Town helps RappCats, hears pond plan

Before unveiling its 2013-2014 budget last week (and scheduling a public hearing on that for May 13), the Washington Town Council heard two presentations on new possibilities: a petition for the council’s support of a RappCats cat shelter, and plans to clean up and further transform the pond at Avon Hall.

RappCats president Pat Snyder gave a short presentation to the council outlining the nonprofit group’s desire to build a cat shelter in Rappahannock County. The only animal shelter in the county is run by the Rappahannock Animal Welfare League (RAWL), which exclusively cares for dogs. Dog shelters, Snyder said, are required structures; cat shelters are not.

Snyder said RappCats wants to build the shelter in the old packing shed in Flint Hill, which provides a suitable layout and ample parking. The goal of the shelter, Snyder said, would be to “address the needs of homeless cats” and focus primarily on adoptable – rather than feral – cats.

“Many town residents feed and care for some of these cats, using their own resources to deal with the community’s cat overpopulation problem,” reads part of the letter Snyder also submitted to the council.

“RappCats believes that is unfair to force these community problems on individual kind-hearted residents,” the letter continued.

Formed six years ago, RappCats has helped spay or neuter about 100 cats a year, Snyder said, but added that those efforts just weren’t enough. Snyder petitioned the council to draft a letter of support to present to the Planning Commission when the RappCats request was to come up at the commission’s meeting Wednesday (April 17).

“I’m in strong support of it,” said vice-mayor Gary Schwartz, who also started the annual Cause for Paws fundraiser that helps RappCats’ spay-and-neuter mission. “I’m wondering if there’s anything else we can do beyond a letter?”

Snyder added that, assuming the shelter’s permit is granted, RappCats is trying to find sponsors to help pay the rent on the proposed shelter. Unlike RAWL, which receives $50,000 annually from the county, RappCats receives no funding beyond whatever they’re able to raise, Snyder said.

Snyder said RappCats is trying to find 12 sponsors for the new shelter – each to pay the shelter’s $350 monthly rent over the course of a year.

At Mayor John Sullivan’s suggestion, the council unanimously agreed to pledge the first month’s rent to the shelter, as well as draft a letter to the planning commission voicing their support of the shelter permit.

The council also heard a presentation from the Rappahannock Friends and Lovers of Our Watershed (RappFLOW) on the proposed renovation and beautification of the pond area at the town-owned but still-unused Avon Hall property.

RappFLOW’s plans for the 36,000 square feet area outlined a four-season plan for renovation beginning this spring with with soil and water tests to determine the general health of the area, followed by a seeding of native oats and wildflowers to act as a cover crop for the area.

In summer, RappFLOW intends to keep the grass mowed at a four-inch height, remove any non-native vegetation and sustain the previously planted flora, either through a sprinkler system or with the aid of a group of workers. RappFLOW also wants to use this time to plant some aquatic vegetation along the shallow water’s edge to provide aesthetic beauty and serve as habitat and food for various organisms.

Autumn brings a new layer of perennial wildflowers and grasses and another seeding of wildflowers to help prevent erosion. The final phase, spring 2014, will involve planting shrubs and grasses along the dam of the pond, and new wildflowers along Warren Avenue. RappFLOW also intends to cut down and prune some of the trees on Warren Avenue, improving the view, said RappFLOW founder Bev Hunter.

“Extraordinary time and talent has already gone into this project,” said Sullivan, who also noted that RappFLOW was handling its own grant application process, leaving the town very little to do other than help manage the project.