The Virginia Eastern Shorekeeper organization grew out of an idea from the directors of Citizens for a Better Eastern Shore (CBES), after one of their members attended the 2001 annual meeting of the Assateague Coastal Trust, where the guest speaker was Rick Dove, the Riverkeeper for North Carolina’s Neuse River. Dove explained the Waterkeeper concept – how it was born in New York for the Hudson River and eventually became an international organization known as Waterkeeper Alliance, and how its goal was to establish and support programs to monitor and protect the health of waterways. The idea of establishing such a program on Virginia’s Eastern Shore aroused interest among CBES board members. The prospect of a possible joint venture with the Assateague Coastal Trust turned out to be impractical, but a small group of CBES board members decided to develop the Waterkeeper concept as a stand-alone local program. Thus, the ad hoc “Eastern Shore Creekwatch” was born.
The CBES board agreed to sponsor the original effort on a temporary basis while the Creekwatch group sought affiliation with Waterkeeper Alliance, applied to the Commonwealth of Virginia for a corporate charter, and contacted the Internal Revenue Service to request 501(c)(3) tax exempt status. Waterkeeper Alliance, which holds trademark rights to all Keeper designations, responded favorably and granted the ad hoc group exclusive use of the name Virginia Eastern Shorekeeper. The Virginia State Corporation Commission issued a certificate of incorporation in that name effective August 22, 2002.
The initial organizing meeting was held on Sept. 11, 2002. Founding Board members included Mike Castagna, Jack Ordeman, John Price, George Savage, and Vic Schmidt. Three new board members -- Garrison Brown, Chip Dodson, and Gene Hampton – were elected at that meeting. George Savage, who was recognized as the “founding spirit” of the organization, was elected President, Gene Hampton Vice President, and Chip Dodson Secretary/Treasurer. The first regular business meeting was held two weeks later, on Sept. 25, 2002. In addition to critical fundraising efforts, one of the first items of new business discussed was establishing and organizing individuals as Creek Watchers.
In the spring of 2003, the Board of Directors applied for a grant from the Seaside Heritage Program of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality for a grant to help fund the part-time employment of a person to be designated as the Shorekeeper. Other sources were sought for funding, and after their meeting of Oct. 8, 2003, the directors offered the newly created position of Shorekeeper to Nassawadox resident Richard Ayers, who began his duties Jan. 1, 2004.
About Waterkeeper Alliance
Founded in 1999 by environmental attorney and activist Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., and several veteran Waterkeepers, Waterkeeper Alliance is a global movement of on-the-water advocates who patrol and protect over 100,000 miles of rivers, streams and coastlines in North and South America, Europe, Australia, Asia and Africa.
Waterkeepers combine firsthand knowledge of their waterways with an unwavering commitment to the rights of their communities and to the rule of law. Whether they are on the water tracking down polluters, in a courtroom advocating for stronger enforcement of environmental laws, at a town meeting rallying community support, or in a classroom educating young people, Waterkeepers defend their communities against anyone who threatens their right to clean water—from law-breaking polluters to unresponsive government agencies. Made up of nearly 200 local Waterkeeper organizations, Waterkeeper Alliance connects Waterkeepers, provides them with legal, scientific, and communications support, and unites their voices as they take on major global water issues together.