By Phil Riggan – James River News Hub
This winter, the City of Richmond Department of Public Utilities has been busy with all of the water main breaks caused by cold weather and Richmond’s aging infrastructure. Those repairs have been time-consuming and costly.
Pump House Road has been closed since mid-December 2010 due to a failure of the roadway from damaged and washed out storm sewer. It is a low-traffic road and not high on the priority list for the DPU. Pump House Road is expected to be closed until at least March, according to department public information manager Angela Fountain. With the way things are in Richmond, that could mean many more than just 2-3 months before the repairs could be made.
So where does that leave the Pump House, which is a key part of the James River Park? The roadway is the only vehicular access to the park and its closure will block at least three potential work projects that depend on passage through that street.
First on the priority list, an estimated $50,000 in repairs to the roof are needed to patch a widening hole and help secure the structure. This is essential to the preservation of the Pump House.
Secondly, Richmond-MORE and James River Park workers had been approved to begin building 2-3 miles of biking and hiking trails in the woody hillsides at Dogwood Dell, which is across Pump House Road from Pump House Park.
Third, there have been tentative plans for the installation of electricity, a water supply, toilets and possibly an elevator in the Pump House. Those plans are part of a long-range restoration of the Victorian-Gothic treasure, which was designed by the great Richmond city engineer Col. Wilfred Emory Cutshaw and built in the 1880s.
Besides those plans being put on hold, there is a more damaging potential hazard for the massive granite structure. With no well-intentioned people visiting — and by default — monitoring the park, does that leave it vulnerable to suspect behavior? Vandalism? Crime? Public sex? These are all structural and perception issues that the park has been saddled with for years until the past couple where momentum had shifted toward restoration and renewal of that grand historic edifice.
The Pump House has been under renovation for the past decade, mostly by volunteers. Until the full renovation is complete, it is considered to be a “stabilized ruin.” By not addressing the damage to the roadway in a more timely manner, is it leaving the Pump House vulnerable to further deterioration?