Each year, over two million people visit the James River Park System. To support the Park Staff (a division of the City of Richmond’s Parks & Recreation Department) we benefit from thousands of man hours from volunteers who build benches, maintain trails, remove invasive plants, and more. We also receive support through your donations. We continually explore every avenue in our mission to protect, enhance, and expand the James River Park System.
An important milestone towards that mission was reached this week. We were able to begin work on the Reedy Creek Bypass Trail. This high-traffic area has Park users sharing the roadway with heavy equipment, Park vehicles, and more. A new section of road-width compacted gravel trail will separate vehicle and pedestrian traffic near the Park HQ. Signage will direct Park visitors around the staff workshop and parking areas, and also create a more secure storage and work area for our JRPS team.
We worked closely with our partners at the City of Richmond for over a year to make this project a reality, and almost 75% of the cost is being covered by your donations to the Friends of the James River Park System.
We also celebrated the acquisition of four acres of land that will become the newest addition to the James River Park System – Dock Street Park. At the federal level, legislation supported by Virginia Senator Tim Kaine helped the City of Richmond access funds for the purchase. They, in turn, partnered with the Capital Region Land Conservancy and Conservation Fund to access those monies. We were able to support the purchase with a $25,000 grant.
This parcel is important for a few reasons. First, it has long been coveted by developers. It sits directly below Libby Hill. In the early 1730’s, William Byrd II stood atop Libby Hill and noticed the similarity between the landscape here and that of Richmond Upon Thames, London. He therefore named our bustling new town “Richmond.” A few years ago, developers bought the property and filed plans to build a multi-story apartment complex on the site. This would have blocked Byrd’s view.
Secondly, this adds four acres of permanent green space to the City. The plot will be used for walking trails, picnic areas, and will be used to restore native plants and historic riparian areas. We will also be able to create a new access point for boaters.
Lastly, a section of the Virginia Capital Trail that previously shared an active roadway along Dock Street will be rerouted to go through Dock Street Park, officially completing that project and protecting cyclists from vehicles.
Finally, we wanted to provide an update of sorts on a subject that we know is of great concern to many Park visitors: The Texas Beach Access Bridge.
About a year ago, the City asked an engineering firm to take a look at the bridge. Their survey found numerous structural faults and recommended that it be closed immediately. Their opinion (and we have no reason to doubt it) was that the bridge was unsafe and presented a hazard to anyone who used it. Given its placement and proximity to the Park, there will be environmental studies to complete, and it will take time to develop a solid plan for this work. Once those hurdles are crossed, everything will have to go through CSX and their own layers of bureaucracy. CSX owns the rail bed and railroad tracks that the bridge crosses, so we need their approval for a right-of-way. The City has allocated money through the American Rescue Plan for this project, but it’s still going to go through a thorough process.
We understand that Texas Beach is one of the most popular spots in the Park. Finding a solution for the bridge is of the utmost importance to us, the James River Park staff, and our partners with the City. We know that folks will find a way to visit Texas Beach, and there are a few viable alternative routes, but the easiest way to get there is to simply cross the railroad tracks. This is both very dangerous and illegal.
Many of our efforts have been focused on expanding and improving access to the James River Park System. This has meant improved trails, improved boat ramps and put-ins, and improved access for those with mobility issues. The Texas Beach bridge is no different and we appreciate the urgency to get it fixed.
We also appreciate your continued support, through your donations, volunteer hours, advocacy, and love of the James River Park System. Nothing that we’ve described here would be possible without it.
See you in the Park,