RICHMOND, Va. — The Conservation Fund announced its purchase of the 5.2-acre Dock Street property on the James River in downtown Richmond, Virginia. Today, The Conservation Fund, Capital Region Land Conservancy (CRLC) and James River Association (JRA) celebrate this acquisition and JRA’s future plans to build an environmental education center on a portion of the land. This is part of a strategic effort between the three partners and the City of Richmond to protect the property in perpetuity for the public.
The effort will have various benefits to the Richmond community including adding new public access to the riverfront, enhancing the Virginia Capital Trail and youth education programs, and safeguarding the historic “View That Named Richmond.” Conservation easements will be placed on the land to prevent future commercial development of the site and ensure public ownership of the riverfront from Rocketts Landing to Browns Island and the Belle Isle pedestrian bridge. They will also support water quality for more than 2.6 million people who live in the 10,000-square-mile James River watershed, as well as wildlife like the Atlantic sturgeon. Read more about the historic Dock Street property and its various community benefits here.
The CRLC entered into a contract for the historic Dock Street property last year. The contract was then assigned to The Conservation Fund for temporary ownership while the partners raise funding to complete the transaction.
“The ability to help our partners purchase and secure key properties like this one quickly and effectively is what The Conservation Fund was built for,” said Heather Richards, Mid-Atlantic Regional Director at the Fund. “Increasing access to the James River and making trail connections for urban centers has never been more important for Virginia’s environmental health and community and economic vitality.”
In the near future, JRA will purchase approximately one acre of the land from The Conservation Fund to establish a new river center for environmental education. The program will focus on connecting Richmond youth with river-based, hands-on learning experiences while inspiring confidence, ecological understanding, nature appreciation, and conservation action. Learn more about JRA’s James River Center here.
“Our goal is to ensure that every child growing up in ‘America’s Best River Town’ is introduced to the James River and enjoys a lifetime of benefits that the river can provide,” said Bill Street, JRA’s Chief Executive Officer. “Building a leading-edge education center on Richmond’s riverfront will expand our ability to engage local youth, particularly in the historically underserved East End.”
“The James River Center represents a great opportunity for Richmond Public Schools students to take part in meaningful environmental science education that focuses on the issues and resources within their city,” said Josh Bearman, Science Curriculum and Instructional Specialist with Richmond Public Schools. “Its presence so close to downtown will greatly increase the possibility of access to high impact field experiences on the river, a crucial piece of RPS Science’s goals for place-based learning.”
The rest of the 5.2 acres will be transferred to the City of Richmond to become part of the James River Park System where it’ll be opened for public riverfront recreation and secure a critical link of the Virginia Capital Trail—a 51.2-mile trail that connects Richmond to Williamsburg. This effort will allow the trail to be moved entirely off city streets and onto waterfront parkland.
The CRLC played an essential role in securing a contract with the private seller to make this effort a reality. They will coordinate with the City of Richmond and James River Association to conduct community engagement to envision uses of the future public open space and park, as well as continuing to work with all parties to secure the remaining funding needed to fully open this property to the public and permanently protect this critical riverfront.
“As Richmond’s local land trust having played a critical role in the permanent protection of the James River Park System more than a decade ago, CRLC is honored to continue its efforts to make more places available for the public to enjoy and implement important components of community support plans such as the Riverfront Plan and Richmond 300 Master Plan,” said Parker C. Agelasto CRLC’s Executive Director.
“I applaud The Conservation Fund, Capital Region Land Conservancy, and James River Association for working together to expand the James River Park System with the purchase of 5.2 acres of riverfront property,” said City of Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney. “This significant acquisition, and plans for the James River Center, will benefit Richmonders for generations to come.”
“Permanently conserving this scenic and historic riverfront area is the intentional result of tremendously successful collaborative efforts and undertakings by the dedicated individuals, organizations, and entities involved,” says The Honorable Cynthia I. Newbille, President, Richmond City Council, Councilmember, Richmond East End 7th Voter District. “This work and the plans slated for this area are transformational in nature and will continue to strengthen the beauty, enjoyment, and value of our natural river asset for all Richmond residents and visitors in helping to make our city an even better, more equitable, and more beautiful place to live, love, work, learn, play, visit, enjoy, and raise a family.”
Grants for this project have been awarded for the City’s future acquisition from Virginia’s portion of the Land and Water Conservation Fund and the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation, which have a match component and requires an immediate need for private donations. JRA’s river center is part of its $20 million James Changer Campaign. Readers can inquire about funding needs and ways to support the land purchase with The Conservation Fund and CRLC, and about the river center with the James River Association to learn more.
About The Conservation Fund
At The Conservation Fund, we make conservation work for America. By creating solutions that make environmental and economic sense, we are redefining conservation to demonstrate its essential role in our future prosperity. Top-ranked for efficiency and effectiveness, we have worked in all 50 states since 1985 to protect more than 8.5 million acres of land, including nearly 79,000 acres of beloved natural land in Virginia. conservationfund.org
About The James River Association
The James River Association is a member-supported nonprofit organization founded in 1976 to serve as a guardian and voice for the James River. Throughout the James River’s 10,000 square mile watershed, the James River Association works toward its vision of a fully healthy James River supporting thriving communities. With offices in Lynchburg, Richmond, Williamsburg, and Scottsville, the James River Association is committed to protecting the James River and connecting people to it. For more information visit www.thejamesriver.org.
About Capital Region Land Conservancy
Capital Region Land Conservancy (CRLC) is dedicated to the conservation and protection of the natural and historic land and water resources of Virginia’s Capital Region for the benefit of current and future generations. As a nationally accredited land trust, CRLC is the only organization devoted specifically to conservation within the Counties of Charles City, Chesterfield, Goochland, Hanover, Henrico, New Kent, and Powhatan as well as the Town of Ashland and City of Richmond. We are proud to have conserved more than 12,000 acres of land in this special region. www.capitalregionland.org