RVA 5×5 | Green on Dock Street


The James River is (literally) what made and unifies Richmond. The Fall Line and the separation of the tidal from the freshwater and the rockfalls created our River City. And the city has for decades now embraced it and is the one thing that unites the entire Richmond region — it is beloved for its recreational uses, natural habitats, whitewater, and beauty.

Richmond has made many a list (Best River Town in America) and earned many plaudits for both the excitement (Class IV rapids) and serenity (amazing walking trails) that it offers through the region and right through downtown. And now the latest amazing improvement along the banks of the river is the creation of Dock Street Park just below Libby Hill between Great Shiplock Park and Rockett’s Landing.

Josh Stutz, executive director of Friends of the James River Park, told Desiree Montilla from NBC12, “They’ve cleaned this dock off, they’ve done a lot of planting of native trees, removing of invasive species down here, and it’s going to be a beautiful park when all the greenery comes in.”

The four acre site had remained vacant and fenced off for well more than a decade. The property was the subject of a hot debate during the Downtown Master Plan sessions in 2007 between those that wanted to develop it with offices or condos (aka Echo Harbor) and those that wanted to make it open green space lang the north bank of the river, especially those opposed to the marring of the view from Libby Hill and the “View That Named Richmond” as coined by William Byrd II in 1737. Byrd found that view from Libby Hill was similar (almost exactly, actually) to the view of the Thames River in Richmond, England, just west of London (there is a great piece about Libby Hill and that view in this month’s Garden & Gun). 

The purchase and creation of the new park was an act of teamwork initiated by the Capital Region Land Conservancy and The Conservation Fund in partnership with the City of Richmond as well as the James River Association (JRA).

The Capital Trail path will be altered slightly to run through the new park closer to the river and away from Dock Street, and the JRA is nearing completion of a small educational center to connect youth with the river and the environment with classroom space and space for programming and activities for Richmond Public Schools and local youth development. There are also plans for Dock Street Park to add include a launch for canoes and kayaks. The city is seeking public input from visitors as to amenities they would like to see in the park. You can fill out that survey here

This is just the first of three amazing phases that are taking the James River Park system to levels beyond many thought possible a decade or two ago. The completion and addition of Dock Street Park will be followed by the coming transformation of Mayo Island into Richmond’s “Wet Central Park;” add to that the improvements slated for Brown’s Island that include long-shelved concepts from the 2012 Riverfront Plan, and the James River through downtown is heading to stratospheric levels offering something completely unique and unmatched in urban park space in America.

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Main photo by WWBT

Jon Baliles

Jon Baliles

Jon Baliles is the founder and editor of the Substack RVA 5x5 newsletter (https://rva5x5.substack.com). He spent a decade in City Hall as a member of City Council and also served as an advisor to Mayors Wilder and Stoney and also served as the Executive Assistant to the Director of the Planning Department.

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