As we celebrate the glory days of the first 100 years of Northside’s Joseph Bryan Park, I’m reminded of the more recent bad reputation the park has overcome.
I’m a Bryan Park resident and that has been my home turf since 1999. My kids have grown up with Bryan Park, playing in Upham and Jordan’s branches. Climbing, sliding and swinging around the playground. Learning to bike on the blacktop streets that are blocked from vehicular traffic. Going on nature hikes, exploring and searching for geocaches. Shopping the weekly North of the James Farmer’s Market. The past three combined birthday parties for my kids have been held at our favorite park and we have loved it all.
When the soccer fields were installed in the heart of the park in 1998, that began a revival of sorts for a park that had been compromised by unsavory activity — people parking and cruising for sex in the corners and hidden areas of the heavily wooded, 260-acre park.
The families and constant coming and going of visitors helped improve the perception of the park, which runs along the city’s boundary with Henrico County and the Lakeside community. Getting well-intentioned, right-minded park-goers has made a huge difference in the revitalization of Bryan Park, but it wasn’t complete.
With the increased good people traffic to the park — combined with the road bikers, runners, picnickers and SEAL Team trainers — Bryan Park is a vibrant and friendly place.
In the past year, the City of Richmond spent $805,000 in Bryan Park to make improvements to two ponds, according to Christy Everson of the Department of Parks, Recreation and Facilities. After years of failed attempts, it cost $600,000 to repair the walls of Young’s Pond. It was restored with customized molded walls, made to look like the old mortar and rock walls to help retain the historic look.
It cost $205,000 to remove years of silt from the historic Azalea Garden pond and repair its walls. The total amount removed from the Azalea Garden pond: 120 cubic yards of dirt or the equivalent of 25-30 dump trucks loads.
The city still plans to add a gazebo in the Azalea Garden within the next 12 months. The expectation is for the gazebo to be used for weddings and special events, especially during the spring when the 17 acres of azaleas are in full bloom.
There are plans to add a shade structure over the heavily used playground. It would be similar to the one at Pine Camp Park, which is about 1.5 miles to the east on Azalea Avenue.
The city also plans to team up with the Central Virginia Soccer Association to build a concession stand with restrooms adjacent to the beautiful soccer fields, which could cost about $200,000. CVSA, which does most of the maintenance and management of the fields, would be matching funds with the city.
So many great plans for a park that people wanted to forget existed. It now has the respect and love that is earned for a 100-year-old park. If you’d like to help keep it nice, contact the Friends of Bryan Park: www.friendsofbryanpark.org