Access Week: Support for boat landing under Willey Bridge?

Under the Edward E. Willey Bridge on the south bank at Cherokee RoadPhil Riggan – James River News Hub

Access Week! One of the first complaints most people have when discussing the James River in Richmond is that there aren’t enough access points. This is Day 2 as James River News Hub tackles the topic of access points.

Gates to enter the Willey Bridge property off Cherokee RoadThe Edward E. Willey Bridge is just east of Bosher’s Dam (discussed Day 1) and is located in an exclusive neighborhood. The property that could make a good access point for the James is located under the bridge’s two “S” shaped spans on the south bank of the river off Cherokee Road.

There is potential for a boat landing, potentially similar to the one at Huguenot Flatwater. There is very little attractive landscape to this area under the bridge, and it is sandwiched in between some very high-priced homes. Cherokee Road is narrow, hilly and sometimes dangerous in this area.

Matt Perry is the co-owner of Riverside Outfitters, a company that rents paddling equipment and conducts rafting tours down the James. Perry has said he is in favor of more access points to the river and said that a new access point at the Willey Bridge could be a useful option to his rental business.

For example, they offer inner tube rentals for 2-4 hour intervals and kayak and canoe rentals in two-hour intervals. Having a take-out at the Willey Bridge would provide them with another launching point for tours and rentals. Currently, Riverside Outfitters only has options for putting in at Huguenot Flatwater and Pony Pasture.

The James River Park could accommodate another park, but since it is already two miles further west from the westernmost park, the maintenance could be time-consuming and expensive.

Also, motorboats are banned at Huguenot Flatwater by deed restrictions and this is the only section of flatwater river designated for muscle-powered recreation, a nearly three-mile section of the river between Bosher’s Dam and Williams Island.

Perry suggested that perhaps a Willey Bridge access could be locked and only accessible by fire & emergency services and by approved businesses. He suggested that the park could have a limited usage with little or no parking (drop-off only) and that the users could be made responsible for the trash at the site.

What do you think? Is an access point needed there? Would you use a non-motor, paddle boat launch at the Willey Bridge site? Do you think the neighborhood would grant that type of access? Would Cherokee Road be safe enough for this to work?

Your comments are valued, as members of the Friends of the James River Park, James River Outdoor Coalition and other volunteer groups that work to help maintain the river discuss these issues often and need input from dedicated river-goers. Want to make a difference? Join one of these groups!

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6 responses to “Access Week: Support for boat landing under Willey Bridge?

  1. It’s a good idea for more PUBLIC access, but that’s why I wouldn’t support this idea. When Mr Perry suggests that “perhaps a Willey Bridge access could be locked and only accessible by fire & emergency services and by approved businesses.”, that really makes me cringe. It ceases being a public site if you restrict it to his business.

    • I see your point, but in the context of what Matt Perry was speaking about, there are areas of the park the emergency services and businesses have agreements to be allowed to access by vehicle that the general public does not have access to. For example, the Main Area of the JRPS and Belle Isle have chained locked fences that these approved individuals have keys to. Take a tour with Riverside Outfitters and you’ll see for yourself.

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  3. To be clear, I’d much rather their be a parking area with full public access at The Willey Bridge. This would allow paddlers, tubers, etc. to enjoy the Flatwater section of the river without having to do an up-and-back circuit from (and back to) the Flatwater parking area. If the current is strong on this section of the river, paddling upstream can be very difficult, and tubing completely impossible. However putting in at the Willey Bridge and traveling downstream makes this incredibly beautiful stretch of river (which holds its water level better than the adjacent downstream sections) fully accessible in a wider range of weather and water-level conditions. My idea for limited access at Willey Bridge is purely a fallback position that’s better than nothing. Cheers.

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