Late last week our friends at the James River Association announced the launch of a regional planning effort to make the major rivers of the Richmond region a center piece for entertainment, recreation and commerce. It was an announcement the Times-Dispatch felt important enough to put on the front of their Saturday paper.
The development of a regional rivers plan was one of four strategies presented by the James River Work Group of the Capital Region Collaborative, which is a joint effort between the Richmond Regional Planning District Commission and the Greater Richmond Chamber of Commerce. The team of Timmons Group and 3 North was selected to lead this regional planning effort by JRA. Additionally, the effort has been expanded beyond the Richmond Region boundaries to include the south bank of the Appomattox River which is part of the Crater Planning District.
The old Vepco Levy Bridge will soon become a new bike/pedestrian bridge over the James River in Richmond.
“We are thrilled to work with the business community and local governments to help the region become more connected to its rivers and to realize even more benefits from these wonderful natural assets,” said Bill Street, CEO for the James River Association. “It is critical that we have a strong plan that will guide the use of the river while also making sure we protect what makes the rivers so special.”
Street was in charge of the James River Work Group, and he told me that while they started out thinking more narrowly in terms of the James, that quickly changed based on input from the localities.
“It really made sense to look at all the opportunities on all of our rivers that we can take advantage of,” Street said.
The plan will complement the recommendations of the Richmond Riverfront Plan and identify opportunities to improve and establish new public access to the James, Appomattox, Chickahominy, and Pamunkey Rivers. Additionally, it will identify opportunities for river-related business development.
Street said the public will be invited to participate in the planning process, which is expected to begin in the the spring and last about six months. “It lines up well,” he added, of the timing. “It’s when people are engaged with the river.”
Street said that what he’s most excited about: the prospect of arriving at a product that all the localities agree on. “Then things can really move forward quickly, if you get the right buy-in. That’s what I’m really hoping is that we get a plan that everyone endorses and everyone is behind. Then we can start moving forward on making it a reality.”
About $100,000 in financial support for the planning process came from Altria Group, MeadWestvaco Foundation, and The Community Foundation, as well as The Cameron Foundation, which provided funding to include the south bank of the Appomattox River.
“The Regional Rivers Plan will identify opportunities to create a region-wide public-access network along the rivers and river-related economic development that will improve the entire region’s quality of life,” said Justin Doyle, the project manager for the JRA.