Take ownership of the James this river season

Cub Scouts visit Pony Pasture Rapids Park in March 2011Spring is here, even if the recent cold and rain won’t let us revel in it. I’ve had Pony Pasture on the brain lately. I was getting updates on the salamanders that breed in late February/early March. I paddled from there two weeks ago across the river to Williams Island for a hike. I took my son’s Cub Scout den there Monday to explore nature and learn about trash collecting. It’s a special place.

I’ve also been in discussions with people about how to best manage Pony Pasture in the busy summer months. I’ve written about the popular south bank park often, but the one day I volunteered at Pony Pasture to pick up trash and run the jam-packed parking lot in the peak of the summer heat in late July 2010 is still fresh in my mind.

There are many people who take the pristine park conditions for granted. It takes a lot of work to keep human interference from tarnishing Pony Pasture’s natural beauty.  Between the James River Park System’s staff and the many volunteers and dedicated park-goers, the work gets done.

I am one of those proud people and Pony Pasture Rapids Park is now my park. Actually, many people own the park, and taking ownership is encouraged. After all my years of using the park, I’m now volunteering my time to maintain it and defend it from those that abuse it.

Crowded Pony Pasture Rapids in summer 2010I’m a firm believer that the JRPS is a four-season park. There is something good to do at all times of the year. But as we get closer to the busiest season in the park — a time of crowds and traffic that drives away many of the best stewards of the park — try to keep in mind that while going to the James River Park is free, the upkeep isn’t. City taxes pay for the parks, but not everything. Friends groups and corporate donations make up much of the difference to maintain the JRPS.

The City of Richmond Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities puts its time, money and its absolute best employees in the river parks.  The police, fire and EMS workers that patrol the areas aren’t there to bust visitors — they are in the parks to maximize safety. Take the time to thank them and help keep the parks clean and safe for everyone.

I will continue to volunteer. The afternoon didn’t seem like work.  I was earning time to enjoy my James River. If you see something you don’t like about any city park, take action. Take ownership. Make the park yours.

Find out how to help the James River Park System or any of the volunteer groups: Friends of the James River, James River Outdoor Coalition and the City of Richmond’s Department of Parks, Recreation & Community Facilities.

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