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Dam Walk bridge progress

Walking on water or at least across water.

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[update num=4]Update #4 — January 8, 2016; 8:29 AM[/update]

The Dam Walk bridge is starting to take shape and the city has posted progress pictures here one of which is below from January 6th.

dam_walk_progress

Image: City of Richmond

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[update num=3]Update #3 — September 16, 2015; 9:14 AM[/update]

From the Mayor’s office we get word of long overdue progress:

After two years of public engagement, planning and environmental permitting, the much loved Brown’s Island Dam Walk is on track to reopen to pedestrians. The new T. Tyler Potterfield Memorial Bridge will provide an access point to one of the most beautiful sections of the James River and the first bicycle and pedestrian-only crossing of the river.

Howard Shockey & Sons, Inc. will start construction this fall, and is expected to finish the bridge by August 2016. Once complete, the pedestrian walkway will infuse a new energy into the entire riverfront area.

“The work to connect the north bank of the James River to the south has been a long-time coming,” said Mayor Dwight C. Jones. “I’m so pleased to have been a part of the push for progress on the Richmond Riverfront Plan.”

“This month’s groundbreaking will mark the culmination of nearly a decade of planning and visioning by the City of Richmond and Shockey is excited to get underway on the project,” says Jeff Boehm, President of Howard Shockey & Sons, Inc.

Previously known as the Brown’s Island Dam Walk, the new T. Tyler Potterfield Bridge will transform sections of old dam infrastructure into a new pedestrian and bicycle walk path. The new structure will utilize as much of the existing, historic structure as possible and will be supplemented with new decking, decorative railings, and structural provisions to improve safety. Work on the South Bank will connect to the Floodwall Walk, Manchester neighborhood, and the climbing wall.

The total length of the bridge is 1,600 linear feet, approximately one-third of a mile. The completed work will provide a safe deck on which users can walk, run, ride a bike, push strollers, and even travel in a wheelchair across the river.

Among the planned improvements to the existing structure is an expansion of the “Three Days in April” overlook, which memorializes a significant point in Richmond’s history when- during three days in April 1865 – the city fell to the Union Army after four years of civil war. In addition, three new overlooks with interpretive content will be added to the bridge as part of the redevelopment project.

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[update num=2]Update #2 — January 12, 2015; 8:42 AM[/update]

There has been progress and work is set to begin but according to the RTD that work will have to talk a slower pace due to residents of the river and bureaucracy. The original plan was to have the project finished in time for this September’s World Cycling Championship but that is looking unlikely.

The first and supposedly main reason for the delays is this rather vague statement, “Tammy D. Hawley, press secretary to Mayor Dwight C. Jones, said the main issue is a “lack of response” to the city’s original request for proposals on the $8 million project”.

The other reasons make much more sense and over concerns for the annual run of shad and the return of sturgeon that limit work taking place in the river between February 15th and June 30th.

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[update num=1]Update #1 — February 3, 2014; 3:31 PM[/update]

The snowed out meeting to discuss the plan for the walk scheduled for January 21st has been rescheduled for February 18th,  7:00 pm, at the Virginia War Memorial

RTD ran a story that, while didn’t present anything dramatically different, is good for some quality quotes from those close to the project.

Max Hepp-Buchanan, director of the Sports Backers’ Bike Walk RVA program, said the bridge is an important piece of an improved downtown bicycling network.

“One way to think about it is that this will be the first direct crossing of the James River in Richmond that is dedicated to pedestrian and bicycle travel,” Hepp-Buchanan said. “That’s a really big deal.”

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[update num=0]Original — January 31, 2014[/update]

Nearly everyone I know has dreamed of or talked about walking across the James on the path that appears so tantalizing close to being done. The city has unveiled the plans for the Brown’s Island Dam Walk (PDF) which is one of the first steps in the Richmond Riverfront Plan.

The bridge would connect Manchester to Brown’s Island. At 10 feet wide it would be able to simultaneously accommodate pedestrians and cyclists–the assumption being that both parties are paying attention. The walkway would include at least four overlooks that will quickly become the best and most photographed views in RVA. There is one bump in the road to bridge Nirvana however and that’s the Manchester side.

There are wetlands that are protected in the area, and there is the danger of flooding. To deal with those issues there are two paths, the high and the low.

DamWalk-HighOption

The high option seen above will require considerable removal of vegetation (the green) and fill (the red). This is the city’s preferred route.

DamWalk-LowOption

The low option doesn’t require as much backfill and it also will force users on a more round about route if trying to get onto the Manchester Bridge.

The Richmond Department of Planning & Review is holding a meeting onTuesday, January 21 at 7 p.m. at the Virginia War Memorial Auditorium, (621 S. Belvidere Street), to discuss this and the Chapel Island Trail. The meeting will open with a concise overview of the Riverfront Plan. The firm leading the design of both projects will make a presentation of the schematic designs at the beginning and then open the floor for questions and comments from attendees.

 

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Richard Hayes is the co-founder of RVAHub. When he isn't rounding up neighborhood news, he's likely watching soccer or chasing down the latest and greatest board game.

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Government

City Thanksgiving Holiday Schedule

RVAHub is not a city-run production but just like most of the city services we’ll be taking a break and be back on Monday.

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City of Richmond government offices, including City Hall, will be closing at noon on Wednesday, November 25, 2020 and will remain closed Thursday, November 26, through Friday, November 27, 2020 in observance of the Thanksgiving holiday. City offices will reopen at regular business hours on Monday, November 30, 2020.

The Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities’ administrative offices will operate from 8 a.m. until Noon on Wednesday. All city community centers will operate from 11:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday and will be closed Thursday and Friday.

Richmond Animal Care and Control is currently only available by appointment and will be closed Thursday and Friday. All city libraries will be closed Thursday and Friday. All library branches will resume normal scheduling on Saturday.

This closing will also affect the city’s Solid Waste Management Division. Refuse collection will take place on Wednesday off Thursday and Friday and resume on Saturday, November 28, 2020 at regular schedule from 8:30 a.m. until 2 p.m.

The East Richmond Road Convenience Center will be closed Thursday and Friday and resume on Saturday, November 28, 2020 on a regular schedule from, 8:30 a.m. until 2 p.m.

For more information on city services and schedules, please visit RichmondGov.com.

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Government

COVID-19 amplifies struggles with mental health, substance abuse – what Henrico County is doing about it

Since the pandemic started in mid-March, communities across the country have seen sharp increases in drug overdoses, suicides and requests for services. The trends have played out locally, with Henrico County already recording 41% more drug overdoses this year than in all of 2019.

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The stresses and strains of the COVID-19 pandemic have been enough to test anyone’s well-being.

But the inescapable challenges – from social isolation and financial uncertainty to concerns about one’s health – can quickly overwhelm those struggling with substance use and mental health, said Leslie Stephen, a program manager with Henrico Area Mental Health & Developmental Services (MH/DS).

“There have just been compounding issues,” she said. “When there are so many issues to deal with, a person’s capacity to take on more is reduced.”

Since the pandemic started in mid-March, communities across the country have seen sharp increases in drug overdoses, suicides and requests for services. The trends have played out locally, with Henrico County already recording 41% more drug overdoses this year than in all of 2019.

“These numbers understate the full problem because many overdoses are not reported,” County Manager John A. Vithoulkas said in a recent letter to the Board of Supervisors on plans to open a detoxification and recovery center. “In recent years, there have been more deaths in Henrico from overdoses than from car accidents, homicides or suicides – and this trend will be true again in 2020.”

Similarly, the number of individuals prescreened for hospitalization because of mental health concerns was up 13% from July through September compared with the same period last year.

In addition, orders to place someone in emergency custody rose by 15%. One of every five individuals held on temporary detention orders was later admitted to state facilities, instead of treated locally. That’s higher than normal, in part because fewer beds are available due to the pandemic’s need for physical distancing.

MH/DS bolsters mental health, substance use services during COVID-19

MH/DS, which serves Henrico, New Kent and Charles City counties, has been working to ensure its services remain available and accessible during the pandemic while the county also develops an enhanced treatment model for substance use.

Staff have been conducting appointments mainly by phone or video, although in-person meetings are available if necessary. For more information, go to henrico.us/mhds or bouncebackhc.com. To access services, call (804) 727-8515.

The challenges from COVID-19 have been particularly acute for those who rely on regular, face-to-face support from clinicians and peers. Now, many of those sessions are held virtually.

“You think about folks in recovery, it really is that interaction that makes a difference,” MH/DS Executive Director Laura Totty said. “It’s that daily support that they get. The isolation necessitated by COVID-19 has been a real challenge.”

For many, the pressures and strains will only intensify as the state has imposed tighter measures following a surge in coronavirus cases ahead of the holiday season, which is often a difficult time for those with mental health and substance use challenges.

“I worry that many people may struggle when they’re unable to engage in activities that have given them comfort and support in the past,” Stephen said.

William Pye, a peer specialist with MH/DS, leads a
virtual REVIVE! training session on the administration
of Narcan, a drug that can temporarily reverse the
toxic effects of opioids and save the life of someone
who has overdosed.

In September, the agency also began offering rapid access to medication-assisted treatment for individuals addicted to opioids. After their same-day access assessment, clients are connected with a prescriber for treatment with Suboxone, which curbs symptoms of withdrawal during detoxification.

MH/DS also is offering nine virtual trainings per week on REVIVE!, a free program on how to administer Narcan to save someone after an opioid overdose. Participants receive the medication by mail. To sign up, call (804) 727-8515.

To enhance its mental health services, MH/DS has partnered with the National Counseling Group to provide mobile support to individuals in crisis and avoid hospitalizations whenever possible.

Henrico advances new strategies to help those in recovery

Apart from its work in the pandemic, Henrico continues to look for new and better ways to help those struggling with substance use.

The county recently established a program to cover two weeks of housing costs for qualified individuals when they are admitted to a certified recovery home. So far, 13 recovery residences have applied for the program, which is known as CHIRP or Community-based Housing for Individuals in the Recovery Process.

“This gives the individual a chance to live in a safe, sober environment while they start to work on their recovery,” Totty said.

In addition, Henrico is advancing its plans to build a 24-hour detoxification and recovery center that would provide voluntary, medically supervised recovery services for adults.

The estimated 17,000-square-foot facility is planned on Nine Mile Road, near MH/DS’ East Center, and would have initially 12 to 16 beds. It would be licensed by the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services and managed by MH/DS with support from public and private partners.

The center was recommended by the Recovery Roundtable, a county work group that spent eight months looking at ways to reduce overdoses and strengthen recovery resources in the community.

“The Recovery Roundtable concluded the lack of access to detoxification is a significant gap and a barrier to recovery,” Vithoulkas said in his recent letter to the Board of Supervisors. “In fact, our jail has become the default provider of public detox in the County, having performed nearly 2,000 detoxes last year.”

Henrico has issued a request for proposals for consulting services as part of its planning for the detoxification and recovery facility. Funding for design and construction are expected to be considered as part of the county’s fiscal 2021-22 budget.

With the pandemic causing so much disruption, Stephen said it has been inspiring to see MH/DS staff confront each challenge and find innovative ways to provide the services the community desperately needs.

“It’s also amazing to see our clients so committed to working on their recovery,” she said. “Even with all that COVID-19 has thrown at them, they are determined to clear the hurdles that are in their way.”

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Education

Night shift: Student safety ambassadors provide a resource for the VCU community after dark

The ambassadors, part of the university’s transition to a more equitable public safety model, provide assistance when people need help but don’t need to contact law enforcement.

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If you’re looking for Virginia Commonwealth University sophomore Ayanna Farmer-Lawrence in the evenings, you’ll most likely find her around the Compass wearing a bright-yellow vest.

Farmer-Lawrence is a newly hired student safety ambassador for the VCU Police Department — and her vest is both a uniform and visual identifier for VCU community members.

This past summer, the university announced a plan for police reform initiatives, including workforce realignment and the hiring of non-sworn, unarmed employees to serve as resources on campus when members of the VCU community need assistance, but do not feel compelled to contact law enforcement.

Carly Jackson wearing a safety vest.
Carly Jackson models a designated, uniform vest during her shift. (Kevin Morley, University Marketing)

John Venuti, VCU’s associate vice president of public safety and chief of police, said with safety and well-being as the focus, a student may be a better alternative option for needs such as asking for directions, answering questions about transportation, working at events and walking people to their cars at night.

“The safety ambassadors will be present in places with high volumes of students, such as outside the University Student Commons and the Compass,” Venuti said. “They will predominately work at night because in the spring 2020 perception of safety survey, students told us they feel less safe at night.”

The three safety ambassadors received 40 hours of training and are also tasked with reporting safety concerns they come across during their shifts. In their first two nights working, they reported to police about damaged property, a traffic light failure and a fire at a business on West Broad Street.

Farmer-Lawrence, a homeland security and criminal justice major in the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs, said the part-time position coincides with her goal of becoming a special agent for the FBI. She was drawn to become a safety ambassador to learn from police, build relationships, network and be ready for internships or employment opportunities upon graduation.

“I thought it was a good idea to be that person that [people] can go to if they have a problem, but don’t want to go to the police directly,” Farmer-Lawrence said. “It’s a good idea given what’s going on in society currently.”

Venuti said he looks forward to hearing feedback from community members about the new program and plans to expand the number of student safety ambassadors, and their designated locations, in spring 2021.

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