Help Beautify Belmead

April 3, 2015 · 2 minute read
Belmead is located on the James River in Powhatan County.

Belmead is located on the James River in Powhatan County.

This time of year there are lots of volunteer opportunities in the area, but I wanted to highlight this one because it comes from one of our partners and it serves a really magical place.

Through a Virginia Department of Forestry grant, the James River Association is partnering with the Chesapeake Conservancy and the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament to enhance and restore the riverfront along the James River at St. Francis/St. Emma, also known as Belmead, in Powhatan, County.

Belmead was originally built as a plantation home along the banks of the James River. In the late 1800s, the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament transformed the property into two private schools for African American and Native American Indian students. Unfortunately, financial setbacks caused the schools to close in the 1970s, and most of the historic buildings to be demolished. In 2011, this historic 2,265-acre property was listed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as one of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.

The James River Association and the Virginia Outdoors Foundation both hold a conservation easement on 1,000 acres of land along the riverbank and throughout the years have worked closely with the Sisters to protect and enhance this historic property’s riverfront. Over the course of two workdays, April 4, 2015 and April 18, 2015, volunteers will plant more than 900 native Virginia trees along a half-mile of James River-front. Planting native trees will enhance the health of the river by reducing river bank erosion, filtering polluted runoff from nearby farmland, and improving wildlife habitat.

A runner in the woods surrounding Belmead.

A runner in the woods surrounding Belmead.

This project is a part of Envision the James, an initiative led by the Chesapeake Conservancy, the James River Association, and National Geographic Maps. Through this program, the groups work with local partners and communities to conserve important landscapes in the James River basin, improve wildlife habitat, restore river banks, protect important viewsheds, and promote the heritage, history, and use of the river. This planting project not only compliments the goals of Envision the James, but also enhances the organizations’ collective goals of improving the health of the James and ultimately the health of the Chesapeake Bay.

For more information or to find out how you can volunteer, visit www.jamesriverassociation.org or contact Amber Ellis, Watershed Restoration Associate, at (804) 788-8811, ext. 205 or aellis@jrava.org. And learn more about Envision the James and how you can get involved at