I spent much of this past weekend enjoying my neighborhood park, named after Joseph Bryan. I’ve lived next to Bryan Park for 10 years, and I’ve always enjoyed the proximity to this diverse park.
Friday was a chance to check on the work being done on the lakes with my son. We also had a little time for him to play in Upham Brook, just below the waterfall (“turned off” right now — according to my son — as the lakes are under repair). Saturday, the fall foliage was my focus during a bike ride through the back roads in the park, and Sunday my whole family to rode bikes and played in the creek again.
The City of Richmond is fixing up its biggest draws for citizens — it’s city parks. The places people play and get away from their day. It is part of a program started in the Mayor Doug Wilder administration called the City of the Future.
I talked with City of Richmond Parks Director J.R. Pope in Summer 2008 after the completion of renovations to the tennis courts at Byrd Park — one of the first phases of these many improvements. He spoke passionately about parks and communities, and how important it was to him that the city carry out these projects to help restore people’s pride in Richmond.
Of course, the economy went sour, but the city is to be commended for sticking with the City of the Future plans.
Byrd Park and Forest Hill Park (at more than $2 million), along with Bryan Park, are seeing the biggest and most expensive improvements under this plan, titled on the city’s website as Capital Projects and Park Improvements:
Major Parks Renovations – $1,973,598
1. Restoration of Young’s Pond – Bryan Park
2. Azalea Garden Pond Restoration – Bryan Park
3. Azalea Garden Gazebo – Bryan Park
4. Restroom/Concessions Building at Fountain Lake – Byrd Park
5. New Signage Program
The Young’s Pond restoration is the most dramatic at Bryan Park, as there are two ponds that have been drained to rebuild the walls around the lower lake, exposing massive amounts of mud and showing just how over-silted the lakes are and how much work it would take to restore the lakes to paddle boat traffic and fishing.
Young’s Pond and the restoration of the Azalea Garden pond (which has already been dredged) began in September 2009 and is scheduled for completion Spring 2010. I don’t know about the schedule, but Upham Brook tends to flood, and we’d better not have any large rainstorms stir up for a while. An effort two years ago to get this project started was scrapped after flooding caused major problems and delays.
The repairs to the lake at Forest Hill Park began in May and are scheduled for completion next month.
Bryan Park are Forest Hill Park have similar histories and the granite features of the walkways, walls and structures of the parks favor one another. Both were quarries at one point before becoming attractions for city-dwellers. Forest Hill was an amusement park along the South Side trolley line and Bryan Park was a bike destination, back when biking was a novelty and you dressed up to go to the park.
According to the city’s website, Byrd Park’s new Fountain Lake restroom and concession area are scheduled for completion October 2009. I checked in last week and things are looking very good.
CBS6’s Mark Holmberg did a nice video column about the improvements at city parks, including Bryan and Forest Hill parks. He also focused on some of the repairs at Chimborazo and Libby Hill parks.
I remember Pope saying before last fall’s mayoral election that the election could potentially have an adverse effect on the park improvement’s plan. Thankfully, Mayor Dwight Jones and his administration didn’t cause delays and have allowed Pope and his staff to carry on.
Bryan Park has restored its reputation since it installed soccer fields in the early 1990s and more recently with the popular 18-hole disc golf course. More people doing positive things in the park, thus more respect for the park.
Forest Hill Park had a similar rebound, due in part to the bike trails that increased the amount of well-intentioned people visiting the park.
I hope Pope gets his wish and the improvements do help restore community pride. He said something to the effect of “what does it say about a city if it doesn’t take care for its public spaces?”
I think about that question often, and I cringe when I see graffiti and trash. Those aren’t city problems — those are people problems. The city can repair and clean, but they can’t make people stop abusing the facilities. We park-goers can do our part by being in the parks more, and doing our own policing just by being there as often as we can, enjoying our excellent city parks.
Other city website links that helped with this article: