First plan in 50 years could bring changes to parks along the James River


RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The Friends of the James River Park are looking for feedback on its first master plan in more than 50 years.

Thousands of people responded to surveys and attended meetings that led to the creation of the plan.

The document, 80 pages in length, looks at improvements for the 600 acres from Ancarrow’s Landing to the Huguenot Flatwater.

“All city residents had input into what the James River Parks system is…how it is to be developed into the future…and how it is to be maintained as this urban wilderness,” said Nathan Burrell, facility maintenance and operations superintendent.

Nathan Burrell, facility maintenance and operations superintendent

The Friends of the James River Park group raised $250,000 for the plan. This outline will go hand-in-hand with other plans, like the Riverfront.

The plan looks at acquiring public and private land, conserving natural resources in parks like Pony Pasture and Belle Isle and creating new bike and hiking trails in the parks.

Several respondents added they’d like more parking available as well.

The master plan also looks at improving existing buildings and building a new education center.

“It incorporates some of the existing plans,” said Katherine Mitchell, Friends of the James River Park president. “So, we’re not starting from scratch. That’s the other thing that’s great about this plan. We’re building on a lot of good work that’s been done in the past.”

Katherine Mitchell, president of Friends of the James River Park

Richmonders also said that a renewed focus on protecting wildlife was something they would like to see.

“Very few cities of this size have the ability for someone to walk from a downtown skyscraper area to a place that you can find an escape, not see another person and be surrounded by trees and not see a single building in the middle of an urban environment,” said Bryce Wilk, James River Park System superintendent.

Bryce Wilk, James River Park System superintendent

Now the organizers have to prioritize new programs as there are more than 50 suggestions. The city will have to approve the spending and make its final decision by the end of September.

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