There’s a surprising amount of news in Michael Martz’s piece in today’s T-D on Earth Day in Richmond.
First was the announcement, made by Mayor Dwight Jones at the Earth Day Festival in Manchester, that 6 acres along the floodwall will be added to the James River Park System. I spoke with Ralph White earlier in the week about the impending addition, and he was very excited. It’s always good to add parkland to the city register, especially parkland close to the river, but it’ll be interesting to see how this parcel fits in with the rest of the JRPS units. The JRPS has always been managed as a “wilderness” park. Things like disc-golf, dog parks and playgrounds all have their place in Richmond city parks, but the JRPS has never been one of them. The problem with the future Retention Basin Park is that it still needs to serve as a retention basin. From what White told me, the Department of Public Utilities will retain ownership of the parcel. It’s proximity to the floodwall means no trees can be planted in it. It can’t really be a wilderness unit the way the others in the park are. That’s okay, of course, I’m just curious see what becomes of Retention Basin Park.
When I spoke with White on Wednesday, he said Williams Island was to officially become part of the James River Park System yesterday, too. That didn’t happen, but it should soon. Like with Retention Basin Park, the Dept. of Public Utilities owns the island and would maintain ownership under the new relationship with the park. But they would officially hand over control of the island to the parks department, to be managed as a JRPS parcel. Of course, anyone who’s been out to Williams Island or is familiar with its story, knows the island has effectively been part of the park for years. So, whenever an announcement is made, it won’t change the Williams Island experience much, if at all.
Martz also mentioned Earth Day events at the University of Richmond, where students “cleared a historic but neglected trail along the campus’ southeastern border.” The Gambles Mill Trail runs from Westhampton Way to River Road. “The trail hopefully at some point will be a link to the James,” said Todd Lookingbill, an assistant professor who teaches geography of the river’s watershed. The trail runs along the creek that comes out of Westhampton Lake on the UR campus. It’s a trail and area I wrote about a few years ago for a T-D column, a really neat area. It’d be a great to see it connect to the James near the Huguenot Bridge someday.