Three “River Heroes” Named for Work on the James

    Phaedra Hise


    Unsung heroes who promote and maintain the James River singled out by The Boathouse restaurant and Friends of the James River Park

    RICHMOND, VA – Mike Ostrander, Passages Camp and Seven Hills School have been selected as Richmond’s first “River Heroes” by The Boathouse and Friends of the James River Park. The three were chosen for their ongoing commitment to the river and park, not only cleaning and preserving the area but creating innovative river programs that embrace the community. “These are people making outstanding contributions to the parks area, and also pulling in a new generation of river fans,” says Boathouse owner Kevin Healy.

    Mike Ostrander’s truck sports a bumper sticker that says “I live on the James River.” He has created a lifestyle built around the river, running a series of fishing, educational and historical programs for local residents via his company Discover the James. Ostrander is a virtual river database, offering tours on the river’s importance for the bald eagle, Captain John Smith and Virginia Indians, Wildlife, and the Civil War. His groundbreaking fishing trips (all catch-and-release) begin by teaching anglers to how to find and identify a particular water insect that indicates whether or not the water is polluted. “By living his life on the river every day, Mike sets an example of how it can be incorporated into all of our daily lives,” noted FOJRP President, Maureen Egan.

    Passages Camp helps young people foster lifelong outdoor skills in a fun and challenging environment. Started in 1994 by Casey Cockerham and Scott Powell, the program has grown from seven staffers and 21 campers to 160+ staff which will guide nearly 1,000 youths through kayaking and rock climbing this summer during week-long day-camp programs. Campers learn environmental awareness, including “leave no trace” and trash pickup. The weekly presence of these boys and girls has helped establish a positive atmosphere on Belle Isle and the river area. In addition to programming, Passages also sets aside a percentage of revenues to the Enrichmond Foundation for urban parks and recreation, donating over $25,000 in 2010. Passages also provides scholarships for campers with financial hardship. “Passages took an incredible risk when they started this program,” says Molly Dellinger-Wray, vice-president of FOJRP. “They have grown to become a critical force in teaching strategies for protecting our river for future generations.”

    One Friday a month, rain or shine, the entire student body and select faculty of Seven Hills School spends a “River Day” at Reedy Creek. The boys’ school has been doing it for 10 years, with more than 600 boys contributing over 10,500 volunteer hours of weeding, mulching, and clearing trails. Head of School David Dorsey has also incorporated River Day into the curriculum, creating outdoor classes in art, history, writing and science. Seven Hills students visit the park 32 times over their middle school years. “These young men gain an ease and awareness of the outdoors that is all-too-rare among today’s overscheduled generation,” says Egan. “And they will continue to appreciate and contribute to the river for future generations.”

    The winners were chosen by Friends of James River Park board members from 20 nominations sent to FOJRP and The Boathouse. Each winner will receive a $100 gift certificate to The Boathouse, a free river rafting trip from Riverside Outfitters, and free annual memberships in the FOJRP.

    About The Boathouse

    The Boathouse at Rocketts Landing and The Boathouse at Sunday Park are Richmond’s premier waterfront restaurants. Both feature fresh seafood, aged steaks, lively bars and casual settings for dinners and Sunday brunch. Sunday Park is located on the Swift Creek Reservoir in Midlothian, Virginia. At Rocketts Landing, the modern restoration of a historic power plant building offers unparalleled glass-walled views of the James River. For more information

    About the Friends of James River Park

    The Friends of James River Park is an all-volunteer 501(c)(3) organization created by a dedicated group of citizens in 1999. Its mission is to provide an ongoing source of citizen support for the conservation, enhancement, and enjoyment of the 550-acre James River Park System and its natural and historic environments. For more information visit