Good Afternoon, Friends of the James River Park!
I hope you are all having a great holiday week filled with friends, family, and outdoor adventure – now that it has warmed up a bit. 2022 was a very eventful year for FOJRP and I wanted to share a recap of our top stories for the year. I was about 6 paragraphs into writing about all of the cool things we got to do last year before I realized it was too much for me to share in one message to you all. You can learn about all of our developments over the past year through the various blogs that we post on our News page here- https://jamesriverpark.org/news/.
Together we welcomed a new superintendent, hosted our first annual event, made sustainable improvements to trails, planted trees, removed invasive plants, removed graffiti, cleaned trash, expanded the Park, advocated for greater funding for the JRPS, celebrated the JRPS’ 50th birthday, and accomplished so much else. Needless to say, we kept ourselves busy and it would not have been possible without your support..
We are kicking off 2023 by announcing that thanks to our partners at the Beirne Carter Foundation we will be able to invest heavily in the success of the new Urban Ranger Program. We recently received a $55,000 grant from the Foundation for the purchase of vehicles and equipment to give our new Urban Ranger program the tools they need to help protect our Park. I am excited to be able to help our friends in Parks and Recreation get that program up and running this Spring.
In February we will also be releasing some of the findings of a recent Park visitation study we conducted. We partnered with the data gathering firm Streetlight Data to run an analysis of Park visitation for the 2021 calendar year. We are still sorting through the data, but the preliminary results are impressive and give us a great picture of how people are using the Park and where they are visiting from. We will use this information to better protect, expand, and enhance the Park.
This Spring will also see the return of the Wood River Run, on April 15th. The Dominion Energy Charitable Foundation is back as the title sponsor this year, and the proceeds will benefit FOJRP’s mission and help provide educational opportunities for youth in the Park. Registration opens in mid January, and you can learn more here- https://runsignup.com/Race/VA/Richmond/WoodRiverRun2022
Also in April we will be working with our media partners at WRIC to provide daily river conditions and river safety information as part of their TV and web news broadcasts. The James River Watch, brought to you by Friends of the James River Park, will put relevant information about how to stay safe while recreating on the James in front of more eyes than ever before. Our hope is that by creating more awareness about river levels, water temperature, what PPE is necessary, and generally how to recreate responsibly, we can help prevent accidents on the James. The James River Watch program is one part of a multi-faceted approach to getting this type of information in front of as many people as we can, and I will be providing more updates on what that will look like later this Spring.
On the trails side of things, there will be new distance and directional signage going up throughout the trail system in the first month or two of the year. These signs were designed by the trail crew and paid for by Friends of the James River Park through a donation provided specifically for that purpose. The goal of these signs is to help people better understand where they are going and make the trails more accessible for new users. The Reedy Creek Bypass trail, a short spur designed to separate vehicle and pedestrian traffic near park HQ, should also be breaking ground in the first part of the year.
By the start of the Summer of 2023, I hope to have a better picture of what our next big master plan project will be. We are working with the JRPS team to determine what our options are right now and I am looking forward to settling in on some long-term plans for a major project over the next few months. We are also very excited to be participating in the planning discussions around the Pump House restoration, and we look forward to being able to discuss the future of Mayo Island at some point later this year. These are all things that we should be learning more about in 2023 and I look forward to sharing that information with you when I can.
I am personally grateful for the opportunity to serve you all as Executive Director for this organization and I am looking forward to another successful and busy year in 2023. Thank you for your support and encouragement this year. If you haven’t done so yet, you can make your year-end gift to the JRPS and our work by visiting our donation page here: jamesriverpark.org.
See you in the Park!
* Image via Bill Draper Photography