News and Events

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Park Recognised in Blue Ridge Outdoors

2015 Best of the Blue RidgeFor 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.

Amazing RaiseThanks for the Amazing Raise

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?

RunoffRunoff 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, 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.

Richmond Regional Ride Center wins Bell Grant!

The RVA project were the East Coast winners, with 13,896 votes!The Richmond Regional Ride Center is sponsored by the Virginia Area Trail Association, and will rehabilitate 15 miles of existing mountain bike trails and construct an additional 20 miles of trail. Learn more about the project. And read the article, Richmond Wins Huge Grant to Build Trails Network

Riverfront Plan Funding Shortfall

The City's FY15 budget currently lacks funding for projects recommended in the Riverfront plan, including the Brown's Island Dam Walk. The Dam Walk will be a unique feature of Richmond's riverfront, connecting Downtown to Manchester and allowing more people to enjoy the James River. Please contact your council person if you wish to show your support of this worthwhile project.

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

Osprey Rescue

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!

2014 River Heroes Announced!

The Friends of the James River Park and our co-sponsors are pleased and proud to announce that Ralph White and Rich Young are our 2014 River Heroes!

picnic and award ceremony

The awards were presented at our Annual picnic in June. Read more about Ralph and Rich.

Chapel Island ready to explore

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, adds so much to Richmond's robust urban park system.

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

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.

sycamore leavesOde 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.

Water Fountains planned for park locations

Both humans and their K9 companions soon will be able to quench their thirst in style, as watering holes are planned for THREE Park locations, Reedy Creek, North Bank and Great Shiplock! The fountains will include handicapped access, a spigot and bowl for dogs, and a way to fill water bottles. Thanks to generous gifts from JROC, Bank of America and FoJRP, it will provide much-needed refreshment for all park users.

Look for installation of the fountain in early 2014. This will be a great amenity for the JRP!

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.

James River Sturgeon from Friends of the James River Park on Vimeo

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

Fairy Shrimp Video Selected for Science Film Festival

ISFFVILast 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.

Congratulations to:

Director and Editor: Melissa Lesh
Producer and Co-director: Anne Wright
Script Writer and Narrator: Ralph White

See more at the Film Festival website. Watch the video as part of a new section of the James River Park website -- Science in the Park!

More about Fairy Shrimp

fairy shrimpFairy 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

James River Park superintendent Nathan Burrell

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.

Read the Oct. 15, 2013 Richmond Times-Dispatch article on Nathan Burrell.

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!


River Cleanup
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.

Life jackets save lives!

A friendly, timely and important reminder that if the James River level is 5 feet or above -- and it seems stuck there for the last month or so -- life jackets are required. The level of the urban James reflects the amount of rain received here, but also areas west of Richmond. So, river rises can sneak up on us! Don't forget to check river levels and always grab a life jacket if you plan on boating, rock-hopping or swimming in the river.

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.

Belle Isle, Richmond VA from Photoguy1967 on Vimeo.

Atlantic SturgeonFollow 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.

You can keep up with the sturgeon on Facebook.

Atlantic SturgeonButterfly garden at James River Park (Reedy Creek)

VCU's Associate Professor of Biology Karen Kester and volunteers are turning the butterfly garden at Reedy Creek into an interactive educational “Bug Garden.” The vision is to create a sort of “living zoo” to educate the public about how insects and plants interact.

Last summer, Kester's Insects & Plants Service-Learning students, in cooperation with a few prior students and Master Naturalists, and of course Mr. Peter Bruce at JRP, removed (almost all of) the wire grass from the beds and paths and did some hardscaping. Last fall, they planted lots of perennial seeds but alas, none germinated, so they are now looking for “divides” from local gardeners. Almost any perennial or small shrub that blooms (esp. beyond May/early June) and or serves as a host plant for insects would be appreciated.

In addition to plant donations, Kester hopes to attract the interest of Master Gardeners who want to help with this long-term project to design and maintain the plantings. Anyone interested in being part of this worthwhile project should contact Professor Kester directly at

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 BurrellNathan 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.

Read the April 30, 2013 article for more information.

Read archived FOJRP news

RVA James River news

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

Here's a sampling:

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.