everyone who took the time to write up a nomination -- they were all heartfelt, impressive, and made our decision difficult. Thanks also to The Boathouse, Discover the James and Real Richmond Food Tours for gift and financial support. And, of course, we greatly appreciate the efforts of our very fine judges: FOJRP board members and Mike Ostrander of Discover the James, Kevin Tobin of Passages Adventure Camps, and Jay Parker of Seven Hills School. Thank you, one and all!

River Heros logo

About the River Hero Award

With this annual event, the Friends of the James River Park hope to bring attention to the magnificent, scenic river that runs through Richmond and to those who have worked to make the James River a better place for both people and wildlife.

No award was made in 2013.