Style magazine has a nice interview with Beth Marschak, one of the founders of the Richmond Earth Day celebration (and a former Oregon Hill resident).
Here’s an excerpt:
Beth Marschak, now an HIV prevention specialist, was 20 when she helped organize the city’s inaugural Earth Day at Monroe Park in 1971.
In a nod to Saturday’s yearly acknowledgement of the planet, Style spoke with Marschak about some of the progress made — and to worry about the future.
Style: Why did you want to bring Earth Day to Richmond?
Marschak: I was in a student group at Westhampton-University of Richmond called S.H.A.M.E – Studying and Halting the Assault on Man and Environment. That was back when people liked names like that.
Most of the people in our group were science majors. I was a chemistry major at that time. People had a fairly sophisticated view of the problems affecting the environment and ecology from a scientific standpoint.
And, of course, if you looked at the James River back then, it was terrible. Sewage was going directly into the river. You would not want to get into it. Now people tube down it and swim in it and fish. You could not do that then. You wouldn’t put a toe in it.
So it was really one of those things where, right here in this area, you could see some major impacts from not having policies protecting clean water, clean air.
She also recently wrote a letter to the Planning Commission, asking that they spare remaining mature trees in Monroe Park. However the Planning Commission voted in favor of removing the trees.
The City’s Planning Commission yesterday ignored the recommendation of the Urban Design Committee and the staff of the planning department to consider alternatives to cutting down the magnolia and maple trees in Monroe Park for temporary tents.
On Sunday, at the Monument Avenue Easter Parade, the Sierra Club Falls of the James collected many petition signatures in favor of saving the the trees.
It will be really awful if the City continues to ignore PUBLIC concern for trees on PUBLIC property.
The photo below of the maple tree was previously published in the Times Dispatch:
Paraphrased from Richard Lee Bland:
This april 1926 Times Dispatch article documents the Old Fairgrounds when the fair occupied a much wider area along Belvidere street…notice the reference to Banktown, situated where Jefferson Davis’ circle is in Hollywood Cemetery.
Photo courtesy of William Pickett
After prolonged discussion between local history groups, the City government, and the Monroe Park Conservancy, plans are reportedly coming together for the staging of a historic reenactment of World War I trench warfare in Monroe Park this coming Thursday. This event will correspond with other World War I centennial commemoration events happening throughout the Commonwealth.
As one third-party observer put it:
After so much controversy regarding the taking down of trees and beginning of serious renovations for Monroe Park, I guess they thought they should make lemonade out of lemons and invite hobbyists and re-enactors to make use of the current state of the park by demonstrating the World War One innovation of trench warfare. They want to increase and diversify uses of the park going forward and in their ongoing conversations with the City, this was suggested as an educational opportunity for Richmond.
A local design firm has been engaged to set up barbwire and pillbox forts around perimeters, but they are still waiting for decisions on the use of replica tanks and inert mustard gas.
There will be some corporately-sponsored V.I.P. tents set up and rented during the event, which should help make Monroe Park a profit center and encourage the privatization of other public City parks.
The announcement of the reenactment event has already brought different responses. A gaggle of Oregon Hill residents have vowed to bring an old-style protest along Main Street, while some elderly Prestwould Condominium residents, a few of whom still have personal recollections of WWI, look forward to their bird’s eye view of the spectacle. ‘White helmets’ are organizing to protect nearby homeless.
Interestingly enough, the City’s Urban Design Committee is scheduled to meet this same Thursday, and while trench warfare is not on the agenda, some new Monroe Park plans are.
This past Tuesday at the Oregon Hill Neighborhood Organization meeting there was a design presentation on a proposal for Monroe Park. The response has not been favorable and neighbors are urging concerned citizens to send comments in to Urban Design Committee about this proposal. An opposition letter from OHNA is forthcoming.
From one neighbor:
URGENT!! This Thursday morning, April 6th, the Urban Design Committee will decide on an application to replace a children’s resource center in Monroe Park with a corporate event center call “Laurel Street Venue”. They also want to destroy two more healthy mature trees in the process. Please email the UDC secretary Joshua.Son@richmondgov.com to register your objection. There is a sample letter below you are welcome to copy. Please act NOW!!!
This morning Richmond police converged and roped off an area on the North Bank Trail, beneath where S. Laurel ends in Riverside Park.
No information was given, but it looked like it might have been a death scene given the ambulance and numbers of investigators.
Will update as more info becomes available.
Update: Unofficial reports are that it is a death investigation but foul play is not suspected.
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.