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Over Five Acres of Richmond Riverfront to Become a Parkland and Education Center

The Conservation Fund announced its purchase of the 5.2-acre Dock Street property on the James River in downtown Richmond, Virginia.

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The Conservation Fund had big news to share yesterday.

The Conservation Fund announced its purchase of the 5.2-acre Dock Street property on the James River in downtown Richmond, Virginia. Today, The Conservation Fund, Capital Region Land Conservancy (CRLC) and James River Association (JRA) celebrate this acquisition and JRA’s future plans to build an environmental education center on a portion of the land. This is part of a strategic effort between the three partners and the City of Richmond to protect the property in perpetuity for the public.

The effort will have various benefits to the Richmond community including adding new public access to the riverfront, enhancing the Virginia Capital Trail and youth education programs, and safeguarding the historic “View That Named Richmond.” Conservation easements will be placed on the land to prevent future commercial development of the site and ensure public ownership of the riverfront from Rocketts Landing to Browns Island and the Belle Isle pedestrian bridge. They will also support water quality for more than 2.6 million people who live in the 10,000-square-mile James River watershed, as well as wildlife like the Atlantic sturgeon. Read more about the historic Dock Street property and its various community benefits here.

The CRLC entered into a contract for the historic Dock Street property last year. The contract was then assigned to The Conservation Fund for temporary ownership while the partners raise funding to complete the transaction.

 

“The ability to help our partners purchase and secure key properties like this one quickly and effectively is what The Conservation Fund was built for,” said Heather Richards, Mid-Atlantic Regional Director at the Fund. “Increasing access to the James River and making trail connections for urban centers has never been more important for Virginia’s environmental health and community and economic vitality.”

In the near future, JRA will purchase approximately one acre of the land from The Conservation Fund to establish a new river center for environmental education. The program will focus on connecting Richmond youth with river-based, hands-on learning experiences while inspiring confidence, ecological understanding, nature appreciation, and conservation action. Learn more about JRA’s James River Center here.

“Our goal is to ensure that every child growing up in ‘America’s Best River Town’ is introduced to the James River and enjoys a lifetime of benefits that the river can provide,” said Bill Street, JRA’s Chief Executive Officer. “Building a leading-edge education center on Richmond’s riverfront will expand our ability to engage local youth, particularly in the historically underserved East End.”

“The James River Center represents a great opportunity for Richmond Public Schools students to take part in meaningful environmental science education that focuses on the issues and resources within their city,” said Josh Bearman, Science Curriculum and Instructional Specialist with Richmond Public Schools. “Its presence so close to downtown will greatly increase the possibility of access to high impact field experiences on the river, a crucial piece of RPS Science’s goals for place-based learning.”

The rest of the 5.2 acres will be transferred to the City of Richmond to become part of the James River Park System where it’ll be opened for public riverfront recreation and secure a critical link of the Virginia Capital Trail—a 51.2-mile trail that connects Richmond to Williamsburg. This effort will allow the trail to be moved entirely off city streets and onto waterfront parkland.

 

The CRLC played an essential role in securing a contract with the private seller to make this effort a reality. They will coordinate with the City of Richmond and James River Association to conduct community engagement to envision uses of the future public open space and park, as well as continuing to work with all parties to secure the remaining funding needed to fully open this property to the public and permanently protect this critical riverfront.

“As Richmond’s local land trust having played a critical role in the permanent protection of the James River Park System more than a decade ago, CRLC is honored to continue its efforts to make more places available for the public to enjoy and implement important components of community support plans such as the Riverfront Plan and Richmond 300 Master Plan,” said Parker C. Agelasto CRLC’s Executive Director.

“I applaud The Conservation Fund, Capital Region Land Conservancy, and James River Association for working together to expand the James River Park System with the purchase of 5.2 acres of riverfront property,” said City of Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney. “This significant acquisition, and plans for the James River Center, will benefit Richmonders for generations to come.”

“Permanently conserving this scenic and historic riverfront area is the intentional result of tremendously successful collaborative efforts and undertakings by the dedicated individuals, organizations, and entities involved,” says The Honorable Cynthia I. Newbille, President, Richmond City Council, Councilmember, Richmond East End 7th Voter District. “This work and the plans slated for this area are transformational in nature and will continue to strengthen the beauty, enjoyment, and value of our natural river asset for all Richmond residents and visitors in helping to make our city an even better, more equitable, and more beautiful place to live, love, work, learn, play, visit, enjoy, and raise a family.”

Grants for this project have been awarded for the City’s future acquisition from Virginia’s portion of the Land and Water Conservation Fund and the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation, which have a match component and requires an immediate need for private donations. JRA’s river center is part of its $20 million James Changer Campaign. Readers can inquire about funding needs and ways to support the land purchase with The Conservation Fund and CRLC, and about the river center with the James River Association to learn more.

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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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Virginia official says staffers are leaving mental health facilities to work at Chick-fil-A

“Part of it is some of those people do get paid less than you might get in fast food or Target or Walmart or something. And it’s not as stressful,” Littel said, adding that the state’s mental health workers are “doing lifesaving work every day.”

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At a meeting last week, Virginia Secretary of Health and Human Resources John Littel made an eye-opening remark about the state’s understaffed and overstressed mental health facilities.

“We’re losing a lot of people to Chick-fil-A,” Littel told the General Assembly’s Joint Commission on Health Care. “And hopefully the budget will help with that.”

The staffing issues in Virginia’s mental-health facilities are no secret, but Littel’s comment stood out as a stark anecdote about the dire working conditions for some state employees helping with the crucial societal task of caring for the mentally ill.

In an interview Tuesday, Littel, an appointee of Gov. Glenn Youngkin and former executive with the Magellan health care company, said broader worker shortages have enabled the fast-food industry and others to offer more appealing jobs to state mental-health workers who have had to show up to relatively low-paying, difficult jobs “all through the pandemic.”

“Part of it is some of those people do get paid less than you might get in fast food or Target or Walmart or something. And it’s not as stressful,” Littel said, adding that the state’s mental health workers are “doing lifesaving work every day.”

He said he was mostly referring to workers who may be in housekeeping or direct support staff roles and might make around $13 to $18 an hour. Recent Virginia job postings for Chick-fil-A, which advertises all workers get Sundays off when its restaurants are closed, offered similar pay, with some locations offering starting pay of $15 an hour.

According to the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health & Developmental Services, average pay for entry-level direct care jobs currently ranges from a little under $12 an hour to about $17 an hour, which works out to roughly $24,700 to $35,500 per year.

Broader worker shortages, Littel said, have prompted the fast-food industry to get more aggressive on raising pay and sign-on bonuses. He said he couldn’t venture a guess at the number of state employees who have left for fast-food jobs.

“I’m just sort of referencing the anecdotes I hear from people,” he said, specifying he was making an “illustrative point” that wasn’t meant as a shot at Chick-fil-A.

Littel said he’s hopeful the upcoming state budget compromise will include significant new investments that will allow for better pay and conditions for the mental health workforce.

“The people that work in the system are all heroes,” he said. “For people to choose that as a specialty and commit to that, that’s really important. They’re not what’s wrong with the system.”

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Next Wednesday is Westover Hills ES Give Back Day at Laura Lee’s

Enjoy a lovely lunch or dinner at Laura Lee’s next Wednesday and a % of the sale will be going to support Westover Hills Elementary School’s PTA

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Enjoy a lovely lunch or dinner at Laura Lee’s next Wednesday and a % of the sale will be going to support Westover Hills Elementary School’s PTA as part of Give Back Day. Laura Lee’s is one of our go-to date night spots and love sitting at the bar.

This year they expanded their hours and are now open for lunch. Lunch is available 11AM-2:30PM Tues-Sun, and dinner is from 5-9PM Tues-Sun. Check out their menus here. Dinner always has some specials as well. For lunch or dinner, you can’t go wrong with the Double Cheese Burger or the Fried Chicken Sandwich.

 

 

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Community

Forest Hill Park Invasive Plant Removal Work Day

Invasive plants harm the entire ecosystem.

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Spotted on Facebook. The workday is scheduled for Saturday from 10 AM – 12 PM.

Please join members of Friends of FHP for invasive plant removal. Invasive nonnative plants reduce populations of native, beneficial creatures. We will meet in the 3800 block of Forest Hill Avenue near the Forest Hill Historic District sign (east of Roanoke St. traffic light). Please bring gloves and hand pruners if you have them, and dress for the possibility of poison ivy (no open footwear). Thanks in advance for helping us restore some ecological balance in FHP!

You can see a list of invasive plants here. Hedera helix (common ivy or English Ivy) is one of the biggest and most obvious offenders in our area.

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