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News and Events
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Butterfly 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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.
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.
Read local articles about Ralph's retirement:
- Ralph White leads final tour along James River, Richmond Times Dispatch, Dec. 22, 2012
- Outdoors: Ralph White leaving trail of legacy, Richmond Times Dispatch, Dec. 9, 2012
- "Bruised and Bloody," Ralph White to retire, Style Magazine, Dec. 6, 2012
- James River Park Manager to Retire, Richmond.com, Dec. 6 2012
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!
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!
Sometime 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
Santa 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
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!
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.