On October 15 at 2 p.m. the public is invited to the official opening of the new and improved Great Shiplock Park. (If you’re not familiar with what’s been going on at this James River Park System parcel on the north side of the river, click here and here.) In her most recent email newsletter, Beth Weisbrod, executive director of the Virginia Capital Trail Foundation, gives us a thumbnail history of how the park went from overlooked JRPS parcel to ($550,000 later) the Richmond trailhead for the Virginia Capital Trail:
About 18 months ago, as we were preparing for the city approval process of our trailhead design, we were challenged by Meg Turner of Capital Trees to think bigger. She introduced us to Jay Hugo and Jill Nolt of the architecture firm 3North, who showed us in drawings what she meant — how the whole park could call out to trail users to sit, enjoy the views of the Kanawha Canal and James River, and take in the beauty and history. Lucky for us, Richmond has several corporate citizens, private foundations, other nonprofits, and individuals who also like to think big and share a passion to make Richmond a better place. What we’ll be cutting the ribbon on next week is the result of a successful mix of partners, collaborators, and generous supporters, to the huge benefit of anyone passing through downtown Richmond along Dock Street or the Virginia Capital Trail.
Just across the entrance to the park, trailhead amenities like benches, shade structures, and bike racks encourage people to stop. The views, history, and other nearby attractions will encourage them to linger. We built ramps on either side of the Kanawha Canal locks so that wheels can easily cross them and people can enjoy the new trails on Chapel Island. We added light poles to make it safer at night, and bright LED lights along the Trail that run off of solar panels. On the western edge of the park, our friends at Capital Trees designed a biofilter to cleanse rainwater before it goes into the river. They also added landscaping, not just to make the park pretty, but to further manage stormwater in an environmentally friendly way.
I met up with Weisbrod last week to hear about the project, and she said she’d love to see as many Richmonders as possible flood the park for the October 15th ribbon cutting. The mayor will be there, as will other civic leaders, and they need to know that while this trailhead is now complete, there is much work to do to finish Richmond’s portion of the trail.