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Accolades, memories as Ralph White, JRPS Park Manager, retires

UPDATE: At our March 2013 Board Meeting, Ralph White was unanimously awarded a Lifetime Membership to the Friends of the James River Park. We look forward to Ralph continuing to serve and influence the James River Park System through our organization.

Celebration of Ralph's retirement hosted by FOJRP and JROC at Southampton Community Center (photos by Rich Young)

Beloved Park Manager, Ralph White retired in January 2013. After all Ralph has done for the JRPS and the city, it will be impossible to fill his shoes (and kneesocks!), but it's been gratifying to see the outpouring of gratitude and affection from river lovers of every stripe. It is no hyperbole to say that Ralph and his work in the JRPS has improved and enriched the lives of millions of people, and will continue to. Pretty cool. We're so thankful to be among those who know and love him.

Celebration at Southampton for Ralph White

Read local articles about Ralph's retirement:

FoJRP Annual Picnic

Friends gathered on a beautiful night at the Pumphouse, one of the city's premiere historic sites. The Friends annual picnic was held at the Pump House on June 15, 2013.

picnic photos

James River Park Conservation Easement

Each year the Friends, along with other river partners, inspect the James River Park Conservation Easement. Our 2013 outing, always held in the winter so we can have an especially clear view, was successful!

easement inspection

The James River Park Conservation Easement is a legal agreement that protects areas of James River Park from being developed or sold. With the Richmond area's current rate of growth, areas of wilderness within the city limits are becoming more and more scarce. The Conservation Easement ensures us that James River Park land is protected FOREVER, so that future generations may enjoy the park as we do today.

Celebrate the Spotted Salamander!

salamander egg massesSometime soon on a cold rainy night, a migration will take place. Keep your nights free and your raincoats and headlamps handy ...

The James River Park’s icon, the Spotted Salamander, is on target for mating. The vernal pool along Riverside Drive contains egg masses that we hope will result in a successful breeding season this year.

The pool, maintained by Park staff, will remain full for the mating and larval season and drained before mosquito season!

Riverfront Grant Approved

At the Friends of James River Park August 2012 meeting, the Richmond Regional Planning District Commission gave a presentation regarding an application for a competitive grant for the Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program to be used for trails and signage on Chapel Island along the James River, just west of Great Shiplock Park. FOJRP supported the RRPDC's grant application and our board voted to support the Chapel Island/James River Public Access Enhancement Project with $5,000 from our general fund and 200 hours of volunteer labor from our members.

In November 2012 we were notified by the RRPDC that the grant has been awarded! Thanks to the RRPDC for all the heavy-lifting! This eastern section of the city desperately needs more park and river access and opening Chapel Island, which is city property, and accessible from the Great Shiplock Park section of the James River Park System and adjacent to the Capital to Capital Bicycle Trail, will add so much to Richmond's robust urban park system.

FOJRP is proud to be part of a project that will open river access of what is now an underused area to underserved communities. River access at Chapel Island will offer health benefits, wildlife viewing opportunities, fishing, walking, paddling, and other environmentally friendly activities to a wider community.

James River in 90 Seconds

Enjoy this wonderful aerial footage of the James River, taken by Richard MacDonald.

Richmond Named Outside Magazin's “BEST TOWN EVER”

Richmond, Virginia, Claims Top Spot in Outside’s Annual Issue Highlighting the Best Places to Live

River Heros logoSanta Fe, NM | September 6, 2012: Outside, America’s leading active-lifestyle brand, has selected Richmond, VA as the winner in its search to determine the best river town in America, following a four-week competition held on Facebook that was sponsored by Good ‘n Natural bar.

As the “Best Town Ever,” Richmond will be honored with a special mosaic cover on Outside’s October 35th anniversary issue, composed of images submitted by readers during the Facebook competition. The mosaic cover will also be featured in a special interactive display on Outside Online that will allow visitors to view the individual photographs that were used to construct the image of downtown Richmond.

In order to select the finalists towns that faced off in the Facebook competition, Outside teamed up with the environmental non-profit American Rivers, identifying the top 10 river towns in the U.S. based on quality-of-living criteria, active recreational engagement with nearby waterways -- kayaking, fishing, boating, walking and bike paths, and riverfront parks -- and a positive environmental stewardship. Outside then called on the public to help select the winning town through its Best Town Ever Facebook app. Richmond bested a list of cities that included Hood River, Oregon; Nevada City, California; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Asheville, North Carolina; Nashville, Tennessee; Boise, Idaho; Missoula, Montana; Durango, Colorado; and Ithaca, New York.

”I think a lot of people will be surprised by the choice,” says Outside editor Christopher Keyes. ”Our writer certainly was. But after he spent three days in the city, paddleboarding on the James River, trail running on its banks, and dining all over, he was ready to pack his moving van. Richmond is the real deal -- a true haven for adventurous types.”

”Good ‘n Natural would like to congratulate Richmond, VA for being selected as the Outside ”Best Towns” program winner. It was a great contest and the competition was stiff. Hats off to Richmond!”, says Ann Scales and Sarah Walker, Good ‘n Natural® bar cofounders.

In addition to the “Best Town Ever” feature, the 35th anniversary issue of Outside will highlight an array of crowd-sourced content as part of its “Reader Issue” theme. To create the issue, Outside spent three months using Outside Online and all of their vibrant social media platforms to gather reader stories, advice, input, and passion -- and then channeled all of that into rich content throughout the pages of the October issue. Check out the Outside article.

Friday Cheers in honor of Raph White

Ralph White and Major Dwight Jones Ralph White Poster

The last Friday Cheers of the season honored Park Manager Ralph White, who retired in January 2013.

Trampled by Turtles and GoldRush provided a great concert, and Venture Richmond honored Ralph's years of service to the city and region while hundreds gathered along the river, despite the warm temps!

2012 River Heroes: STEIDEL & VELZY

River Heros logoWe're exceedingly happy to announce that after careful deliberation, our panel has chosen two very worthy and talented River Heroes: Robert Steidel, Director of Richmond's Department of Public Utilities and Greg Velzy, Adventure Programmer for Chesterfield County Parks and Recreation. Both gentlemen go well beyond their job descriptions and have championed the James River in fundamental ways.

Read more about the winners.

VCU CreateAThon Students Create A Ton!

If we told you everything our team of five talented, passionate, energetic (and tired) VCU students came up with during their marathon 24-hour Spring Break session, it would exhaust you! FOJRP was one of 10 local non-profits chosen to participate in this wonderful pro bono effort.

CreateAThon students

To help FOJRP reach out to Spanish-speaking park users, Adrian Robertson, Alex Ledford, Isabella Althoff, team leader Lauren Albee and Liz Vidal created more than a dozen targeted, workable fantastic pieces. Among them: a charming Spanish radio spot featuring the park-loving Super Amigo, sharp-looking signs and slogans, fabulous event ideas, trash bag designs, a logo for Spanish-speaking friends, Spanish info for our web site, a bonus radio spot in English and more! Our favorite line and sign: Take Pride. Éste es tu río. (It's your river.)

Our next step is to put this creativity into action in the park, in the community and on our web site. We can't thank our team, coordinator Tara Hendelman and leader Peyton Rowe, enough. THANK YOU, CREATEATHON, from the bottom of our park and river-loving hearts!

Slave Trail Dedication Ceremony

Slave Trail Dedication Ceremony

Several members of Friends of James River Park took part in the solemn and celebratory unveiling of 17 interpretive markers along the 2.5 mile Richmond Slave Trail Sunday, April 10, 2011. Park Manager Ralph White led the litany for those gathered at the second marker, The Mechanics of Slavery.

Following the unveiling, the main ceremony at the site of Lumpkin's Slave Jail in Shockoe Bottom included Mayor Dwight Jones, Governor Robert McDonnell, Delegate and Chair of the Slave Trail Commission, Delores McQuinn, many other dignitaries and more than 500 attendees. The Slave Trail begins at the Manchester Docks area just west of Ancarrow's Landing, in the easternmost part of the James River Park System, crosses the James River on the Mayo Bridge and winds around Shockoe Bottom. Near the end of the two hour ceremony, Jeannie Welliver, Slave Trail Commission Project Manager, lauded city of Richmond Parks & Rec employees, Ralph White, Nathan Burrell, and Peter Bruce for their tireless work taking care of and promoting the slave trail for 18 years with virtually no budget. We salute them as well for keeping a crucial part of Richmond's and the nation's history safe until the city was ready to acknowledge it properly.

With the markers in place, a walk along the trail is now more meaningful than ever, and can be appreciated without a guide, but we encourage you to take advantage of guided tours when they are available. This Satudrday, April 16, Civil War/Emancipation Day, there will be guided tours of the trail. See civilwar.emancipationday.net for details. On June 18, the Elegba Folklore Society will lead a dramatic torchlit trail walk at night as the culmination of Juneteenth, and on June 25, Ralph White will lead another torchlit trail walk.

see caption belowRiver lovers at The Boathouse ... reception for new sculpture

There was a great turn-out Thursday, Jan. 20 at a reception hosted by The Boathouse at Rockett's Landing to welcome The Deepwater Sponger, a massive 2,000 lb. cast iron sculpture by Richmonder Charles Ponticello, to the riverfront.

Our very own Anne Wright, FOJRP board member, Asst. Professor of Biology at VCU, and self-described "insect geek" shared some fascinating findings from grad student research going on right here in the James in Richmond that points to a healthy ecosystem. To sum up in laymen's terms: 1) when stoneflies decide the middle of Richmond is more fun to live in than the mountains that's proof of a healthy river here and 2) seeing sturgeon sperm on a screen doesn't make one pine for caviar.

We are brewing ideas for a series of river talks by local experts. If you're interested in helping organize this, contact us at friends@jamesriverpark.org.

The James River and the Capital Region Collaboration

If you haven't had a chance to participate in this group's work -- a cooperative effort among partners from the Richmond Region's local government, business and community organizations -- now's the time. You can read up on this initiative about our region's future and take a survey. The James River keeps coming up as something residents care very much about, so please make sure your thoughts are heard.

FOJRP secures 501c3 nonprofit status

The Friends of James River Park (FOJRP) received notification September 15, 2010 that our 501c3 application was approved by the IRS retroactive to when we filed for it in 2008! We are now an independent, charitable organization, apart from the nonprofit Enrichmond Foundation (formerly Richmond Parks and Rec Foundation), under whose umbrella nonprofit status we had operated since our inception in 1999.

Operating under the foundation was the right thing to do for the early years of our existence as the foundation's administrative support has brought us and many a fledgling friends group along. But once Friends of James River Park had grown and prospered, it was time to become independent. FOJRP member Jamie Canup did yeoman's legal work pro bono for FOJRP to get us to this point, and we are eternally grateful for it. Outgoing officers Charles Price, George Wickham, Mary Helen Sullivan, and Gay Leahy deserve lots of credit, too.

Our stand-alone 501c3 status will streamline our bookkeeping, make it less confusing for members and those giving donations, allow us to use PayPal on our web site, and free us to apply for grants to help us maintain, preserve, and protect our beloved James River Park System. Contributions to FOJRP have always been tax-deductible, and they will continue to be so.

Thanks so much to John and Bucci Zeugner, Karen Townsend, Noel McKenzie, and all the Enrichmond Foundaton board members for their hard work and support over the years. We've left the nest, but we'll see them around the woods.

Friends dined at Pescados China Street

pescados china streetWe had a great crowd at Pescados China Street on Monday, March 14, 2011. Thanks to all who visited, as 15% of all the day's sales will be donated to the Friends of James River Park. We don't have totals yet, but we do know that everyone enjoyed a delicious meal. Reports are that the avacado tart is better than chocolate!

The menu at Pescados is fresh, creative and incredibly tasty...and for fish-phobes, there are plenty of carnivorous or vegetarian alternatives. The next time you stop by Pescados, thank them for their generosity.

The Boathouse at Rockett's Landing's Tasteful Generosity

In 2011 and 2012 The Boathouse at Rockett's donated to the Friends of James River Park from the sales of the Watershed Special featured on their menu.

The Boathouse donated 20% of sales of those specials to the FoJRP -- over $4,000 by the end of the campaign. Thank you for your partnership!

March Ivy Attacks on Buttermilk Trail: Trees Nod Approval

Ivy swingingThrough the month of March 2011, Friends Volunteer Coordinator, Elaine Marolla and the James River Park’s Andrew Mondak have led several groups of wonderful volunteers to pull back the invasive English Ivy from old growth and newer trees bordering the Buttermilk Trail near the Reedy Creek Headquarters. If interested, please contact Elaine Marolla, ElaineMarolla@yahoo.com to join in and check Facebook for updates.

HandsOn Richmond at the Pumphouse Park

More than 30 volunteers came out to Pumphouse Park on Saturday, October 16, 2010 to clear brush that had taken over the old and original James River Canal. It was a beautiful day and FOJRP so appreciates the good cheer and hard work of everyone who signed up through Hands On Greater Richmond.

Showing of Andy Goldsworthy Rivers and Tides

Thanks to all who joined us on Sunday, Jan. 9, 2011 to watch Rivers and Tides, a stunning documentary about the natural, often kinetic, sculptures of Andy Goldsworthy. We had a nice, lively crowd at Capital Ale House -- about 50 folks braved the cold for this awesome screening.

Partners Helping the Park

Halycon Vintage Clothing and Deep Groove Records, both Fan businesses that are fans of the James River Park System, gave generous donations recently, which we so appreciate. A percentage of proceeds at recent rummage sales at both businesses net the Friends $250 from each business. Both storeowners remarked how happy people were knowing the money was going to help the James River Park. Thanks so much to everyone who participated and to Halcyon and Deep Groove for thinking of FOJRP.

Our friends at Riverside Outfitters are consistently great stewards of the park, showing residents and visitors alike how to enjoy the water and woods in RVA. Recently they showed FOJRP how much they care about the JRPS when they donated more than $1,000 to us! We are so appreciative. Partners like RO make Richmond and the James River Park System a more vibrant place to be.

Finally, The Boathouse at Rockett's Landing Watershed Special continues to benefit FOJRP. We've received more than $3,000 from the only restaurant in town that overlooks the James River (and part of the JRPS) since this great promotion started in the summer, and we sure are grateful for it!

Invasive species removal help

VCU’s Green Unity, an environmentally conscious student group, with some help from Friends of James River Park's Elaine Marolla, put aside studying and preparation for Halloween festivities to gather at the Pony Pasture for removal of invasive species. October 30 was the big day.

They began their clean up adventure with an informative walk along the trails with park naturalist/manager Ralph White. Once these energetic young folks were trained in the why and how to remove bush honey suckle, they put on the gloves, grabbed the tools and dug in. Many of the students had spent time at the river in the past but for others it was a first experience and one they hoped to repeat.

Even the “wraps” delivery man was in awe of our beautiful Pony Pasture and mentioned that he would bring his family next time. Thanks to Ronald L. Brown of VCU’s Service Learning component and Amanda Elizabeth Schutt of Green Unity for helping to organize a positive experience for all.


RVA James River news

Richmonders love their river. There are many sources for James River specific current news.

Here's a sampling: