RIVER RANT: Parking lots for James River Park

The rocks are Pony Pasture are packed in the summerThe summer season is winding down and it was one of the busiest yet in the James River Park system. According to park manager Ralph White, estimated visitation for the year to the parks is expected to be more than 650,000. When it was last surveyed two years ago it was more than 600,000.

Not everyone was happy with the parking situations. The lots at Belle Isle and Pony Pasture are always packed, but the number and size of the existing parking lots sizes will not increase, White said. 

Pony Pasture — probably the busiest parking lot of all — had volunteers and JRPS staffers managing the parking lot on the weekends to keep everyone legal, happy and safe. 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. He recently mentioned that the city was looking into the possibility of high-occupancy parking at Pony Pasture on the weekends.

Are you happy with the current set up? Should there be more parking areas? High-occupancy rules on the weekends? More access points to the river? Should shuttle services be brought in to allow for parking at satellite lots? Post your comments here!


11 responses to “RIVER RANT: Parking lots for James River Park

  1. Pingback: Hills and Heights » James River News Hub Asks About Parking at the River - Richmond, Virginia

  2. Those of us living on Hillcrest at Riverside certainly aren’t happy with the parking situation. The Reedy Creek lot stays almost empty, while our street is inundated. We’ve had some incredibly rude and disrespectful people over the years, and unfortunately they are multiplying. One day soon, we’ll have parking restrictions we on our street we sincerely hope.

  3. Forest Hill resident

    The lot on Riverside west of 42nd St. is frequently locked and we end up with park visitors parking on our street. We have also been subjected to amazingly rude behavior – people throwing trash in our yard, changing clothes and exposing bare rear ends to our windows, and worst of all, coming up to the bushes in front of our house and urinating! Yes, we did chase them away. We do appreciate the increased police enforcement of alcohol laws in the park. I would not like to see more lots in the residential areas on the south side of the river, as it would bring even more people and traffic through our neighborhoods. As it is now, on summer weekends, you really don’t get a “nature” experience along the river. It’s more of a party scene. I would hate for the James to become even more like Great Falls Park outside D.C.

  4. The problem isn’t so mush due to a lack of space, but rather to a lack of acces to existing spaces. I think that this question should be asked AFTER we have had a season or three with all of the existing parking lots open on a daily basis.

    The 42nd St lot and the 22nd St lot (which services Belle Isle from the south) are not open on weekdays and sometimes not on weekends either, which is completely absurd given the volume of visitors. This is causing problems for those of us who live in the adjoining neighborhoods, as has been previously stated.

    For Parks and Rec. to continue to spend money on amenities without addressing lack of access is just bad management.

  5. To the extent of my understanding, the parking lots at 42nd and 22nd streets are closed mainly due to car break-ins. They are opened primarily in high-volume situations, though I have seen plenty of weekends that would count as high-volume.

    • Agree with the last part of your post.

      Given that every weekend is a high volume situation, that isn’t really a valid excuse, but I have heard so many different ones from Mr. White over the last 20 years that I really am a little tired of it, and I don’t think that it is reasonable for his department to allow that sort of crime to spill over into surrounding neighborhoods because they haven’t come up with a viable solution.

      Contrast Mr. White’s attitude now with this:

      “In April 2005, White was the subject of controversy when he protested a decision made to limit the access to nearly 20 James River Park entrances. He was suspended for two weeks without pay after he used heavy chains and a lock only he had the ability to open to lock the gates in the open position. He did this to make the statement that the parks should be freely accessible at all hours of the day.”

      Color me Fed Up.

  6. I think the James River Park system is getting to be popular enough that Ralph White’s hands off approach to maintaining it is going to be more vocally challenged in the next few years. It is definitely being pushed to its limits. I believe the existing lots need to be improved first. They should be paved, lit, and perhaps even monitored so that closing the gates won’t be necessary to protect users from car break ins. Expanding the existing lots would be difficult with the exception of Pony Pasture but how much park space should we be willing to sacrifice? I honestly believe requiring users to pay to park is one of the answers, even if it’s only on summer weekends. Charge $1 per person or $3 per car or something along those lines. Not only would it mean much needed revenue for the park, it would encourage people to car pool, requiring fewer spaces for the same number of users. Expanding parking should be the last resort.

    As far as the all hours access statement above, I have to agree with Ralph’s premise. In the Fall and Winter, people who want to jog, walk their dog, or bike after work often have to do it in twilight or complete darkness but it’s a benefit many honest users of the park system, including myself, enjoy. Unfortunately it also invites the dirty and clueless Belle Isle South partiers that many of us clean up after in the summer. I can think of better uses for this volunteer time than taking care of kids’ trash. It’s also an open door to homeless camps and the litter, drug use, and sometimes violence that comes with them. My suggestion is to lock the gate to the pedestrian bridge at the Belle Isle access trail on the South side. Nothing good comes through there after 7 or 8pm. The other lots are too far from the party spots to be problem areas and the parking lot for Belle Isle on the North side of the river is much easier to monitor. People who are responsible users of the park should be encouraged to be there whether they are there to run, mountain bike, or enjoy a beer on the rocks as long clean up after themselves. It’s the obvious problem people mentioned above that the James River Park and Richmond police should be actively discouraging.

  7. The photo above says it all. Talk about loving something to death!

  8. I also like the idea of charging a $1 or $2 fee per car on summer weekends at the Belle Isle, Reedy Creek, and Pony Pasture lots. Of course, then you need people to collect the fee, which may end up being self-defeating if the labor costs outweigh what you actually collect. (You could also sell summer-long parking passes so that kayakers/runners/etc. who use these lots every week get a frequent-flyer discount.) And Reedy Creek would be tough to collect fees just because it is so physically cramped.

    And, you’d probably need to couple that with permit parking to prevent people from skipping the “toll” by just parking on Riverside Drive or some of those streets in Forest Hill. Byrd Park already has this – some of the streets are listed as no parking 2pm-9pm Saturday-Sunday March-October, except with permit. But there, again, you need to get the Richmond Police to agree to enforce that and that costs money too.

  9. Ride your bike to the park

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