Riggan’s Canal-Blueway Plan

Phil Riggan, who now writes the “Why Richmond, Why?” column for the Richmond Times Dispatch, earlier this week presented his final project for his VCU studies, a plan for making the Kanawha Canal between Oregon Hill and Bosher’s Dam into a recreational ‘blueway” for the James River Park system.

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Click here for a copy of his presentation. A full written report/plan should be available in the near future after Riggan makes some final edits.

A couple of points about the plan- It was made with the help of the Friends of James River Park and the James River Outdoor Coalition. Nathan Burrell, the Director of James River Park, afterwards remarked that he thought it was actionable and doable now, as long as there was permission of stakeholders (CSX, Department of Public Utilities (DPU), and others) and available financial resources. It has already received letters of support from the James River Association and the Falls of the James Scenic River Advisory Committee.


Riggan knows about the 1988 canal restoration plan (the one that Venture Richmond ignored) and says he has included it in his final report. It is noteworthy that his plan starts with “Mile 1” at the start of the North Bank Trail near the S. Cherry cul-de-sac, and not “Mile 0” near the Lee Bridge. Riggan’s plan recognizes that DPU needs to complete engineering in order to get the water level right for recreational traffic (elevation verified at 83 feet). Some Oregon Hill neighbors are suspicious that perhaps that was the real goal of the Tredegar Green amphitheater, to damage the historic Kanawha Canal to the point where now the terminus of the “rewatered” canal is at “Mile 1”. That said, Riggan’s plan comes from a recreational paddling sport perspective and if it is successful, it may increase pressure for FULLY renovating, re-watering, and re-connecting Richmond’s historic canals.