Between 5,000 and 8,000 people flocked to the 20th annual Fredericksburg Earth Day on the Rappahannock celebration. (Photo courtesy of Fredericksburg Parks and Recreation)

Thousands flock to Earth Day on the Rappahannock celebration

by | Apr 20, 2024 | ALLFFP, Environmental, Events, Fredericksburg

As the sun began to shine around 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, guests continued to flock to Fredericksburg’s Earth Day on the Rappahannock celebration at Old Mill Park. 

Fredericksburg Parks & Recreation official Callie Brown expected anywhere from 5,000 to 8,000 people to attend the annual event, which started in the city 20 years ago. 

The two-decade anniversary was met with a few new attractions, including a paddling pool, tree climbing and a sensory-friendly zone beneath the pavilion. 

Brown said, however, that the most important aspect of the day remained intact — educating citizens about developing habits that will impact the environment in a positive way.  

“The mission is to increase our appreciation and conservation of our planet,” Brown said. 

Youth participated in the new tree climbing activity at the Earth Day on the Rappahannock celebration Saturday at Old Mill Park in Fredericksburg.
(Photo courtesy of Maggie Sanford, Fredericksburg Parks & Recreation)

Out of the 74 vendors on hand, many shared that mission. 

George Solley, Chair of the Fredericksburg Clean and Green Commission, informed passersby of the services his organization provides. 

Solley said that during Earth Day festivals, many times he is “preaching to the choir” because guests share the same vision of protecting the environment. Still, he said, it’s an opportunity to spread the word about different methods to do just that. 

“They don’t always know everything that is available to them or what other people are doing,” Solley said. 

Members of the Clean and Green Commission are appointed by the City Council. They work closely with organizations in the city that share a similar mission, such as Tree Fredericksburg. 

Solley said the commission was instrumental in the city school system’s and other Fredericksburg services’ procurement of electric vehicles. The commission is a major part of city officials’ plan to power all municipal operations with renewable energy by 2035. 

Solley said combatting climate change is the commission’s primary issue. 

“Addressing climate change is something that has to happen on every level,” Solley said. “It is not something you can sit back and think the federal government is going to take care of. We must do it our own way as a city, as a local jurisdiction, as a state and as a country. The city has made some good changes.” 

The Rappahannock Group Sierra Club was also present. The organization helped start the Earth Day festival in the city, along with the Parks & Recreation Department. 

The club is a branch of the national Sierra Club, which touts itself as “the oldest, largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization in the U.S.” Rappahannock Group Chair Paula Chow noted that the organization helped pass federal legislation such as the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act. 

Now, the Sierra Club is fighting a unique battle — an “issue with toilet tissue.” 

Along with the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club is battling major toilet paper companies who use 100% virgin fiber taken from a boreal forest, or a biome characterized by coniferous forests consisting mostly of pines, spruces and larches. 

Most of the major brands of toilet paper typically found in stores received an ‘F’ grade from the NRDC for using 100% virgin fiber. 

“We’re flushing away our forest,” Chow said. “Why does it matter? It is a limited resource. Should we be conscious of our consumer behaviors and habits? Now that you know, you are responsible and there are alternatives.” 

The Sierra Club also took on one of the local issues of the day with a posterboard condemning data centers, particularly expressing concern about the amount of water and power it takes to run one. The club also had a station for children to write letters to “Dear Mother Earth.” 

Some children said they would fight climate change. A few expressed gratitude for plants and others promised to take shorter showers to save water. 

“Remember to recycle,” one child wrote, “to save the earth.”  

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