Posts Tagged ‘parks’

Columbus statue in Byrd Park established many “firsts”

Richmond's Columbus Monument, at the south end of the Boulevard in Byrd ParkColumbus Monument in Byrd Park, Richmond, Virginia. A gift to the city from Richmond’s Italian community, statue of Christopher Columbus dedicated in 1927.

Christopher Columbus in Byrd Park at the south end of The Boulevard, north of the reservoir.WHAT: “Christopher Columbus” in Byrd Park at the south end of The Boulevard, north of the reservoir.

ARTIST: Ferruccio Legnaioli.

DEDICATION: December 9, 1927.

DESCRIPTION: A standing bronze figure 6 1/2 foot high on a granite pedestal 8 1/2 foot high. This was the first Columbus statue in the south and was the first monument in Richmond to have night illumination. The idea of Frank Realmuto, this statue was sculpted, erected and financed entirely by Virginians of Italian birth.

In the United States, Columbus Day is always celebrated on the second Monday in October. Virginia celebrates two legal holidays on the day, Columbus Day and Yorktown Victory Day, which honors the final victory at the Siege of Yorktown in the Revolutionary War.


Fitzhugh Lee monument in Monroe Park

Fitzhugh Lee monument in Monroe Park in downtown Richmond, Virginia.WHAT: “Fitzhugh Lee” monument in Monroe Park in downtown Richmond, Virginia.

LOCATION: Monroe Park is bordered by Franklin, Belvidere, Main and Laurel streets in the Fan District.

ARTIST: Unknown.

DEDICATION: April 21, 1955.

DESCRIPTION: A white stone cross 6-foot high memorializing General Fitzhugh Lee’s efforts as a Commander of the 7th Army Corps USA 1898-1899. Erected by the 7th Army Corps Veterans Association and Auxiliary.

Joseph Bryan in Richmond’s Monroe Park

Joseph Bryan at Monroe Park in Richmond, VirginiaWHAT: “Joseph Bryan” monument in Monroe Park in downtown Richmond, Virginia.

LOCATION: Monroe Park is bordered by Franklin, Belvidere, Main and Laurel streets in the Fan District.

ARTIST: William Couper.

DEDICATION: June 10, 1911.

DESCRIPTION: A bronze standing figure 7 1/2 foot high on a granite base 8 1/2 foot high of Joseph Bryan, a brilliant Richmond businessman and civic leader who distinguished himself during the Civil War as one of “Mosby’s Men” and was known for his generous philanthropy.

Taking ownership of Pony Pasture

Crowds at Pony Pasture Rapids Park in Richmond, Va.Pony Pasture Rapids Park is an urban paradise for many. A cheap way to make the best of one’s day for those that can’t afford a trip to the beach or don’t have the time to leave the city for a vacation.

The exposed granite boulders are a big draw for Richmond’s rock hoppers and sunbathers. Family gatherings are as popular as inner tubing, kayaking, swimming, fishing and partying.

But there are many people who take the pristine park conditions for granted. It takes a lot of work to keep human interference from tarnishing Pony Pasture’s natural beauty.  Between the James River Park System’s staff and the many volunteers and dedicated park-goers, the work gets done.

I am one of those proud people and Pony Pasture Rapids Park is now my park. Actually, many people own the park, and taking ownership is encouraged. After all my years of using the park, I’m now volunteering my time to maintain it and defend it from those that abuse it.

Aluminum cans left at Pony Pasture Rapids Park in Richmond, Va.I spent five hours clearing trash and helping people park cars at the west Richmond park on the hottest day of the summer. The official high that day was 105 degrees, beating the record of 99 for July 25. Didn’t matter, the park was packed.

I can claim four garbage bags worth of trash and recycling. I had help, as people who saw me coming with my trash bag would volunteer things they had collected from the river. It was good to have children helping a little, especially with aluminum cans.

Other than all the of senseless disposal of diapers all over the place, the worst part of clearing trash was a six-pack of glass bottles smashed on the rocks.  That malicious act took the longest to clean. I also found an enclave of more than 80 cans, bottles, boxes and food containers that was about as bad as it gets. The worst part was that a trash can was only 15 feet away. Trash in, trash out people.

Cigarette butts left at Pony Pasture Rapids Park in Richmond, Va.I think the cigarette butts were the most disappointing thing I found. Smokers know better and should be prepared to clean up after themselves.  I found 70-plus butts in one spot. The location suggested to me that it was obviously a good spot to see nature more than people-watch and I was disgusted by the lack of respect for the outdoors.

Parking is another issue at Pony Pasture. Between 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. on most summer weekends, the lot gets full and the park system workers and volunteers help manage the flow of cars into the park and keep everyone happy, according to park manager Ralph White.

Lines for the parking lot at Pony Pasture Rapids Park in Richmond, Va.By 3:30 p.m., the line to get into the lot was 20 cars deep and the wait was about 20 minutes. The lot — which is the largest in the park system — has 80 parking spaces but can be expanded with creative management to 110 spaces, White said.

“In the early ‘80s, riff-raff was so bad, people petitioned to have the park closed – twice,” White said. The Pagans and Hell’s Angels motorcycle gangs were a big part of the problem, he said — doing donuts with motorcycles in the gravel, smashing car windows, starting fights, drinking, doing drugs, womanizing, etc.

Pony Pasture was a rowdy and untamed place in those days and citizens weren’t happy, but the park was never permanently closed.

That was a long time ago. The park seems to be more popular now than ever and keeping peace and harmony for a diverse and multiculural crowd on a hot day is beneficial to everyone. 

“It’s a parks issue, not a police issue,” White said. Having the parks department and volunteers run the parking lots at peak hours frees police from having to dedicate several cars to patrolling the park.

White said Richmond police usually dedicates one unit to Pony Pasture on the weekends.

“There is no one breaking into cars or starting fights… and everyone gets along much better,” White said. Having attendants manage the parking lot at peak hours has helped ease tensions and people seem to respect the park more now.

While I was there, the police mostly concerned themselves with the cars in line for the parking lot that blocked westbound Riverside Drive. There were no calls for Emergency Medical Services, no rescues, no arrests that I saw.  Everyone was getting along, despite the close quarters, heat and huge crowds.

There were at least seven volunteers, including a two couples that lived near the park that like to ensure that their neighborhood is well-maintained. Another young man volunteered in the park all day doing whatever the parks department had for him. He is a regular and has taken ownership of his Pony Pasture.

I will continue to volunteer. The afternoon didn’t seem like work.  I was earning time to enjoy my James River. 

If you see something you don’t like about any city park, take action. Take ownership. Make the park yours.

Find out how to help the James River Park System or any of the volunteer groups: Friends of the James River, James River Outdoor Coalition and the City of Richmond’s Department of Parks, Recreation & Community Facilities.

Granite rocks are a big draw to Pony Pasture Rapids Park in Richmond, Va.

Fountain at Kanawha Plaza is double-edged sword

Cascading fountain at Kanawha Plaza in downtown RichmondKanawha Plaza is at  Byrd and 9th streets, just north of the Federal Reserve Building. The park is surrounded by downtown Richmond’s most influential and important employers: The Fed, Dominion Virginia, banks, law offices, stock brokers — you name it.

The park sits above the Downtown Expressway and covers an entire city block. It has a concert stage and grassy lawn that is primarily used for Fridays at Sunset jazz and R&B concerts and occasional festivals.

The stage also provides shelter for many homeless that need a break from the sun during the day. Many homeless sleep on benches in Kanawha Plaza as well.

Image of fountain at Kanawha Plaza in downtown RichmondThe best feature of the park is the cascading fountain, which at the right time of day can look quite impressive among the tall buildings and busy streets.

Unfortunately, I’ve also witnessed the waters of the fountain double as a laundromat for the park’s homeless, and I can only assume that the next step would be bathtime. Not an attractive thought.

Don’t get me wrong. Homeless people getting “cleaned up” is an improvement. I’m sure it’s common in most big cities. Probably encouraged in Europe. I’ve seen plenty of examples along the James of what I assume are homeless bathing in the river.

I’m just not sure I want to happen by the park with out-of-towners enamored with a lovely fountain, only to witness laundry day.

The area is near the Canal Walk and near the former location of the Great Basin (from park signage):

Finished in 1800, the Great Basin was the eastern terminus of the Canal. It was a block wide and three blocks long and was located between Cary and Canal, and 8th and 12th Streets. The Basin was up to 50 feet deep and was probably made by damming a stream valley at its east end (12th Street). Warehouses and trading firms surrounded the Basin and the docks along its stone walls were active. In addition to allowing the long, narrow canalboats to turn around for the trip back up the Canal, the Basin supplied water to various mills around its edge. Railroad yards covered half the Basin in the 1880’s. By the 1920s the Basin had been completely covered over. Construction excavation on the site for the James center in 1983-86 yielded the hulls of batteaux, canalboats, and other artifacts of the canal era, some of which have been saved.

Kanawha Plaza is at  Byrd and 9th streets, just north of the Federal Reserve Building.

NOTE: I chose not to publish my photos of the homeless. I’m not trying to get anyone arrested or start trouble. Just a little disappointed in humanity.

My ‘Wish List’ for James River Park System

Pipeline Rapids walkway in downtown RichmondI love the James River and spend a lot of my free time kayaking, swimming, biking and hiking wherever I can in Richmond.

I am also dedicated to several  volunteer groups that help clean, maintain and restore some of the river’s best features.

Many people in those groups have a good sense of the best ways we can improve the way we utilize the river and its resources — and ways to make those visions a reality.

The James River Park System is now protected by a conservation easement that limits development, but that doesn’t stop us from developing new ways to enjoy ourselves when we visit. published Part I of a Top 10 Wish List of the things I’d love to see happen in our treasured park system.

Boating permitted in lakes at Byrd, Forest Hill parks

Paddling in the lake at Forest Hill Park is now permittedThe Forest Hill Yacht Club can defend its own turf. The first ever Regatta at Forest Hill Park Lake back on May 22 must have impressed someone important because non-motorized watercraft are permitted in three lakes in parks in the City of Richmond as of July 1.

The City of Richmond Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities posted signs Thursday at Byrd Park’s Swan and Shield’s lakes north of the James River and at Forest Hill Park Lake on the southside in Westover Hills.

That’s good news for paddlers. Fishing is possible at all three lakes and they are all big enough to have space to play, but small enough to stay safe. A great family friendly choice by the forward-thinking staff led by director J.R. Pope.

Highlights of the lake boating rules:
1. Non-power boating only
2. No boats over 12 feet in length
4. Lake closed at sunset and open at sunrise daily (April 1 to Nov. 30)
5. No swimming is allowed
6. Persons under age 13 must wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved personal flotation device of proper size and fit when boating

A good quote from Mayor Dwight Jones from the press release, with my bolded highlight:

The use of non-powered watercraft provides park boaters the opportunity to view the beauty of city’s parks from a different perspective. Paddling and rowing are activities that require the engagement of multiple muscle groups and which helps tone muscles and reduce body weight.

That fits my perspective on why I bought a kayak in the first place — to see things on the river from a different perspective.

It’s also a big reason why I’d love to see people allowed into the Haxall Canal. You could become part of the scene and add to the atmosphere at a park or event.

At this time, there is no advancement on being permitted to paddle in the Haxall Canal at Brown’s Island or offering paddle boats for rent during events like Friday Cheers or the Richmond Folk Festival, but we’ll keep working on that one.