I have been in my job for almost a full year now and I am excited to share more with you about who we are and what we have been working on. First, however, I want to address some frequent questions I hear:
“What do we do with your donated money? Why should you support the work that we are doing?”
As a nonprofit director, these are probably the most important questions for me to be able to answer, and I could not be prouder to write this blog addressing those questions specifically.
As one of the biggest nonprofit support groups for the James River Park System, we focus on work that protects, expands, and enhances the Park. We do that, in part, by working with the City of Richmond’s JRPS staff to ensure they have the resources necessary to do their jobs effectively. This is where we get to make a direct impact on Park services, education programs, and Park improvement projects.
If you are a City of Richmond resident, only about $3 from your taxes each year goes into the James River Park System. If you are a county resident, which many Park users are, you have the privilege of enjoying this regional attraction free of charge. I would argue that most regular Park users would value their time in the Park at more than $3 per year, and it is crucial that we provide this outlet for people to help us work with the city to get the Park the resources it needs to thrive.
We have done a lot with your donated dollars since I started in July of 2021. Here is a small snapshot of what we have been working on in just the past few months, and how donated funds have been used to further our mission this quarter. This is not an exhaustive list, just some of the highlights that give examples of the types of things that we help pay for in the Park.
- $1,900- New binoculars for JRPS education staff to use in their field trips programs. These binoculars are already in use.
- $5,000- Construction of the new JRPS outdoor classroom at the Reedy Creek HQ. The classroom project is part of a grant from the Virginia Department of Forestry and includes seating for around 30 students, a kiosk for instruction, and an improved water access ramp for students to use as a part of field trip and summer programming.
- $16,500- Trail improvement work along the “upper trail” that runs from the 21st Street Tower to the Southern Bridge to Belle Isle. This project will widen, stabilize, and level a roughly 900-foot-long section of trail to make it more user-friendly. That project is expected to be completed in June/July.
- $3,000- Building repair supplies for the Reedy Creek HQ. A tree fell on HQ in March and the operations team needed some extra funding for new boards to replace the ones destroyed by the tree. FOJRP paid for new boards to go along the whole length of the ramp at HQ so they would match. We are still looking for a funding partner to help us spruce up HQ/the Visitors Center in a bigger way.
- $46,000- Improving the Eastern entrance to the North Bank Trail from the Tredegar Parking Lot. In partnership with a local foundation FORJP paid for this work entirely with donated dollars. This section of trail runs from the Tredegar Parking lot to the already paved section of trail that leads up to the Oregon Hill Overlook, creating additional paved trail access into the Park and making it easier for people to identify where the North Bank Trail starts in that area. This work was completed in early May.
We also spent money to pay our one full-time and one part-time employee, the two part-time contractors that we pay to coordinate invasive species removal in the park, the marketing contract that allows us to communicate effectively with our audience, and other expenses necessary to operate a small nonprofit organization.
Our budget for next year, which I will share more details on in a few weeks when it is fully approved by our board, includes ambitious funding goals for capital projects, environmental conservation, and direct operational support of JRPS staff. This budget was developed with the JRPS Master Plan in mind and allows us to adapt to new opportunities for Park expansion that might arise over the next year. It also includes some ambitious revenue targets, which is where we need your support!
There are many different ways for you to support FOJRP this summer and throughout the year. Donations of cash, stock and other securities are always welcome and tax-deductible. We are partnering with Legend Brewing on a beer to support the Park System, and there are always fun events like the Richmond Tool Bank’s Hammers & Ales program that give you the chance to come out and support the work that we do.
One of the most effective ways for you to make an impact on the Park is to support Friends of the James River Park with your donations this year. My call to action for this summer is simple – what is the James River Park System worth to you? Is it worth $1 each time you visit? $50 each year? $10 each month? Whatever that magic number is, we are asking for your support as we work to take on some pretty big projects next year.
If you would like to learn more specifics about the work that we do and our vision for the future, feel free to reach out to me at [email protected]
See you in the Park!