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Universal Access at Huguenot Flatwater Now Fully Funded

Great news on the river access front! Here’s a recent post by the Friends of the James River Park about the long-running Huguenot Flatwater Universal Access project:

Improving access to the James River within the James River Park System is a priority of the James River Outdoor Coalition (JROC). The James River Park System’s Huguenot Flatwater area is now one step closer to having a universally accessible access ramp! On Tuesday, May 26, Richmond’s City Council adopted an ordinance that restores critically important funding to the Universal Access at Huguenot Flatwater project. The project is now fully funded and moving toward construction.

JROC has been spearheading this effort over the past few years to replace the existing canoe slide at Huguenot Flatwater with a universally accessible ramp. When complete, the universal access project will allow people of all abilities to easily launch a paddlecraft and enjoy the James River. Funding for the project is coming from the Richmond’s FY 2020 Capital Improvement Plan and a combination of grants and donations secured by JROC.

Friends of the James River Park would like to recognize JROC for building support for the Huguenot Flatwater project and leading the effort to raise funds to make it a reality. We would also like to recognize Mayor Stoney and City Council for supporting this important project that breaks down a barrier to enjoying the James.

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Va. State Park Campgrounds Now Open

Virginia State Park campgrounds have opened back up for tent and RV camping, yurts and camping cabins. The state parks are still following social distancing guidelines and some restrictions are still in place.

The fastest way to update reservation information is to visit http://www.reserveamerica.com/ and follow the prompts on the website. Guests may also call the reservation center at 800-933-7275.

Guests who have camping reservations beginning May 22 and later do not need to take any action. Those reservations are still scheduled. If you have made other arrangements and expected the reservations to be canceled according to the schedule we provided, email Va. State Parks requesting cancellation at resvs@dcr.virginia.gov. Cancellation fees will be waived.

Restrooms and campground bathhouses also open today. Other park facilities, including camp stores, museums, picnic shelters and visitor centers, will remain closed. Guests should check the individual park’s website before their visit for the latest updates.

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New Book Tells the Story of the James River in Richmond

If you’re in the market for a new nature-focused book, local river lover Ralph Hambrick’s “Transforming the James River in Richmond” has the advantage of being locally-focused as well.

Hambrick is a member and former chair of the Falls of the James Scenic River Advisory Committee and a member and former co-chair of the James River Advisory Council. He is a professor emeritus in public policy and administration at VCU, as well as a former whitewater canoe instructor, raft guide and an “all-around river enjoyer.”

Here’s an excerpt from the book: The James River is the centerpiece of Richmond, but by the mid-twentieth century it had been abused and neglected. Eagles and sturgeon had nearly disappeared, water-powered industry was abandoning it and the river was a sewer. Today, the river draws visitors to its wooded shorelines, restored canal and feisty rapids. At the local level, this transformation was the result of citizen action, public-private partnerships, difficult decisions by governmental leaders and the hard work of thousands of passionate advocates and volunteers. Local author and lifelong river watcher Ralph Hambrick chronicles the events, projects and controversies that brought about the dramatic change and lends a critical eye to the results.

The book is 246 pages and features 141 pictures. Click here to check it out.

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JRA Unveils Virtual Underwater Scavenger Hunt

If you’re looking for some fun science content to check out with your kids, the James River Association’s website is a great place to start. Today they released a 360-degree underwater scavenger hunt with a corresponding lesson plan. Super cool! Check it out here

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Dominion Energy Riverrock Announces Cancellation of 2020 festival

At this point, we’re not sure this counts as news — more like a foregone conclusion. But, man, Riverrock is one of our favorite weekends of the year. This is brutal. Canceled. Not postponed.

Below see the release from Sports Backers:

In conjunction with Governor Northam’s recently-issued statewide stay-at-home order, Sports Backers and Venture Richmond are very disappointed to announce that the 2020 Dominion Energy Riverrock festival planned for May 15-17 at Brown’s Island and Historic Tredegar will be canceled. This is a very difficult decision for the event organizers and our dedicated community of athletes, musicians, adventurers, sponsors, and volunteers that support the festival and make Richmond such a vibrant and active place to live and visit.

“We know that Dominion Energy Riverrock is one of the most anticipated weekends in Richmond, so it’s incredibly disappointing that we and Sports Backers must cancel this year’s event, but there was really no other option for us. The health and safety of our guests, participants, and community are our top priorities,” said Lisa Sims, CEO of Venture Richmond. “We want to thank our sponsors and partners for their support and understanding, and we’re already planning another great event for 2021.”

Registered participants in Dominion Energy Riverrock sporting events will have the option to donate their registration fee to projects and organizations that help maintain, enhance, and support the Richmond riverfront and its world-class trail system. Past Dominion Energy Riverrock donations have supported various projects in and around the James River Park System, including the rehabbing of the Maymont ramp on the North Bank Trail by the James River Park System staff (completed in November 2019) and a universal access ramp at Huguenot Flatwater through the James River Outdoor Coalition’s efforts.

Participants may also defer their entry into the corresponding sporting event during the 2021 festival, credit their entry fee to another Sports Backers event, or receive a refund of their event entry fee. Information will be sent directly to registered participants letting them know how to manage their registrations.

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Richmond to Restrict Access to Public Spaces, Including James River Park

Man, this just gets more disheartening by the day. After Governor Ralph Northam issued a mandatory “stay-at-home” order for all Virginians yesterday, the City of Richmond followed with an order for restricted access to certain public spaces. Playgrounds and courts at public parks, as well as on Richmond Public Schools properties, are now closed. Access to the James River is limited as well. Certain activities – swimming, sunbathing or congregating in groups – are now forbidden, although residents can still hike, bike and otherwise exercise along the river.

Breaking the new restrictions or the gathering ban is a class one misdemeanor.

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COVID-19 and Virginia State Parks

Here’s an update from Virginia State Parks:

Virginia State Parks are open, and being outdoors in nature is a great way to get much-needed fresh air and exercise. As always, we have the safety and well-being of our visitors and staff in mind. We continue to monitor the situation with COVID-19, and this page will be updated as needed when new information becomes available.

While we encourage park visits, we do ask that if you are sick and/or experiencing symptoms consistent with the COVID-19 infection that you please refrain from visiting. Guests are also encouraged to follow social distancing guidelines during all visits by keeping a distance of 6 feet or more between you and other guests.

Parks are Open

Your nearby state park is open and providing outdoor recreation opportunities.

Important Update: In adherence with federal guidance, as of March 17, all Virginia State Parks visitor centers will close to the public. Park staff will report for work as usual and be available by phone if assistance is needed. Overnight facilities and outdoor spaces remain open and a great alternative for social distancing in a natural environment. Self-check-in guidance will be emailed to overnight guests.

We are taking the recommended precautions from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to maintain clean and sanitary indoor public spaces (visitor centers, restrooms, etc.) and will have hand sanitizer available at heavily-trafficked areas. It is important to remember, however, that any public facility is only as clean as the last person who touched it. Therefore, a good portion of your safety relies on you. You should also be aware that our sanitizing and disinfection protocols do not include outdoor surfaces, play equipment or picnic tables.

First Landing State Park is open, like all other Va. State Parks.

Parking Fees

If contact stations are not staffed, which is typical at this point in the season, self-pay is available, and we recommend you bring cash or check for the daily parking fees.

Programs and Events

All in-person programs and events are canceled through March 31 as well as any event of 100 or more people that is scheduled through April 13.

In order to comply with CDC recommendations on social distancing, Virginia State Park staff will not provide shuttle service for recreation activities. If you intend to participate in activities that have different starting and ending locations, you will want to prepare to have transportation available at your start and end points.

Camping

Camping is open. We have increased disinfection and sanitizing procedures in bathhouse facilities but remind visitors to follow hand washing and disinfection procedures recommended by the CDC as a companion to our enhanced cleaning.

Cabins

Cabins are available. We have enhanced disinfection and sanitizing procedures in our cabin cleaning routine with an emphasis on areas most often touched (e.g., door handles, counters and other surfaces, light switches, window latches). All bed linens and towels in every cabin and lodge are laundered after every guest reservation.

Guests should bring disinfecting/sanitizing products for use during their stay. We recommend that all dishes, glassware and cooking equipment be re-washed before use.

Reservations

If you have concerns or questions about your upcoming reservation, please call our Customer Service Center at 800-933-7275, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Please be sure to call before your reservation is scheduled to start.

Transfer and Cancellation Policy

Last Updated: March 18, 2020. For all reservations, overnight and day use, scheduled to start within the next 30 days:

For all reservations, overnight and day use, scheduled to start beyond 30 days from today:

Any private event occurring between now and April 13, and estimating more than 100 people in attendance, must be canceled per the Governor’s guidance. A full refund will be provided.

What You Can Do

Keep in mind that you are recreating in a public facility. While we are making increased efforts toward sanitation, each surface is only as clean as the last person who touched it. Therefore, you should take steps to protect your health by following these guidelines provided by the Virginia Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control:

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Monument Avenue 10k Postponed Until September

In accordance with the guidelines announced by Mayor Levar Stoney and the City of Richmond that recommend the postponement of large events in Richmond due to coronavirus (COVID-19), the Ukrop’s Monument Avenue 10k presented by Kroger and Virginia529 Kids Run will be moved from the original date of Saturday, March 28, to Saturday, September 26, 2020. Sports Backers is working through details of the postponement and will continue to provide updates to share those details through email, social media, and our website.

The Mayor’s recommendation is being made following intensive discussion with public health and public safety officials and is informed by the Centers for Disease Control Interim Guidance designed for those planning large events and mass gatherings.

“This has been a challenging week and we’ve worked hard to navigate rapid changes and prepare for all possible scenarios. Health, safety, and security are top priorities for our events and we appreciate the guidance from Mayor Stoney and our public health and safety officials,” said Meghan Keogh, event director of the Ukrop’s Monument Avenue 10k for Sports Backers. “We’re thankful for the support and understanding of participants, volunteers, sponsors, and spectators and we look forward to the opportunity to put on a great event on September 26.”

“At Sports Backers, our mission is to encourage active living and that can be very beneficial to the overall health of individuals and communities. Events like the 10k can certainly motivate people to stay healthy and active throughout the year,” said Jon Lugbill, Executive Director of Sports Backers. “We recognize that the most important thing right now is to follow the guidelines of medical experts and focus community resources towards ensuring public health.”

Additional updates from Sports Backers regarding the details of the postponement will be made on our social media accounts including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, as well as through email and at www.sportsbackers.org.

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Volunteer Opportunities: Trail Work Near and Far

This Saturday (Feb. 29) come join the trail-building crew from RVA MORE, the Flying Frog Race Team, and Coqui Cyclery to help put the finishing touches on the “Chute” on Zero Trail. Everyone is invited and encouraged to come help. Many hands make light work! Meet at the Courthouse Road lot (7298 Courthouse Road, Chesterfield, Va.) at 9 a.m., bring water, sturdy work shoes and gloves.

Saturday RVA MORE is also back out at the Poop Loop for a workday. This time we’re working on one of the creek crossings. Meet at the Ancarrow’s Landing parking lot (1200 Brander St, Richmond, VA) at 9 a.m.

Click here for more info…

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JROC Seeks Universal Boating Access at Huguenot Flatwater

There’s a key part of kayaking I’ll admit I’ve taken for granted: getting in and out of my boat. During an April 2019 training hosted by Beyond Boundaries and the Virginia Rehabilitation Center for the Blind and Vision Impaired, I, along with some other participants, learned about the many forms watersports access can take from folks with physical disabilities, including local kayaker Sally Wetzler.

Boaters like Wetzler, with the local nonprofit James River Outdoor Coalition (JROC) and their partners, want to help remove barriers to the river in Richmond through projects like the Huguenot Flatwater universal access ramp. In a video about the project on JROC’s website, Wetzler says, “All my last 42 years I’ve been working very hard to break the stereotypes; you know, being told what I can and can’t do because I have a disability. A lot of it is just letting people see what you are doing and going on and doing it.”

According to JROC, there is currently only one ADA-compliant river access ramp within the James River Park System (JRPS), and that’s at Reedy Creek. They say this proposed ramp “will change that by connecting the upper four miles of the James River with ADA-compliant access at both ends” and will “accomplish step two of three of JROC’s long term goal of connecting all seven miles of the James that runs through the JRPS with ADA-compliant access.” Future ambitions include universal access at Pony Pasture.

The new ramp wouldn’t remove existing stairs at Huguenot Flatwater but would allow Wetzler and others to access the water more independently. In the video, she says, “Getting carried around and dragged back and forth is not necessarily the way I want to project my being. Being able to go up and down a ramp to get to the water- it would definitely change it a lot.”

To date, the organization has raised over $140,000, including about $20,000 from the 2019 King of the James adventure triathlon. They also successfully rallied for the City of Richmond’s support, which contributed an additional $340,000. In an interview last week, JROC President Katie Lemmert emphasized that funds are still needed: 2018 estimates came to $345,000, but she says the project needs more funding to cover things like the approach to the ramp, engineering costs, permitting, and inflation.

Lemmert says they’re now entering the final permitting stage and hope to break ground by the end of this year. Sally Wetzler sums up the project’s significance at the end of the video: “It’s something that I think is important to the entire community; not just the community of Richmond, but beyond. Richmond is known for all of the outdoor activities … and we should be at the forefront of making that accessible.”

How You Can Help:

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