RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Despite the pandemic, the James River Park System was still able to attract a record-breaking number of nature lovers.
According to the Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities (PRCF), 2.1 million people visited the park system in 2020.
“Having over 2 million visitors in the James River Park during this year of isolation reminds us that every bit of outdoor space is precious,” President of the Friends of James River Park System Mary K. Martin said in a release.
In July, JRPS recorded the highest monthly total at 244,611 visitors.
“This is a thrilling time for the department, especially as we move forward with the JRPS Master Plan. Reaching 2.1 million visitors within the calendar year, during a pandemic, shows exactly why open spaces are needed and how essential parks are to the fabric of our communities,” Director of PRCF Chris Frelke said.
The park system is made up of 17 different parks all across Richmond. Local favorites include Belle Isle, Pony Pasture, Rapids Park and Pump House Park.
Bryce Wilk, the Superintendent of James River Park System, says the numbers are tracked by infrared trail counters throughout the entire park system.
“It is really using it as an apples-to-apples comparison from year to year. And of course, people are counted twice or multiple times,” Wilk said. “But this really shows you that amount of visits that you’re seeing.”
He says he looks forward to annual record-breaking numbers.
“People have almost rediscovered it again. And I think this year introduced a lot of new people to the James River,” Wilk said. “I think you’re gonna see them come back and tell other friends to come down here.”
Wilk added that the parks are free to use and park at and Richmond taxpayers are funding and maintaining them.
“It’s the City of Richmond and we do not charge any fees for anyone to come in here,” Wilk said. “We look at that as a strong equity aspect to show that anyone can come to enjoy these places and have access to the river.”
WEB EXTRA: Bryce Wilk of James River Park System shows us around Huguenot Flatwater