One small area of land on Richmond’s southside holds great value to the James River Park System and all who enjoy it. In this narrow stretch of wooded floodplain between the river and Norfolk Southern railroad tracks, a proposed 2,700-feet trail, aptly named the Missing Link, would connect the 21st Street entrance to the park system and southside neighborhoods with the T. Tyler Potterfield Memorial Bridge and the north bank of the river. Countless individuals and organizations have campaigned for the Missing Link for at least two decades. Mayor Levar Stoney said he was committed to its completion nearly three years ago. And now new conversations about the future of recreation and conservation in the city have sparked renewed interest and increased awareness.
The James River Association’s Community Conservation Manager, Justin Doyle, says “The Missing Link is a priority one project in the Richmond Riverfront Plan, adopted by City Council in 2012. The [JRPS] Master Plan is being considered by City Council and has not been adopted yet.”
Hargreaves Jones (formerly Hargreaves Associates), which was involved in designing both the Riverfront Plan and the JRPS Master Plan, considered a total of six concepts. At a public meeting held on December 11, Kirt Rieder of Hargreaves Jones presented the top two proposed designs for the trail, Concepts E and F.
Doyle says that the potential for flooding influenced the concepts developed: “One concept hugs the riverbank on Norfolk Southern property and is elevated above the river to an extent, but a major flood would inundate it. The second is a viaduct that would be elevated to minimize inundation.” Moving forward, Doyle says, “Norfolk Southern will need to be engaged by the City of Richmond.”
In live tweets from the December 11 meeting, Doyle shared that amenities such as seating and signage were considered, while lighting and trash receptacles were not.