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Local nonprofit hosting James River Park hike to support low income youth, get kids outside

The James River Park System has become a main Richmond attraction, boasting some of the best urban trails in the country. However, many of the students served by Blue Sky Fund have never even seen the river despite living within a few miles.

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Blue Sky Fund will bring over 400 participants together to hike along the James River on October 26th for the ​Dominion Energy Hike For Kids​ event with a goal of raising $50,000 to directly support programs that provide transformational experiences in nature for over 3,000 Richmond students from low-income neighborhoods.

The James River Park System has become a main Richmond attraction, boasting some of the best urban trails in the country. However, many of the students served by Blue Sky Fund have never even seen the river despite living within a few miles. For the event, hikers will enjoy the James River with a 3-, 8- or 14-mile loop, departing from the Virginia War Memorial and returning to a family-friendly post-hike celebration with food, live music, and lawn games. Väsen Brewing Company is collaborating with Blue Sky Fund to create an exclusive beer for the month of October that will be featured at the event, with a portion of all sales benefitting the organization.

“We are privileged to support such a worthwhile cause,” said Hunter A. Applewhite, President of the Dominion Energy Charitable Foundation. “Blue Sky Fund makes a meaningful impact in such a unique and important way for many kids across the Richmond community.”

Online registration​ is now live for the event. Event participants can hike up their support in getting Richmond’s youth outside by recruiting colleagues to participate as a corporate team or volunteering to individually raise funds and spread the word about Blue Sky Fund programs in their community, earning outdoor gear prizes along the way.

The hike is Blue Sky Fund’s biggest fundraising event of the year, with a goal of raising $50,000, a 42% growth over last year’s event. These funds are essential to the organization expanding its core program from eight to 14 Richmond City Public Schools during the 2019-2020 school year. Last year, Hike For Kids raised $35,000 to provide outdoor education programming to almost 2,000 students across Richmond during the 2018-2019 school year.

“We love Blue Sky because it gives our students opportunities to get out to places that they’ve never experienced before. I absolutely love going to Pony Pasture, because the kids get the chance to actually get on the river bank, do a little exploring in the water, take nature hikes – they get a feel for the James River and how mighty it is,” said Tracey Smith, a Chimborazo Elementary School Teacher.

Studies reveal that children are spending half as much time outside today as they did 20 years ago, with just four to seven minutes a day playing freely outside. The outdoors should be a part of every child’s life, as time spent in nature is proven to support positive youth development for urban at-risk children with enhanced cooperation and conflict resolution skills, and increases in self-esteem, problem-solving, and motivation to learn.

“My favorite outdoor activity is hiking by the river, I love going down to Belle Isle and rock hopping and such. I just like being outside and love the way the river sounds. Nature makes me feel so much more relaxed and I become the best version of myself,” said Hannah, a graduate of Blue Sky’s Outdoor Leadership Institute.

Participants can register online here.

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Downtown

New report finds Virginia Capital Trail generated $8.9 million in local economic activity last year

The report concluded that the Capital Trail contributed approximately $8.9 million in economic activity during FY 2018-19. The Trail which has seen a 65% increase in trail usage in March and a 46% increase in April over last year, is a driving stimulus for local business, tourism, and economic activity, the report found.

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The Virginia Capital Trail Foundation recently released an economic impact report by the University of Richmond in collaboration with the Institute for Service Research, the findings were significant.

The report concluded that the Capital Trail contributed approximately $8.9 million in economic activity during FY 2018-19. The Trail which has seen a 65% increase in trail usage in March and a 46% increase in April over last year, is a driving stimulus for local business, tourism, and economic activity, the report found.

The full economic impact report can be found here.

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Community

Venture Richmond Spruces Up Downtown

There are 126 new hanging baskets installed along Broad Street from Belvidere to 12th Street in the Arts District and in the Shockoe neighborhood. Just one of the new beautification projects from Venture Richmond recently completed.

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Venture Richmond just completed efforts to enhance the downtown area including Canal Walk and Brown’s Island.

They’ve been funding beautification projects in the downtown area since 2013. Over the years they’ve worked with

Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Capital One volunteers, and Virginia BioTech Park volunteers.

“Beautification projects are critically important to Downtown and its gateway neighborhoods. They help to inspire civic pride, create a sense of place and enhance the environment for businesses, residents and visitors, as well as attracting bees and butterflies to our urban areas,” said Lucy Meade, Director of Economic Development and Community Relations.

This year’s beautification projects included:

  • 126 hanging baskets installed along Broad Street from Belvidere to 12th Street in the Arts District and in the Shockoe neighborhood
  • 24 planters on Broad Street, 3rd Street, and 5th Street
  • 13 planting beds in the 400 block of East Grace Street
  • 5 medians including two blocks of Broad St. from Foushee to 1st Street, 3rd Street and I-95 ramp; 12th and Canal streets, and 14th and Dock streets (last two complete in early July)
  • 300+ annuals planted along the Canal Walk and around the Headman Statue on Brown’s Island

In addition to items above, the Clean & Safe Program’s contractor, Community Business Group (CBG), a local minority-owned firm, has been providing the “essential service” of sidewalk cleaning seven days a week throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, they have collected 269,000 gallons of trash and leaves.

​Following damages that occurred to businesses during recent protests, Venture Richmond and CBG launched a new Graffiti Cleaning Pilot Program as part of Clean & Safe. Property owners and businesses in the Downtown Service District area can request help removing graffiti by emailing [email protected].

Another item you’ll see soon is social-distancing circles on Brown’s Island to help visitors mantain social distancing.

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Business

Venture Richmond teams up with city for “Picnic in a Parklet” program to assist businesses during reopening phases

“We acknowledge the difficulty Richmond businesses face when trying to safely reopen and want to do what we can to make that easier on them,” said Max Hepp-Buchanan, Director of Riverfront and Downtown Placemaking for Venture Richmond. “Parklets have the potential to offer an attractive, comfortable space for customers to physically-distance adjacent to the business, which may be needed for a smoother reopening. We look forward to working with any business in the city that submits a request.”

RVAHub Staff

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Venture Richmond has announced a new initiative, “Picnic in a Parklet,” a program designed to assist Richmond restaurants and other businesses with Phase 2 and 3 of Forward Virginia. Through this new partnership with the City of Richmond, business owners can receive design and permitting assistance for their requests for more outdoor space, particularly parklets.

Parklets are outdoor patio spaces constructed in the on-street parking lane of the street in front of a business that can function as an area for customers to gather and/or take to-go orders and eat outside in a physically-distanced environment. Parklets are, by definition, public space; but, restaurants can offer lightly packaged to-go orders for people who simply want to dine in the parklet in front of the restaurant.

“Transforming our use of public space innovatively and sustainably requires partnerships just like this one,” said Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney. “By linking the business and design communities, this program will expand the city’s growing network of creatively designed public spaces.”

Business-owners who are interested in temporarily converting an on-street parking space adjacent to their storefront into a parklet will be connected with Venture Richmond to better assess their needs. If a parklet will be helpful and appropriate, Venture Richmond will work with the American Institute of Architects Richmond Chapter (AIA Richmond) to connect businesses with a certified architect for pro-bono parklet design services. Venture Richmond will assist the applicant through the steps needed to obtain a permit from the City of Richmond.

“We acknowledge the difficulty Richmond businesses face when trying to safely reopen and want to do what we can to make that easier on them,” said Max Hepp-Buchanan, Director of Riverfront and Downtown Placemaking for Venture Richmond. “Parklets have the potential to offer an attractive, comfortable space for customers to physically-distance adjacent to the business, which may be needed for a smoother reopening. We look forward to working with any business in the city that submits a request.”

Unless otherwise specified or revoked, parklet permits are valid for three years. All requests within Richmond City limits will be considered.

Requests for parklets can be submitted through the RVA Strong website. General information about parklets can be found here, and more information about the City of Richmond’s Parklet Program can be found here.

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