Belle Isle is about to get a makeover. Beginning as early as today, there will be some necessary minor improvements and enhancements to the popular downtown James River Park destination, according to Parks and Recreation Department spokesperson Christy Everson.
- The old stone armored storage shed on east end of Belle Isle along the walking path needs to be stabilized. The granite walls of the roofless structure are starting to show cracks and the foundation needs to be shored up. According to park signage, it was built in 1876 and held materials for the Belle Isle iron foundry.
- Two ADA-compliant wheelchair accessible ramps will be added and connected to the walking trail. The project will be funded by a grant and will give access to the rocks above Hollywood Rapids.
- The walking trail will be resurfaced with crushed gravel and raised about a foot in some of the lower-lying areas to prevent flooding and sitting water and muddy spots. The walkways are heavily used and all the foot and bike traffic around the loop have worn away old gravel.
According to park manager Ralph White, the walkway will not be paved over with a blacktop surface. “People go to Belle Isle to escape in nature. Concrete and asphalt makes it too much like the city,” he said.
White also said that no railings will be added along the walking path, especially considering that wheelchair-bound visitors would have their eye-level view blocked such structures. It was a safety suggestion that was briefly considered.
The incremental improvements also provide a chance to add new signage. The project is expected to be completed by June, 2011.