Friends of Nelson turned 500 pounds of plastic waste into a bench for RVCC | Recent news

A new bench at the edge of the Rockfish Valley Community Center playground provides a comfortable, shaded seat – made from trash.

The bench is the product of six months of work by environmental advocacy group Friends of Nelson after the organization responded to a challenge posed by outdoor furniture company Trex: If a school or a community can collect more than 500 pounds of plastic waste in a six-month period, the company will donate a composite bench.

Five hundred pounds is a lot of plastic bags. Friends of Nelson president Mary Eiserman said the bed of her plastic-filled Ford F-150 truck for Trex weighed only 50 to 60 pounds.

But Eiserman said the huge community participation helped the process go smoothly. Nelson’s friends collected plastic at the weekly farmer’s market and IGA Blue Ridge grocery store in Nellysford – Eiserman said any plastic that rips when stretched is eligible for recycling. According to its website, Trex collects clean, dry grocery bags, plastic wrap, newspaper sleeves, and produces bags among many other plastics.

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She noted that the recycling bins outside of Food Lion grocery stores are another ongoing Trex collection site and that the IGA has chosen to keep its Trex collection bin.

Nelson’s friends took on the challenge in October and the group delivered the bench at the end of July. Eiserman said RVCC has supported his organization’s efforts over the years; Nelson’s friends fought the Atlantic Coast pipeline project until it was canceled in 2020.

The bench’s place under a shady tree is only temporary, as RVCC is already moving forward with ambitious plans to redesign its outdoor space.

Grounds Committee Chair Tori Jenkins was hard at work landscaping the community center on Aug. 9 despite the heat.

She pointed to the newly poured asphalt path leading from the front of the RVCC, past the skate park and the Trager Brothers Coffee 2.0 entrance and leading to the construction site of the new skate park. By August 9, volunteers had built a wooden frame for the new ramp next to the asphalt platform where it will go.

Jenkins explained that equipment from the current skate park will be moved to the new site further north on Crawfords View Road behind the community centre, allowing the area where the skate park is now to be used for official events. The basketball court will remain, and the skate park footprint will become a pickleball court.

“It will be a big space where people can set up tents and have a dance floor if there is a wedding. So we’re trying to open up some functionality options and make it a bit more consistent,” Jenkins said.

She and RVCC Executive Director Stu Mills showed off the masterplan map of the pitch, where the asphalt path continues to circle the entire perimeter – only about a third is now complete. The plan also includes a circular parking lot and drop-off area outside the Treasure Chest thrift store, a cafe seating area outside Trager Brothers, and several paved accessible parking areas.

Mills hopes the skate park will be finished by September so the community center can demolish the old ramp ahead of an October wedding in the central pavilion.

Next comes the expansion and updating of the playground. Mills explained that the current equipment is designed for children aged 7 to 12 but not suitable for children aged 2 to 6. The redesigned playground will be more “friendly”, with equipment for the youngest. It will also have features for children with disabilities; Mills described new interactive playground equipment that even kids on motorized scooters can use and play.

But he said mums told him they liked the playground’s proximity to the skate park because they could keep their eyes on the young kids playing and the older kids skating at the same time. Mills has a solution – an additional playground next to the new skate park is also planned. He described the vision for this playground as more natural and traditional, with classic elements such as a sandbox, tunnels, a seesaw and a seesaw.

Mills isn’t fazed by the $120,000 price tag for the two playgrounds that RVCC has yet to fundraise. He spoke of the substantial grant funding from local and national foundations and dedicated community members who made the completed projects possible. When Mills joined RVCC ten years ago, there were 263 members and annual membership was $20. Now the community center is supported by 736 members, with annual membership levels up to $3,000.

RVCC just surpassed its fundraising goal of $66,000 to expand the center’s rooftop solar panels, raising $70,000 for the project. Mills said after the expansion, RVCC will generate nearly 45% of its own electricity. He said an average monthly electricity bill for the 26,000-square-foot center is $1,500 and estimates the new solar capacity will reduce out-of-pocket costs by just over $7,000 a year.

“It’s real money for us that we can do a lot of programming with, so it’s a lot of money. The most important thing is to reduce our carbon footprint. It’s a lot less fossil fuels, it’s is a lot less coal, it’s a lot less natural gas that we burn to keep the lights on here. It’s amazing.”

Bryce K. Locke