Of trailheads and tangible riverfront progress

October 17, 2013 · 2 minute read
Who doesn't love a ribbon cutting?

Who doesn’t love a ribbon cutting?

I was among the large crowd that turned out on Tuesday to mark the official opening of the new and improved Great Shiplock Park. The park has long been a James River Park parcel and now it’s the Richmond trailhead for the Virginia Capital Trail as well.

$550,000 (give or take) of private donations was what it took to turn the park from drab to lushly landscaped. The Capital Trail was regarded and resurfaced through the park; old canal stones were added for accents; Whit Brooks of Whitworth Cycles designed and welded custom bike racks. There are benches and shady spots to sit in, and the view of the James River and Kanawha Canal was enhanced with some hardcore weed whacking and creative landscaping. Also, with the addition of some metal ramps, the bridge the crosses the canal to Chapel Island is now handicapped accessible.

While there is still a long way to go before the trail is complete (est. summer 2015 finish), this was a big step toward that end.

In Mayor Jones’ remarks he mentioned “news” about additional projects that were in the Riverfront Plan. He mentioned Chapel Island (attached to Great Shiplock via that bridge) and Brown’s Island specifically. Since pretty much everyone who new what the mayor was talking about was in the crowd, I started asking around. Tyler Potterfield, with the city’s Planning and Preservation Division, said he’d be glad to tell me about it after he got clearance from the mayor’s press office. Nathan Burrell, JRPS superintendent, was able to speak more generally about upcoming projects. DSC_0122

The first, he said, is continuing the main, wide trail that runs through the middle of Chapel Island upstream along the river. “Essentially, it’s a connection between here and (the) 14th Street (takeout),” Burrell said.

Chapel Island is owned by the Department of Utilities, and the JRPS manages its eastern end. But there’s a fence blocking off the western end currently. The trail connecting Chapel to the 14th Street Takeout will eventually go through there, along the river and over or around the Shockoe Creek outflow. Burrell also said there’s talk of terracing on Chapel Island to allow fishermen, for instance, to get down to the river’s edge.

Sweet bike racks.

Sweet bike racks.

Running concurrently with the work on Chapel Island will be an even more exciting project on Brown’s Island: The refurbishment and completion of the bridge over the Vepco levy from Brown’s Island to the Manchester Climbing Wall area. Not familiar with the bridge? If you’ve been to Brown’s Island, you probably have seen the “Three Days April” historical walkway that juts south over the river from the park. The southern end of that would connect with the old Vepco Levy bridge but there’s a huge gap. The idea is to connect the two sides of the river with a bridge for bikes and pedestrians only.

The timing on all this, said Burrell: “I know the contract has been signed so I guess in the next half year or so.”

Look for more details when I get the chance to talk with Tyler Potterfield in the next couple of days.



The aching-to-be-connected Vepco Levy Bridge from Brown’s Island to Manchester.