As the Monroe Park Conservancy continues to tighten its corporate control of Monroe Park, Oregon Hill residents are becoming increasingly discouraged and alarmed by how it is gradually stripping away its authentic, historic features. In addition to questionably removing healthy, old-growth trees, the fountain fence is no longer there. Supposedly, the 1920’s fencing is being stored offsite during park renovations and will be returned.
Laurel Street neighbor Charles Pool has used the Freedom of Information Act to gather more information. According to the Monroe Park drawings that he received, the fencing is being replaced and only the posts restored. This seems to conflict with specs provided where the decorative metal railings were to be repaired. It is doubtful that the City’s Urban Design Committee gave permission to replace this historic fencing. At 125 feet long, the fencing is substantial and curved to match the perimeter of the fountain.
Undoubtedly, low-grade hollow-core, easily damaged, pickets probably will replace the existing solid substantial fencing that could last hundreds of years if properly repaired and kept painted. The fencing is an important part of the historic fabric of Monroe Park, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Monroe Park fountain fencing pickets were dumped in outside storage at DPW storage at 810 Forest Lawn Drive. Photos from Charles Pool show that the pickets are all in excellent condition with practically no evidence of rust. (Many neighbors remember what happened to the stone balustrade that was removed at the Oregon Hill overlook- we were told that it was in “storage” but the stone later found a decade later in a heap behind the Carillon.)
It is important for the public to know that the authentic fencing is slated to be replaced without approval from the UDC.
It is the opinion of this community news site that the authentic, solid Monroe Park fencing should be fully restored, not replaced.
The unseasonably warm weather this past weekend made it seem more like May than February. Visitors flocked to river (and hopefully gained some appreciation for the need to protect it). While it was wonderful to see people getting outdoors and enjoying the riverfront, the crowds also illustrated overcrowding at the Belle Island parking lot. Streets in Oregon Hill were also overflowing with visitors’ vehicles.
This is a worsening problem that needs attention. Some have suggested building more parking lots, but more parking lots will not come close to addressing the existing pent-up demand for easier access to the riverfront. Besides, Dominion Energy and other entities already have parking lots that could possibly be made accessible to the public during weekend hours. The Virginia War Memorial is supposed to be building a large underground parking deck. Even including these, they are not enough for all the park visitors and they come with their sets of problems, such as more stormwater runoff and eradication of more natural habitat and features.
The Sierra Club Falls of the James group and the Oregon Hill Neighborhood Association have repeatedly suggested that mass transit be connected more to the river park system. In the City’s Riverfront Plan, plans for a newly renovated Shiplock Park and’Sugar Pad’ landing in the East End will benefit from a planned, nearby Bus Rapid Transit stop, but still nothing for Tredegar Street and Belle Island. Perhaps a seasonal van shuttle can be created as a public amenity. As GRTC meets and plans for its new route structure, there needs to be more consideration of this issue.
From WRIR radio show Open Source RVA:
Open Source RVA has been following the progress of the Monroe Park renovation for more than three years, and our next episode will explore breaking news on the controversial dealings of the private Monroe Park Conservancy, which has been given control of the park. Here is former Monroe Park Advisory Council member, and Sierra Club Green Giant award-winner, Todd Woodson on a hastily-scheduled meeting that is happening next week that would apparently (no pun intended) cover up the destruction of healthy trees in the park. He also has a call-to-action:
“As you’ve probably noticed, the historic tree canopy in Monroe Park has recently been decimated by the removal of mature healthy trees. Last December, 14 beautiful trees were destroyed illegally- 7 without the requisite variances and 7 after being declared dead, although photographic evidence refutes that claim.
Now, in typical Richmond form, there is an application before the Richmond Urban Design Committee (UDC) this Thursday, February 9, 2017 seeking approval of a component in the updated Monroe Park Plan called “Tree Removal Plan” – this “plan” seeks to legitimize this tragic removal of tree canopy, even though the trees were destroyed over a month ago without public notice. We’ve seen the tree damage Richmond is capable of – the Redskins Training Park as well as Kanawha Plaza and the Maggie Walker Memorial live oak.
I urge you to read the following paragraph and if you agree, please sign and forward to the UDC at Kathleen.Onufer@Richmondgov.com
‘Dear members of the Urban Design Committee
I am opposed to the component in the updated Monroe Park Plan seeking approval this Thursday, February 9, 2017 entitled “Tree Removal Plan”. Mature healthy trees were removed in December 2016 with no public notice or requisite variance. I support a full investigation into this loss which is not only aesthetic and ecological, but constitutes a financial loss to the taxpayers of Richmond as well. I also support holding those accountable for the replacement of these trees. Thank you,'”
This past week, the Sierra Club Falls of the James, the area’s oldest environmental organization, sent an open letter to City government concerning the deliberate cutting of trees in Monroe Park and the appearance of impropriety. In the letter, the Sierra Club suggested, among other actions, that the City’s lease with the Monroe Park Conservancy be terminated. The Shockoe Examiner posted the entire letter, minus some of the maps and photos. It is noteworthy that so far there has not been more media coverage of this detailed call for accountability and transparency from the new Mayoral administration.
Furthermore, today the Sierra Club Falls of the James announced that Oregon Hill neighbor Todd Woodson would be one of the recipients of the prestigious Green Giant awards. The award is being given in recognition of Woodson’s previous and current advocacy for Monroe Park and urban trees (including his previous service on City Council’s Monroe Parks Advisory Commission), as well as his promotion of animal welfare with the Richmond Animal Advocacy Alliance.
In the announcement, the SCOFOJ stated that City Parks worker Wyndham Price would also be receiving a Green Giant award posthumously. Price was an ardent environmentalist who helped with a variety of projects within and outside the park system. He was a familiar face around Oregon Hill and he will be missed.
The next SCFOJ monthly membership meeting, to be held Tuesday, February 14th (yes, Valentine’s Day) at 7 pm at the Science Museum of Virginia, will include a brief award ceremony for our Green Giants. The meeting is free and open to the public.
From FaceBook Event page:
Come join your fellow Trail Users for an open discussion about the Richmond Trail System. Hosted by the City of Richmond & James River Park Trail Crew this moderated forum will touch on…
1) The History, ownership, and roles of the park system
2) Diversity of users, their needs, and park volume
3) Sustainability and trail design
A Q&A session will allow the public to voice their ideas & concerns. Please visit https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/GY27L7D to submit.
Wednesday at 7 PM – 8:30 PM
Byrd Park Roundhouse
700 S Davis Ave, Richmond, Virginia 23220
Yesterday, some Shiver In The River participants took part in litter cleanups around the riverfront and area. They did a great job and deserve appreciation.
More alarmingly, while cleaning up the overlook area and hill slope, they did find some used needles and a flash bang grenade. Police were called and they disposed of the grenade.
Here’s a historic photo to warm you up this winter day.
Elite athletes chugging warm beers in the Monroe Park cruiser race. They had to chug a beer, do a lap or two, chug another beer, repeat until the beer is gone.
Photo and description from William Pickett.
The Times Dispatch has an article about concerns for dogs walking on the newly-opened T. Tyler Potterfield Memorial Bridge.
It does a good job of exploring the concerns and the responses. In conclusion, the City does not disallow dogs on the new bridge, but there are reasons for dog owners to be careful.
This might be a good time to remind everyone of the meeting next week on riverfront development.
(Ed. note: my own personal experience is that when I walked my dogs on the bridge, I did not see any evident injury, but did notice their apprehension. I will certainly be more careful in the future and may not take the dogs on the bridge again.)