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News and Events
See a list of recent and past park improvements.
River Levels and Water Safety
Please pay attention to the river level! You can check that out online at the NOAA/NGS Westham Gauge page.
The park staff does visit the different sections of the park changing the signs that tell you whether the level is above 5 feet (when you must wear a life jacket) or above 9 feet (when you must have a permit to be out on the river).
This summer brought not only storms to Richmond but also rains upstream, and in one instance the river rose so quickly that some river visitors had to be rescued. As well, it's best to allow a couple of days after a rainstorm to go into the water, due to higher bacteria counts. To find out what those counts are, go to jamesriverwatch.org, as the James River Association monitors the levels every week during the summer.
Since we are on the subject of rising waters, it turns out that flooding is the most common natural disaster in the U.S. And with a river running through it, Richmond has a history of mind-boggling floods as a consequence of hurricanes. For a reminder of what has happened, the city is placing high-water mark signs in such places as Pony Pasture, Brown's Island, Great Shiplock Park, and Plant Zero. (FEMA will reimburse the city for these.) For more information about this high water awareness project, read this RTD article.
Storm Drain Art
Six artists won the competition to paint 6 storm drains along Tredegar Street between the American Civil War Center and Brown's Island. The objective for this public art is to remind us that whatever we put down those drains is going directly into the river, our source for drinking, cooking, bathing, cleaning.
Read more on the Richmond Times Dispatch »
Coyotes in the Park Community Forum
It will be held on October 26, 6:30-8:30 pm at Patrick Henry School of Science and Arts, 3411 Semmes Avenue, Richmond, VA 23225. We hope you can attend for a lively discussion and Q&A about coyotes in Virginia, ecology, Virginia laws and regulations, and coexisting with wildlife.
Special Thanks to Jon Baliles
Friends of the James River Park presented councilman and mayoral candidate Jon Baliles with a special "paddle of thanks" at the July 5 board meeting.
Signed by officers of FoJRP, the James River Outdoor Coalition, Sports Backers, the James River Association, and Richmond MORE, the paddle shows our collective appreciation for Jon's friendship for the park and continued advocacy of major increases to the inadequate operating funds for the maintenance and safety of Richmond's most visited park and local attraction.
In his remarks, Jon stressed that the James River Park System is what most unites the entire region. Pictured in the photo with Jon are board members Katherine Mitchell and Greg Velzy, JROC president Will Isenberg, and Nathan Burrell, park superintendent. Watch the ceremony on YouTube.
The FOJRP Protection and Preservation Fund close to target
The Friends are VERY CLOSE to hitting our initial target of $100,000 for our Protection and Preservation Fund, which is distinct from our general or operating fund. As of mid-June 2016, the fund stands at $98,677.57.
Long-ago board members had been concerned about having some long-term money available for emergencies and major projects. When the conservation easements were put in place on part of the park system, Molly Dellinger-Wray and others launched this P & P fund, which could contribute to legal fees if those ever were to prove necessary. There are other uses for this money, however.
Please consider contributing to preserve urban wilderness, protect parklands, expand park boundaries, respond to catastrophic events, and enhance educational opportunities.
River Heroes celebrated
The 2016 River Heroes have been announced! Winners are Molly Dellinger-Wray, Tricia Pearsall and Sally Wetzler.
Each year, the Friends of the James River Park acknowledge and honor individuals and organizations that have made significant contributions to James River Park.
The award is now called the Ralph White River Hero Award in honor of former Park Manager Ralph White — one of the 2014 River Hero Award recipients.
The award ceremony took place on Tuesday, May 10, on the 15th floor of the Troutman Sanders Building, overlooking the James River.
Nathan Burrell wins Steward of the River Award
Park manager Burrell was among the four individuals and one non-profit organization recognized, each with a separately titled award, on April 29 for "measurable, positive impacts on the James River and surrounding communities." The description of why Nathan merits this Guardian Award notes that he "commits his professional and personal time to enhancing Richmond's crown jewel, James River Park. He knows a healthy river is essential to providing outdoor recreation opportunities for all."
JRAC, the James River Advisory Council, sponsors both the annual all-river clean-up in September and the Parade of Lights in December.
Inaugural Season of Outdoor Adventure & Environmental Education Programs
In summer 2015, two park staff members launched the inaugural season of outdoor adventure and environmental education programs for the JRPS. Designed to improve the quality of access to the park for city residents, these programs paid special attention to low-income individuals who face greater obstacles to enjoying outdoor recreation opportunities. The staff ran adventure camps for children in 12 city community centers during the week, incorporating environmental education lessons and exposing the participants to as many different areas of the park as possible.
Adults engaged in such activities as "Salamander Salutations," a weekly outdoor Yoga practice which has transitioned inside to the Reedy Creek headquarters building for the winter months. Also enjoyed were Thursday evening whitewater kayak clinics. Weekends were devoted to family-oriented programs, including the very fun-filled "paddle and potluck picnic" on a sandy island. A total of 700 people were involved in these outdoor recreation and environmental science activities between June and September.
2015 Amazing Raise Results: $4,550 for the Park!
The Friends of the James River Park is extremely grateful to all those who took the time in mid-September to contribute to our organization during the Amazing Raise. We raised $4,550 from 37 donors during the two day event.
We know there are many worthwhile non-profits that can benefit from your dollars, so thank you for thinking of us! Your generosity catapulted us into the Top 50 recipients among over 350 Small Organizations! This amount far exceeds the $2,275 we received from the Amazing Raise in 2014 (our first foray into this great community event); with your help, we'll work on an even larger total for 2016.
JRPS Named One of Six of the Best River Parks in the U.S.
Retail outdoor outfitter REI has declared Richmond's James River Park System to be among six of the best river parks in the United States. In their paddle tagged blog, REI notes that river parks not only create economic benefits for a town, they act as engaging cultural centers. See who else was included in the list.
Virginia Currents Explores the JRPS
Visit a few lesser known “treasure islands” off the James with James River Parks Superintendent Nathan Burrell in this March 2015 episode of PBS's Virginia Currents.
Watch the episode at ideastations.org.
James River Park System By the Numbers
Visitors to the park
This past spring, Friends partnered with The James River Outdoor Coalition (JROC) to fund the purchase of Park Counters to tally the number of park visitors. These were placed at the main entrances into the JRPS. The results support projections provided by a VCU student surveys in 2012. This survey predicted anywhere from 500,000 -- 1.5 million visitors per year. With the instillation of the park counters we now know that JRPS has had over 900,000 visitors from May 2014 until December 2014.
James River Park System is clearly a top dog when it comes to attendance. By May 2015 the annual visitor count is expected to be closer to the 1.5 million visitor prediction made in 2012.
Who cares? Anyone who lives, works, or plays in the City of Richmond! The James River Park System provides a huge economic benefit to the City. Using the $16 per day per user estimate for park economic impact numbers from the 2014 edition of the Virginia Outdoors Plans. JRPS right now, provides a $12,721,872 economic impact directly to the City and local businesses. This is before you buy your bike, running shoes or paddling gear!
- Read a recent Richmond Times-Dispatch article: New research shows James River Park is region's most-visited site.
Volunteers are important too!
Can we place a dollar value on our volunteers? Volunteering is about helping other individuals and the community. Volunteering means working with others to make a meaningful contribution. And the how and why people volunteer is as individual as the people are themselves.
Volunteers play a vital role in the life of the JRPS. Clean-ups, graffiti removal, invasive species removal and native replanting, trail improvements, fundraising, event planning, promoting, board membership: these are all tasks performed by park volunteers. The impact of their service is evident throughout the park.
As a way to acknowledge the contributions of our volunteers, we assigned a dollar figure to the 7,177 hours given to the park in 2014. Although there are a number of ways to calculate an hourly rate, we used the Federal Government's recommended figure of $22/hour and came up with a total man-hour value of $157,894. While this total is surprisingly high, it is in the nature of volunteering where we truly find its worth. The virtue in volunteering is much deeper, much more fulfilling and much more important in contributing to a healthy and vibrant community than money can ever measure. Volunteerism is priceless!
We offer a special thanks to all of you who gave your time to benefit the park in 2014.
Science in the Park Video in RVA Environmental Film Festival
The latest Science in the Park video on blueback herring and American shad spawning in our great river was a runner up selection in the 2015 RVA Environmental Film Festival and was shown on the big screen in Feburary.
Park Recognised in Blue Ridge Outdoors
For more than 19 years, Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine has been the definitive regional guide to outdoor sports, health, and adventure travel in North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.
In its annual Best of the Blue Ridge contest, readers vote for their favorite destinations in categories as diverse as music festivals and hiking trails. After four weeks and over 5,000 votes, the final results are in: JRPS took top honors for Best Urban Park and was a runner-up in the Outdoor Scene category.
In the January 2015 edition of the magazine highlighting the winners, the JRPS was described as "the ultimate multisport, urban life adventure, Richmond's James River Park trumps all." Read more at Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine.
Thanks for the Amazing Raise 2014
Thanks for your support during the 2014 Amazing Raise. It was our first year participating and we raised $2,275 -- with 39 donors contributing during the 36-hour campaign. Your generous donations will go a long way in supporting the James River Park.
Do you know what's in your runoff?
Runoff is any water that flows across the surface of the land. The main source of runoff is precipitation. However, any time you wash your car or water your lawn you are creating runoff.
Pollution from runoff is the #1 health threat to our waterways. Every time it rains, pollution washes off your property and starts its journey through the watershed to the James River.
The James River Association has developed a runoff calculator that enables you to measure how runoff from your home contributes to pollution in the James. To find out your impact, go to www.whatsinyourrunoff.com, enter a few simple facts, then receive your personalized runoff pollution report. You'll also find suggestions for reducing your pollution impact on local waterways.
Zip line proposal threatens Conservation Easement
Are you aware that a California company wants to put a zip line across the James? Sounds exciting, at least at first. But as we consider the full impact this venture would have on our natural and protected wilderness park, we realize the following:
- there would be towers marring our skyline and our land and
- the development would violate the Conservation Easement protecting the wilderness that characterizes most of the James River Park System.
Although a zip line could be exciting and cool, it must be sited in another location -- and not in our Park System. The mission of the Friends is to protect the JRPS. The Conservation Easement documentation calls our Park "unique, environmentally sensitive, immensely popular and invaluable to the character of the City," but also "vulnerable to misuse."
The JRPS' location in downtown Richmond makes it especially appealing to developers intent on capitalizing on the renewed interest in the downtown area. Without the protection that conservation easements offer, these properties could be lost forever.
Please stand firm with the Friends of the James River Park System on this issue. For more information, read John Zeugner's letter which explains the Conservation Easement and why we are opposed to the zip line.
Osprey Rescue a Success
With the help of True Timber, Department of Game and Inland Fisheries Officer James Patrillo and concerned citizens, an osprey caught in fishing line was rescued out of a birch tree near Pony Pasture this past weekend. Thanks to all who helped!
Field Guide for Springtime at the James River
Tracy Brockwell is an environmental educator, and coincidentally the "first lady" of James River Park (she's married to Nathan Burrell). She has been working with a group of students for the past year to produce a field guide for Springtime at the James River.
All of the programs the guide supports have been held in the city at various parks and sites along the river and surrounding areas, and each child participant receives a copy of the book. Books are also available to the public from the online publisher, Blurb, with ALL profits going to Friends of the James River Park.
The book will be dedicated to Ralph White for his amazing lifetime of service to James River Park. The children suggested any proceeds raised go to native plant restoration.
Ode to the wetlands ... a student essay
Helen Dawson captures the beauty of the park in autumn.
The best time of year is the fall. The leaves and broken twigs crackle under my old, mud-caked sneakers that I only wear to come here. The James River is a natural split right through the City of Richmond, Virginia. It creates a myriad of parks and riverside trails to get lost in. There is one certain park that I find the most inviting. For years I have left footprints in the paths of this wetlands park bordering the river, following behind the wagging tail of a happy dog spoiled by the luxuries of this vast river park.
Today I decide to take the time to get lost in the leaves that are bright orange and red, except for those few that are still hanging on to the green color of summer. It might seem impossible to lose myself in trails I have walked for years, but I turn myself around, finding new paths and turns to take that I have never explored. I take a quick look around corners of trees that make a maze of paths. Soon my feet follow my gaze and trample down new trails. As I wander into the nature of this isolated wetlands park in the middle of an urban center I become more appreciative with every step. It’s a place to think, to sing at the top of your lungs, a place to meet new people and a wonderful place to get lost.
James River Sturgeon Film wins first place!
Congratulations to Melissa Lesh, whose film James River Sturgeon has one first place in the Fourth Annual RVA Environmental Film Festival held in February 2014! As first place winner, Lesh receives $1,000. Lesh's film is part of the Science in the Park section on this website.
Science in the Park in the News
Science in the Park: VCU teams with community partners to launch website about the science in James River parks
Monday, Oct. 28, 2013: Whether it is by hopping on a bike and riding up and down rugged trails, heading onto the water for some rafting or taking a stroll in search of spring warblers, eagles and herons, the parks along the James River offer plenty of ways to enjoy the great outdoors.
Read the complete article at VCU.edu
Fairy Shrimp Video Selected for Science Film Festival
Last spring VCU Professor and Friends Board Member, Anne Wright, made an important discovery in the vernal pools of Pony Pasture -- fairy shrimp! Wright and her colleague Melissa Lesh developed a video to document the discovery for the JRPS. The video, narrated by past park manager Ralph White, has been selected to be in the 6th Annual Imagine Science Film Festival in New York City! Screening was on Oct. 18, 2013.
More about Fairy Shrimp
Fairy shrimp are iconic members of vernal (spring) pools and require these fragile bodies of water to complete their life cycle. They are harbingers of the life and health of our park system. When found in a water body, as ours were by
Prof. Wright, that water body can be considered to be a functional vernal pool.
Until now, we were not aware of the presence of fairy shrimp within the City of Richmond. So, we're talkin' cool urban fairy shrimp here! Their discovery means the waters of our park system are more biologically diverse than previously thought! We've got spotted and marbled salamanders and now, urban fairy shrimp! Three obligate species are still surviving in the heart of the city. Pretty cool!
Park leader, peace maker and occasional art critic
New manager knows well the beauty and potential of James River Park
Nathan Burrell has big shoes to fill. But he’s not worried about his footwear. In April, Burrell took over leadership of Richmond’s James River Park from Ralph White, the wildly popular manager who retired in January after 33 years.
Technology Takes Over the Park
It's an exciting time to be a park visitor, even for those of us who can't let go of our smartphones. Thanks to several individuals and local groups, there are three new ways to engage with the park using technology.
ONE: FoJRP member David Roop recently launched the James River App, which is a helpful guide to river conditions and locations along the James River in Richmond, VA. It offers river water levels and temperatures updated from the USGS and maps the entrances ot the James River. Available for both Android and Apple.
TWO: Looking for new friends to join you in exploring the JRPS? Look no further than Outdoorsy, another new app (iPhone only) that lets users create profiles, meet other park visitors, and sign up for park-oriented non-public events (think yoga, trail running and biking -- all hosted by JRPS visitors). Read the Times-Dispatch article.
THREE: Finally, our very own Board Member and VCU Prof. Anne Wright has created two geology tours of the park that you will be able to access from our brand new Science in the Park section!
Friends lending a hand in the massive JRAC river clean up.
4th Annual James River Cleanup
The 14th Annual James River Cleanup was held on Sept. 14, 2013, with over 900 volunteers among 15 sites along the James River. In the James River Park System there were more than 250 volunteers painting, pulling invasive plant species, spreading mulch and picking up trash and recyclables.
While most volunteers were on foot, boaters, both paddle and power boats, reached out-of-the-way areas.
Belle Isle Flyover
Watch a flyover of one of RVA's favorite spots to enjoy the river. Special thanks to Alan Boyle for sharing this with us.
Follow the sturgeon in the James and on Facebook
26 Atlantic sturgeon are being tracked by local schools within the James River watershed. From 2010 to 2012, these sturgeon were tagged with VEMCO acoustic transmitter tags that send out 'pings' every few minutes.
This project, Rivers in Real-Time: Migration! was funded by the NOAA B'WET Program, 'an environmental education program that promotes locally relevant, experiential learning in the K-12 environment' and was awarded to VCU's Life Sciences Environmental Outreach Education.
That happy feeling? It comes naturally!
We always suspected it, and now there's proof: Parks, gardens and green space in urban areas can improve the wellbeing and quality of life of people living there, says a University of Exeter study. The study found that individuals reported less mental distress and higher life satisfaction when they were living in greener areas. Just one more reason to support the park, and to get out there and enjoy it! Read the article.
Nathan Burrell named new park manager
The Friends of James River Park are happy and proud to have our home-grown Nathan Burrell become the new park manager. Ralph White's shoes are hard to fill, but we can't think of a better fit. Nathan has been with us for years now, tirelessly improving the park, keeping it clean, and coming up with new ideas for expansion and betterment. We're just happy that all that hard work has enabled him to succeed Ralph and continue making Richmond the best river town in the USA.
RVA James River news
Richmonders love their river. There are many sources for James River specific current news.
Here's a sampling:
- Richmond Times Dispatch: Outdoors section -- alas, the James River Journal was retired with the redesign of the RTD
- Richmond on the James
- Hill and Heights Neighborhood News
- Oregon Hill Neighborhood News
Outdoors: Bound by nature and a column
Andy Thompson leaves the RTD after years of covering the Virginia outdoors. The Friends wishes him the very best. Read his last column at the Richmond Times Dispatch.