Main Area (AREA 1-G)

Note: This is the JRPS’ largest park, located on the southern shore of the James, from the Railroad Bridge near the Pow’hite Parkway Bridge in the City’s west end, to the Manchester Climbing Wall, next to the Manchester Bridge, east of Belle Isle.

It includes the following park areas: West of the Boulevard and the CSO pipe water access area, the 42nd Street Park area, the Main Park Area (also known as the Reedy Creek Entrance area which includes the JRPS Visitor’s Center), the 22nd Street Park area, and the Manchester Climbing Wall.

It should be noted that the park’s length, more than 2.6 miles long, necessitated breaking the GIS maps and photopoint identification into more than three smaller areas:  Zoom 1, which covers the western portion of the park; Zoom 2, covering the middle section; Zoom 3, which covers the eastern portion of the park; and the Manchester Climbing Wall, east of Zoom 3 near the western terminus of the floodwall, which is shown on the Belle Isle map (I- H).

CE 004 (Revised)
Map Title:  (James River Park System Main Area)  Map of the James River Park System Property proposed for the Conservation Easement :    Between the James River and Riverside Drive, from the 1942 Corporation line to the Vicinity of the ACL RR Bridge
Common Park Name:   Western most Part of Main JRP South Bank, west of Boulevard Bridge

CE 005 (Revised)
Map Title:  (James River Park System Main Area)   Map of the James River Park System Property proposed for the Conservation Easement :    Between the James River and Riverside Drive, from the 1942 Corporation line to the Vicinity of the ACL RR Bridge
Common Park Name:   Western Part of Main JRP South Bank, includes Boulevard Bridge and Park area just West of Westover Blvd

CE 006 (Revised)
Map Title:  :  (James River Park System Main Area)    Map of the James River Park System Property proposed for the Conservation Easement :    Between the James River and Riverside Drive, from the 1942 Corporation line to the Vicinity of the ACL RR Bridge
Common Park Name:   Middle Part of Main JRP South Bank, from 42nd Street Overpass Bridge to Reedy Creek

CE 007 (Revised)
Map Title: (James River Park System Main Area)      Map of the James River Park System Property proposed for the Conservation Easement :    Between the James River and Riverside Drive, from the 1942 Corporation line to the Vicinity of the ACL RR Bridge
Common Park Name:   Main JRP South Bank, East of Reedy Creek to 25th Street

CE 008 (Revised)
Map Title:  (James River Park System Main Area)       Map of the James River Park System Property proposed for the Conservation Easement :    Between the James River and Riverside Drive, from the 1942 Corporation line to the Vicinity of the ACL RR Bridge
Common Park Name:   Main JRP Southside, from 24th Street to the Bridge

CE 009
Map Title: Map of the James River Park System Property proposed for the Conservation Easement :    Between the James River and Riverside Drive, from the 1942 Corporation line to the Vicinity of the ACL RR Bridge
Common Park Name:   Manchester Climbing Wall Bridge

CE 0014 (Revised)
Map Title:   (James River Park System Main Area)       Map of the James River Park System Property proposed for the Conservation Easement :    From Right of Way Between Southern Rail Co. and James River,\ in the Vicinity of Reedy Creek
Common Park Name:  Reedy Creek Park Vicinity Detail map

Description of Location

The main area of the James River Park System is located on the southern shore of the James River.  It is officially comprised of the park lands along the James’ shoreline west of the Boulevard Bridge; along the shore and floodplain between the Boulevard Bridge to nearly the Lee Bridge, and the main access park areas at 42nd Street,  Reedy Creek, and 22nd Street (all providing safe access over Railroad tracks with overpass bridges).  The Main Area includes a number of near-shore islands in the James, and a few isolated parcels near the Manchester Bridge, called the Manchester Climbing Wall.  

Existing Conditions

The main area of the James River Park System is a linear park on the southern shore of the James River, more than 2.6 miles long (stopping at the Lee Bridge and not including the Manchester Climbing Wall).  It is sandwiched between the James’ shoreline and Riverside Drive, the winding hilltop road overlooking the river, which essentially forms the Park’s southern boundary.   For the most part, it runs east-west, its estimated size is    acres .

Generally speaking, the linear park is divided by the tracks of the Norfolk Southern Railroad.  Two Railroad Overpass bridges were build in the 1970s to provide safe access to the lowland park areas, but the railroad tracks and right-of-way are still impediments to access and circulation in the southern park system.  For example, at the Reedy Creek park entrance, the railroad crossing is at-grade.  Consequently, to keep the public from crossing the tracks, the parking area is kept south of the tracks and visitors,  boaters, bikers, and walkers must cross the tracks by foot.  Only authorized city vehicles can cross the tracks and use the service road to the park’s visitor’s center.  This service road goes west to beneath the Boulevard bridge, east to the 22nd St Park Bridge.  Furthermore, the access route east to the vehicular Service Access bridge for Belle Isle is in the railroad right-of-way, on it’s northern side.  Access to the Manchester Climbing Wall involves winding and backtracking through old railroad property and some of the property in the City’s floodwall system, and parking beneath the Manchester Bridge.

The width of the park’s various parcels varies, but in most cases, its northern border is the shoreline of the James, and its southern boundary is Riverside Drive, which can be 300 or 400 feet wide in a few places.  The main east-west trail in the park generally follows the service road which is north of the railroad tracks, and there are many side trails to the water, running parallel to shore, and allowing access to some of the instream islands, braided channels, and the broad expanse of flat rocks between the 22nd Street Park and the southwestern side of Belle Isle, an area very popular with Richmond’s younger crowd.   There are also some trails through some of the upland areas south of the railroad tracks.

Along with bike paths and water recreation access areas, the main area includes managed wildlife meadows, a small garden area just east of the Visitor’s Center, and various displays and signs.

Buildings and structures

The James River-Park System Headquarters/Maintenance and Visitor Center is located beside Reedy Creek. The Headquarters/Visitor Center presently contains park maintenance facilities including vehicles and machinery storage, recycling and supply depot, as well as the venue for school programs and evening meetings.  

There are two RR Overpass bridges that cross above the railroad tracks, at  42nd  Street and near 22nd Street.  There are also four “modern” picnic shelters in the Main area, built of concrete, rough granite blocks and cantilevered I-beam roofs, with fixed picnic tables and benches – one each the main park access RR Overpasses on Riverside Drive: at 42°” Street and 22nd Street; one west of Archer Island , and one on Sawmill Island.  In its western portion, the park is divided (and separated by the width of a right-of-way) by the Boulevard Bridge.  There is an informal bike/ped path crossing under this bridge, and just to the west, a trail down the slope to the shore area beneath the Boulevard Bridge.  The western service road terminates just west of the bridge.  

There are two hard surface parking lots at the 42 and 22nd Street Entrances, both currently barricaded because of a rash of car break-ins there.  There is a graveled parking area which serves the Reedy Creek Visitor’s Center, and the Main Area’s service road, which reaches as far west to the Boulevard bridge, and east to the 22nd St Park Bridge.  There are several kiosks and displays in the park, and very useful interpretive and informational signage.

There are some historic resources in Main Area, including the historic Buttermilk Spring, remains of a small canal lock (canal may have lead to the 1830s Cotton Mill and/or Sawmill on Sawmill Island, or could have been an extension of the Manchester Canal, parts of which remain around Old Manchester and the Mayo Bridge south shore) just east of the 22nd Street Overpass steps, old foundations from a sawmill and cotton mill, remnants of a pond used to re-water steam engines and the shear walls and grote piles of the historic Netherwood Quarry.  There is a memorial marker in the park beside the confluence of Reedy Creek and a side channel.

Utilities

In addition to the Norfolk Southern Railway easements, there are also several major Department of Public Utility Easements for trunk lines and sewers sidelines shown on maps CE 003 through CE 009.  Additionally, the City’s southside CSO (Combined Sewer Overflow infrastructure, constructed in the late 1990s-early 2000s) runs east- west through the park, often beside or under the service road.  East of the 22nd St bridge, the above ground sewer pipe has been covered with concrete to provide about 1,000 feet of trail, which takes visitors either to the granite rocks beneath the vehicular Service Access bridge for Belle Isle, or to the top of the same Access bridge.

Services: Power, water and sewer, telephone and internet. 

Conservation Values

Natural Resources Values:  The JRPS Main Area contains approximately 14,000 linear feet of riverfront property, on the south shore of the James River.  It is in the prime Fall Zone section of the park, containing areas of class 2 and 3 rapids, several small dams, numerous islands and large rock outcroppings.  It also includes side channels and swales, wetlands and uplands.  It is the largest, longest, and in many senses, the least developed portion of parkland in the system. 

The linear park’s 2.6 miles of islands, shoreline, floodplain and steep-sloped escarpment are predominantly wild areas, thickly overgrown and heavily wooded.  It contains about a dozen water access points (kayak, rafting, swimming, fishing, etc), a rich network of trails, paths, and a service road almost 2 miles long, all of which make the area widely accessible (yet they are mostly “primitive” or not obtrusive, and none are overused).   .  The Visitors Center’s function as a real Visitors Center, with park staff present, exhibits and information, restrooms and a classroom/meeting room, is a valuable resource, but the facility is small, and needs reinterpretation and renovation. Plus, it is accessible by a walk from the parking lot 700 feet away, across the railroad tracks.  Access to Belle Isle via the rocky southern channel and the Service Access Bridge add immensely to the perceived “length and size” of the southside park. 

Wildlife and flora in the park are rich and varied, due to the contiguous length of the park and its proximity to the rapids, islands, and side channels.  Natural Heritage resources unknown.   

Despite the access and circulation problems inherent in the railroad tracks bisecting the park east-to-west, the at-grade crossing at the visitor’s center and the two Railroad Overpasses still provide safe access for most of the park users.  Conversely, having only a half-dozen access points to the park tends to limit its use by the general public.  The gravel parking area near the visitor’s center is relatively safe, but unloading and transporting canoes and kayaks from there, crossing the railroad tracks, and then to the shoreline is a long walk.  It is unfortunate too that the parking lots at the 42 and 22nd Street Entrances needed to be closed, forcing parking on to the neighborhood streets beside Riverside Drive.  Overall, these parking limitations probably do restrict use of the park by those who would drive to it, but they reinforce the use of bike and ped access and use.  The Visitor’s Center’s function as the Park headquarters is reasonable –but its limited access is still problematic.

Scenic Values: Water views from the beaches and shorelines near the bottoms of the 42nd and 22nd Street Overpasses are excellent and dramatic – providing virtually unspoiled views of the wild river corridor.  There are also many nice views of the river, the James’ northern shore, rapids and rocks and islands from various small, overgrown beaches and some of the rocks and island areas.   There are also very good views of the James River and the wooded floodplain, islands and rocky areas below from the park’s RR Overpasses.   Dams, large rocks  and wooded islands, and immense driftwood trees and immense debris offer many visual interests, and the abundant bird, animal, and amphibian contradict the fact that the park is in the center of a huge modern metropolitan region.

Landscape Values: The park is in the prime fall zone area, with the river dropping almost     feet in its 2.6 mile length. Its land types include river, rocks and rapids, wooded and rocky shorelines with small sand beaches, sandbars, and islands, as well as side channels, wetlands, and swampy areas.  The linear park is mostly wooded with small trails and a service road  running east-west, a broad floodplain with wetlands and swales, little valleys and upland areas, through which a few trails run horizontally.

Historic Values:  There are some historic resources in Main Area, including the historic Buttermilk Spring, remains of a small canal lock just east of the 22nd Street Overpass steps (see earlier existing structures narrative), old foundations from a sawmill and cotton mill, remnants of a pond used to re-water steam engines and the shear walls and grote piles of the historic Netherwood Quarry.  Further investigation is warranted .

Other BLD Materials

 Zoom 1, covers the western portion of the Main Area;
Note: Numbering for Zoom 1 begins with G.1

  1. MA I –G: Zoom 1  Pictures & Captions: 6 pages, 24 pictures with captions
  2. MA – G Appendix G Zoom 1 : GIS coord points, photos, captions and/or descriptions
  3. GIS map with major features identified, 24 GIS photopoints

Zoom 2, covers the middle section; of the Main Area;
Note: Numbering for Zoom 2 begins with G.30

  1. MA I –G: Zoom 1  Pictures & Captions: 5 pages, 20 pictures with captions
  2. MA – G Appendix G Zoom 1 : GIS coord points, photos, captions and/or descriptions
  3. GIS map with major features identified, 24 GIS photopoints

Zoom 3, which covers the eastern portion of the of the Main Area; and the
Note: Numbering for Zoom 3 begins with G.70

  1. MA I –G: Zoom 3  Pictures & Captions: 10 pages, 38 pictures with captions
  2. MA – G Appendix G Zoom 3 : GIS coord points, photos, captions and/or descriptions
  3. GIS map with major features identified, 24 GIS photopoints

Manchester Climbing Wall, east of Zoom 3, shown on the Belle Isle GIS map
Note:    MCW photopoints, G,102-G,107 appear on Belle Isle GIS Map

  1. MA I –G: MCW 1  Pictures & Captions: 2 pages, 6 pictures with captions
  2. MA – G Appendix G MCW: GIS coord points, photos, captions and/or descriptions
  3. Belle Isle GIS map with major features identified, 6 photopoints