Happy summer to you,
I hope this finds you enjoying the shade. The season in the James River Park System is full of teens and kiddos experiencing the river for the first time; adults making progress toward long awaited projects and beginning new Park improvements; and meanwhile the James keeps on flowing. If you haven’t dipped your toes in yet, it will be here for you when you’re ready.
This summer for the first time the Teens of Richmond in Parks (TRIP) program has a presence at 42nd Street Tower. The TRIP program is modeled on youth conservation corps style park immersions that are common at the State and National Parks. Teens earn a seasonal stipend in exchange for their work to help improve park sites and natural resources. TRIP is working on a mural that emphasizes the theme of natural reciprocity – that is, that we live in an ecosystem where plants, animals, and fungi are a part of a larger community of support. The five teen artists are Richmond Public School rising freshwomen, and they are doing an outstanding job on this eco-mural. Murals both educate the public and are an effective means of graffiti reduction, so this is a great service to JRPS, in addition to being educational.
Another young naturalist who inspires us is JRPS Education intern Abhay. Abhay, a long time volunteer with Richmond Parks & Recreation and graduate of Maggie Walker Governor’s School, is working with Penelope and Tyler, JRPS Educators, to develop curriculum for other high school students as a part of JRPS Education’s environmental literacy initiative. Abhay’s work will facilitate lessons that are more accessible to RPS teachers who want to visit JRPS, and his is the first high school curriculum we have developed for this purpose.
Finally, I want to shout out two small projects and two big ones that make me smile. The first is a welcome sign at our headquarters at Reedy Creek. Staff member Jym has planted the welcome flower bed with gorgeous pollinators so that the sign represents our aspirations for landscapes in the Park. Over the next few years, we look forward to planting more meadows, working with the Invasive Plant Task Force to attack invasives, and helping Richmond become a “Bee City” (an official designation) as well as a city that welcomes, birds, butterflies, and insects that support the ecosystem that we all rely on to live.
The second project is a sweet little trail connecting our Reedy Creek Outdoor Classroom to storage facilities. The summer Education team knocked this out in a day, and I think it’s delightful.
Next, the incredible Trails Team is closing in on completing the 21st Street Highline, also known as “Kit’s Trail.” This improved pedestrian and bike right-of-way was funded by Friends of the James River Park and features a wider, safer trail surface, and a serious crib wall, which once again demonstrates how lucky we are to have this talented trail team in Richmond. Bravo and applause!
Finally, after eight years of design and review, fundraising by James River Outdoor Coalition, permitting, construction, COVID delays, and all other manner of obstacle, the Huguenot Flatwater ADA accessible ramp is open. This beautiful piece of infrastructure would not have been possible without the leadership of JROC’s Sally Wetzler, or former superintendents Nathan Burrell and Bryce Wilk. Fortunately, all were able to attend the ribbon cutting with Mayor Stoney on the 20th of this month, during which the Mayor and Parks director Chris Frelke paddled with JROC and JRPS staff.
Thanks so much for reading… it’s been a wonderful first few months at JRPS. I’m learning quickly and at every turn there’s a lesson to learn from you! Stay safe in the Park, and go dip your toes in when you can! It feels great.
Giles Garrison is Superintendent of the James River Park System