RIVER RANT: Belle Isle parking lot issues: Fees are possibility

Belle Isle parking lot issues: Fees are possibilityThe Richmond Folk Festival is over and things are getting back to normal around Belle Isle. However, the upper parking lot at the ever-popular Belle Isle will remained closed for at least the next six months.  It is planned to be reopened in April 2011, but there are a few issues: Overcrowding, trash not put in receptacles, abuse of parking area, parking on the steep grassy hillside between the lots, etc. Combined, the upper and lower lots only handle about 50 cars.

Closing the upper lot is in part to cut down on maintenance, but this is also the off-season for Belle Isle. At the peak of summer, people park along Tredegar Street (on the way down to Belle Isle) and 2nd Street (off Robert E. Lee Bridge) and in the Oregon Hill and Spring Hill neighborhoods. By spring, some alternatives may be in place to help on weekends. Possible solutions, all with a fee involved:

  • Parking at Dominion parking lot at base of pedestrian footbridge
  • Parking at upper lot along Tredegar Street at Tredegar Ironworks
  • Parking at MeadWestvaco parking deck
  • Parking at American Civil War Center lot

Have you had trouble parking at Belle Isle? Does overcrowding at Belle Isle keep you away? Would you be willing to pay to park at Belle Isle? What would you suggest to help solve the overcrowding in the parking areas? If you have to pay, should food vendors be allowed to set up as well?

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9 responses to “RIVER RANT: Belle Isle parking lot issues: Fees are possibility

  1. It’s always been a mess. Now it’s a worse mess. Another example of access problems to the JRPS. I can walk or ride, so it’s not a problem here, but for the general public it’s huge and virtually shuts the door for out of towners. The list above are all decent options. I hope this acts as a spur to improve access and encourage new visitors at all JRP access points. The more people who know about and use the park, the higher the park profile will be, which will provide a constiuency for better funding from all jurisdictions.

    • I’m not likely to pay to go to Belle Isle, but you made a good point about out of towners. More than any other part of the James River Park System, Belle Isle is a daily showcase for non-Richmonders. Having problems on the weekend with access is not a good message to send. If there is vending (like BokaTruk or some sort of good lunch option) combined with parking, maybe I’d consider.

  2. Friends of James River Park will be working with the city of Richmond and private landowners around Tredegar to improve the parking situation. If we want visitors, we need to have amenities for them, and parking and food options in that neck of the river/canal/museum area are not acceptable now.
    Maureen Egan, President of Friends of James River Park

  3. I got a real jolt when I saw an “automatically generated” link to a news article about a shooting at Belle Isle over a parking space. How is that I’d never heard that before? Luckily, it turns out this is NOT the Richmond Belle Isle, but instead another Belle Isle in Detroit, MI. It is somewhat amusing that WordPress automatically did that. It also helps put things in a little perspective … yes there are issues at this parking lot and on Belle Isle, but at least our Belle Isle doesn’t have shootings like Detroit’s Belle Isle does.

    All those solutions sound good, but I like the idea of opening up Dominion’s lot (and the rest of their riverfront property) the best. I don’t want to slam Dominion too much because they do a very good job of sponsoring various local festivals, but it’s quite the shame that their primo riverfront property, including that really nice trail, is closed to the public even on weekends.

    Also – could maybe GRTC extend one of their bus routes to Belle Isle, and have the buses loop around in the Dominion lot even if Dominion decides not to let regular cars park there? I could see GRTC getting some ridership there.

    One other thought would be to pave over the mostly-unused CSX land immediately adjacent to the wooden bridge on the south side of Belle Isle, and opening up a second parking lot on South Side. This would obviously require a lot of CSX cooperation, and if cars would have to cross the tracks CSX might well refuse out of liability/safety concerns, but if we could get a south side parking lot that would be a big help.

    While my thinking cap is on, can the City do something about the awful state of the informational signs? They are ugly, weathered, and text-only. Contrast that with the signs just put up on the Capital Trail.

  4. The logical choice would be the fenced in Federal Reserve lot just above the current lot. It’s hardly used on the weekends but I have the feeling that getting any cooperation from them is unlikely. I do like the idea of charging a fee though. As I’ve mentioned before I think it encourages folks to carpool and if the funds go toward the James River park system then all the better. Charging a few dollars per car won’t keep anyone out of the park and perhaps it could lead to upgrades to the current lots and some additional amenities like a bathroom or at least more frequent visits by the porta-john folks, a real bike path leading to downtown, or a sidewalk on the north side of Tredegar Street.

  5. Why don’t we install parking meters in the existing lot? All we need is one of those solar powered jobbies that prints a ticket you leave on your dash. The price is adjusted according to demand. The meter maid people check it on the hour and revenue from metering and tickets goes back into the park system. Then people would be compelled to move their cars instead of parking in the morning and leaving them all day while they get drunk on the island.

    Of course there is going to be a shortage of parking when we give it away for free, it doesn’t matter how few or many spaces there are.

    • Meters are an intriguing idea, although likely too costly and susceptible to vandalism. Ralph White, JRPS staff and volunteers (including me) that run the parking lot on weekends at Pony Pasture have said that their presence in the park is a big factor in keeping visitors well-behaved.

  6. Thanks from grateful visitors to the live & in-person volunteer crews & to the James River Park System leadership for being visible so often up & down the woods, river bank & rocks. The area covered & the hours of duty are superhuman. The consequences of not having the amazing team Richmond is so fortunate to have would be truly regrettable loss of quality care of our natural recreation areas. Finding any occasion to pitch in on a park or trail work crew (or just to engage in litter-pick-up along your own family walk) is always worth the time, for the satisfaction to be taken in the results, for the fascinating knowledge to be discovered about wild things, their homes & their needs, & for the energizing camaraderie of other river lovers. Parking meters might do a piece of the job in some locations, however, it is so often the very presence of people who act on their care for our river who make the difference in the behavior of visitors who had not though very much about it before, which will probably still be true whether driving visitors have to pay to park or not.

  7. In the spirit of the Park System the solution should certainly not include paving over any green space to make way for more cars.

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