Ralph White and the future of the James River Park

December 10, 2012 · 3 minute read

In three weeks, Ralph White officially retires after 32 years as manager of the James River Park System. I wrote about White and what he accomplished for my Friday column in the Times-Dispatch. In yesterday’s paper I tried to look ahead at what could be in store for the park and what will be expected from White’s successor.

I spoke with many people for the two pieces, and there was much from those conversations that was really interesting but didn’t find it’s way into the columns. One aspect that I’d like to have find a wider audience is the results of the survey conducted by VCU professor Vicky Shivy’s introductory psychology class. Shivvy’s Research Methods students spent 11 days in Pony Pasture, The Wetlands and Belle Isle around the 2012 Memorial Day Weekend trying to get a sense for who uses the park, how often, when, what they’re doing, etc.

The results were fascinating. Click “Continue Reading” to find the highlights…

* Of the 920 total visitors interviewed across all survey days, 374 (or, 40.7%) indicated that they were residents of the City of Richmond. We interviewed 920 visitors out of the 9539 counted during this same timeframe. Hence, nearly 1 in 10 visitors were interviewed during the times that students were on site.

* During the Memorial Day (holiday) weekend period — May 26th to May 28th — a total of 733 visitors were interviewed. Of these 733 holiday visitors, 280 (or, 38.2%) said that they were Richmond City residents.

* With regard to overall demographics, the average age of a Park visitor is 38.4 years, with a range from 18 to 79 (note that VCU Human Subjects Research Protection Policy states that only individuals over age 18 years could be interviewed). This survey is VCU IRB #HM 14452.

* When visiting the James River Park System, most people are accompanied by one other person (39.3%), whereas 22.1% come to the Park alone, 14.7% come in groups of three, and 9.8% come in groups of four. The remaining 14.2% of visitors come in groups of size equal to, or greater than, five people.

* Overall, more men (56.4%) visit the Park than women (43.6%). On Belle Isle 56.6% of visitors were male, whereas at the Pony Pasture / Wetlands area about 56.1% of visitors were men. Hence, the gender breakdown seems relatively stable across locations.

* Men stay in the Park longer than women (115.2 minutes vs. 105.11 minutes).

* About 17% of James River Park System Park visitors bring children under the age of 16 years with them. Adults bring children in groups of two (5.9%), three(2.8%), or bring just one child (9.2%).

* Regarding the ethnicity of James River Park System visitors, 79.2% were Caucasian / White; 7.8% were African American / Black; 5.1% were Latino; and 2.4% were Asian. About 5.5% of Visitors did not report their ethnic identity.

* Looking at locations separately with regard to ethnicity, on Belle Isle 77.9% were Caucasian / White; 9.8% were African American / Black; 3.9% were Latino; and 3.1% were Asian. At the Pony Pasture / Wetlands areas, 78.2% were Caucasian / White; 4.7% were African American / Black; 10.3% were Latino; and .9% were Asian. About 5.9% did not report.

* Again, looking at locations separately, with regard to visitor residence, two hundred and twenty-five individuals (38.2% of respondents) interviewed on Belle Isle were City residents. At the Pony Pasture / Wetlands areas, one hundred and forty-nine people, (46.4%) interviewed at this site were City residents.

* Finally, looking at locations separately, visitors to Belle Isle tend to be younger (35.95 years) vs. Pony Pasture / Wetlands (40.87 years).

* On average, Park visitors plan to spend about 109.4 minutes in the Park. However, visitors tended to stay for a longer period of time at Belle Isle (117 minutes) than at the Pony Pasture / Wetlands (99.38 minutes).

* With regard to dog visitors, at the Pony Pasture / Wetlands areas, 14.7% of human visitors brought along one dog, 8.5% brought 2 dogs with them, and 2.2% of human visitors brought along 3 or more canine companions. Most human visitors to the Pony Pasture / Wetlands area (74.6%) did not bring a dog. This is in contrast to Belle Isle, where dogs were less common. On Belle Isle, 10.8% of human visitors brought along one dog, 2.5% brought 2 dogs with them, and 1.6% of human visitors brought along 3 or more canine companions. Fully 85.2% of Belle Isle visitors did not bring a dog.