Dear Mr. Berry,
Thank you for taking time out of your schedule to visit the Oregon Hill Neighborhood Association (OHNA) on August 28, 2012 to make a presentation on the proposed amphitheater located near the Oregon Hill neighborhood. In your presentation, you discussed the changes Venture Richmond wished to make to the site, including a proposal to trim the south bank of the historic James River and Kanawha Canal in order to improve the sight lines for the amphitheater, which you envision accommodating 10,000 people.
At the same meeting, OHNA voted to oppose any damage to the historic James River and Kanawha Canal and, specifically, removing any portion of the south bank of the canal. The Oregon Hill neighborhood has important historic connections to the canal. The surviving home at 601 Spring Street belonged to Samuel P. Parsons, the canal Superintendent responsible for the canal’s expansion to Lynchburg. These connections also include the surviving home at 619 W. Cary Street that belonged to the Messler family, who owned a canal boat building business in Penitentiary Basin, just east of the proposed amphitheater.
While we deeply appreciate the worthwhile efforts of Venture Richmond in bringing the Folk Festival to Richmond, we believe that this can be accomplished without damaging the irreplaceable historic canal. This is an original portion of the canal that was built when George Washington was the first president of the canal. The city is going to considerable expense to protect the canal in the construction of the 2nd Street connector, so it would be unacceptable to damage the canal just to the west of this connector.
Suggestions made by members of OHNA include: covering the canal with a temporary protective structure during the folk festival, encouraging Venture Richmond to consider a smaller venue at the location of the amphitheater that would not require damage to the historic canal, moving the adjacent Children’s Stage to another location and using the new open space as a part of the proposed amphitheater, or placing an impermeable liner inside the canal, filling it with soil and flowers and building bridges to cross the canal.
OHNA is also asking that Venture Richmond limit the number of performances at the amphitheater to 15 days per year and to limit the times of the performances to 10:00 pm on weeknights and to 11:00 pm on weekends.
Again, we appreciate Venture Richmond’s presentation to our organization, and we hope that you will keep us informed regarding developments of the proposed amphitheater.
Oregon Hill Neighborhood Association, President