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 3 as James River News Hub tackles the topic of access points.
The area between the Powhite Parkway and Boulevard bridges is so natural, wild and remote — yet right in the middle of the city. One can feel so free there among the honking geese and hunting osprey — only to hear an Amtrak train streaking its way across the arched railway bridge or a freight train roaring through the trees on either bank of the river.
The area around Pump House Park is the perfect spot to create a new access to the James at this beautiful and under-utilized section of the river. The north bank needs an access and this is the most central location to the James River Park and the population, as opposed to the Willey Bridge and Bosher’s Dam parcels.
Tricia Pearsall, a long-time member of groups like the James River Outdoor Coalition, is interested in seeing Pump House Park connected to the river. “The access would further the need for restoration, otherwise the Pump House is a destination,” she said.
“In my mind, the success of the [James River Park] is all about linkage as well as careful preservation…linkage with the north and south side of the park as well as Byrd Park — interconnecting biking and hiking ways.”
The canal is overgrown and silted below the Pump House where the canal passes under the CSX railway line on the north bank could be cleared and restored all the way to the Pump House, giving paddlers access to the Kanawha Canal through George Washington’s Lower Arch.
Or, if planners would rather not go under the tracks, an access tower similar to the one at North Bank Park could be constructed in this area to get park-goers over the CSX tracks. The view from atop a tower could also prove to be an attraction itself.
If not at the Pump House, how about just east down Pump House Road to the Boulevard Bridge? The idea of building a tower or a companion span next to the Boulevard Bridge or a suspended bridge underneath (similar to the one at Belle Isle) to get visitors over the tracks would still serve the purpose of getting people out to that area of the river.
Even though the banks of the river south of the CSX tracks are part of North Bank Park, one would have to hike almost a mile to reach that area legally, due to the fences that block access along the tracks and the only allowed access is by the walkway tower at least a half mile down river.
Creating access in the Pump House area would form a needed second access and a greenway connection to North Bank Park and a loop to the hiking trail. There is potential for a group like Richmond MORE to help build biking trails through that area of the river as well.
Would any of these plans work? Is an access point in the area of the Pump House needed? Do you think this area of the river should remain exclusive to paddlers and those that either make the long trek through North Bank or by illegally cutting over the rail lines?
Your comments are valued, as members of the Friends of the James River Park, JROC 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!