Category Archives: Rant & Rave

We ask questions and readers give us what they don’t like [Rant] and what they like [Rave] about the James River.

RIVER RANT: Bike trails closed, wait 24 hours per inch of rain?

The accepted rule of thumb is to wait 24 hours per every inch of rain.The James River Park trails and most Richmond area off-road trails are closed after a period of rain. Richmond has gotten at least two inches this week alone. The accepted rule of thumb is to wait 24 hours per every inch of rain. This should give most trails time to dry out, especially ones maintained as well as the Richmond trails (thanks to the JRPS staff and Richmond Mid-Atlantic Off Road Enthusiasts). Continue reading

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RIVER RANT: Fencing off south side rock wall at Belle Isle?

The rocks on the south side are not bouldered and there is no safety equipment and rope holds in placeA man was transported by MedFlight to VCU Medical Center on February 27 with serious injuries after falling about 25 feet while rock climbing on the south side of Belle Isle. Continue reading

RIVER RANT: Deaths on the James River

The downside of having a wild river running through the urban James River is that it can be dangerous to those that do not take precautions. Fire and Emergency officials rescue far too many people who didn’t obey life jacket requirements when the river is above 5 feet, can’t tell that water levels are quickly rising, can’t swim or have too much to drink.

James River News Hub has begun a page to track deaths on the James River, beginning with the first 12 deaths research uncovered since mid-2007. While less than half of them appear to be accidental deaths caused during recreational visits to the river — including two unintentional drownings — it still calls attention to the need for caution.

RIVER RANT: How to protect the Reedy Creek parking lot?

Reedy Creek parking lot, viewed from Riverside DriveThe Reedy Creek parking area in the Main Section of the James River Park System has a reputation for car break-ins. For all the paddlers that either put-in or take-out at Reedy Creek; bikers and hikers that hit the Buttermilk Trail; dog-walkers that walk the gravel path near the visitor’s center; there may be an improvement to the situation.

Broken car window glass in Reedy Creek parking lotThere is good potential for cameras to be installed in the Reedy Creek parking lot, which could have a great impact on improving the safety of the vehicles people leave while they play at the James. The parking lot is notorious in part because it is hidden from view from traffic on Riverside Drive and the houses above the lot. People often leave their cars for hours in the lot, and are easy prey for would-be robbers.

Reedy Creek parking lotCameras could also have an impact on Hillcrest Road, which ends at the entrance to Reedy Creek and has for years been the safer choice for people that fear parking in the hidden parking lot below.

Have you ever had a break-in in the Reedy Creek parking lot? Would you be in favor of installing security cameras? How bad is the parking lot in your estimation?

RIVER RAVE: Finding treasure in the James River

Rock found at Pony Pasture Rapids Park, could it have been used for cutting by Native Americans?On any given visit to the James River park, there is a great chance that if you keep your eyes open, you’d see an amazing display of nature, a great landscape or scenery, or find an object that you can’t explain.

For example, my nephew found a very interesting rock at Pony Pasture Rapids Park that could have been used for cutting animal skin, fish, carving wood or making a dugout canoe. It fit perfectly into the palm of an adult hand and had grooves for a thumb or maybe even a rope. Could it have been used for cutting by Native Americans? Maybe the rock was none of those things, but it was fun imagining its potential uses.

What have you found on visits to the James River Park? A favorite memory of a sunset or nature scene? An encounter with an artifact? The perfect walking stick?

RIVER RANT: Does the James need more access points to the river?

Huguenot Flatwater is the western-most property in the JRPSThe James River Park System has 17 properties under its care, but less than half have easy access for paddlers to the river: Huguenot Flatwater, Pony Pasture, Reedy Creek in the Main Area, Tredegar Beach at Brown’s Island, 14th Street Takeout, takeout at the southbank at Mayo Bridge and Ancarrow’s Landing.

There has been discussion among the groups that help plan and maintain the park — namely the Friends of the James River Park and James River Outdoor Coalition — that more access points would be welcomed. Creating more access points could help relieve some of the congestion at the most popular parks, especially Pony Pasture. Current favorites for potential access points could be at the Willey Bridge, Pump House Park or near the Powhite Parkway Bridge.

Do you think the James River needs more access points? What property(s) would you recommend? How big a priority are access points?

RIVER RAVE: Enjoying a cleaner James River?

Crowds enjoying Belle Isle, as viewed from the Robert E. Lee BridgeDo we take for granted these days how clean the James River is as it passes through Richmond, especially considering that it used to be an extension of the sewer system whenever it rained?  That was a long time ago, but back then people didn’t swim in the river. Some environmental pioneers, like Newton Ancarrow, did their best to wake up Richmond to the neglected, polluted river.

According to data from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, the water quality for the James River as it flows through the city rates well in tests for E. coli bacteria (except when the river levels are high due to heavy rains) at five key swimming areas: Pony Pasture, 42nd Street (Main Area), North Bank (Texas Beach), Belle Isle (Hollywood Rapid) and Tredegar Beach (Brown’s Island).

A few long-time James River photographers I’ve spoken with have lamented that they didn’t take photos of the bad things they saw back when the river was so polluted. Those photos could stand as a testament to how far the health of the James has progressed.

For many Richmonders, the James River is playground. Do you remember a time when the James was dirty and unsuitable for recreation? Do we take that for granted now? How important to you is it that the James is clean? How much time and effort do you put toward its upkeep?