Monroe Park Conservancy Shortfall And Tree Removal

Neighbors are still very disheartened by the Monroe Park Conservancy. They keep contacting City Council members about their actions.

From Cherry Street neighbor and Oregon Hill Neighborhood Association president Todd Woodson:

Dear Councilman Agelasto,

As you know, I recently sent a list of concerns/questions to Councilperson Gray and MPC president Alice Massie regarding the renovation of Monroe Park which is scheduled to be completed in Spring of this year. Although the request for information has not been responded to, the MPC website has just been updated not only to include a new board chair for Dominion Energy, but also the revelation that the Conservancy is now short $1.5 million to complete the renovation “with all amenities”. You may have noticed that work in the park has slowed to a crawl.

The City of Richmond has already made up well over $800,000.00 in shortfalls for the park redo in addition to over $3 million in infrastructure and “soft” costs.

The Falls of the James chapter of the Sierra Club has already called for the termination of the lease to the MPC and I add my voice to that end. Monroe Park is Richmond’s oldest and most historic city park and although the MPC doesn’t get control through the lease until after the renovation, they have meddled constantly with changes to the master plan to include a most unfortunate destruction of much of the old growth tree canopy as well as other historically inappropriate park “features”.

Details of the shortfall may be found here:

Other concerns include inconsistencies of the design changes with approved master plan and work documents.

The current situation is extremely troubling as is the persistent lack of transparency and community involvement with the project. Please take action on behalf of your constituents.

Thank you,

Charles T. Woodson.

He followed up with this:

In addition to the MPC previously having posted their completion of fund raising on their website, they, along with Dwight Jones, made this press release in 2016 on the completion of the fundraising for the park renovation.

The “amenities” they refer to in the update on the shortfall are garbage like the gazebo and the “rill” that the citizens have spoken up against time and time again. I’ve heard you use the meaningful phrase “get back to basics” in reference to city government policy. I truly believe we need to get back to basics and restore the park as the community vetted master plan envisioned, not with architectural detritus and treeless corporate campgrounds. Ms Massie has not approached the public for financial support because she doesn’t care what the community says and prefers her corporate funds. Instead, she has fomented non transparency and divisiveness and she has indulged in back room shady corporate deals and unnecessary features/alterations of the master plan. I know you see this. Hopefully, now that there is another substantial shortfall the rest of council will see the wisdom of getting back to basics and honoring a historically sensitive renovation of the park. Please terminate the lease, especially now that there is a real parks director.

Thanks again.

And if that was not enough…on February 18, Todd added this:

Although the planning commission requested that the Monroe Park “Conservancy” consider alternatives to the destruction of a beautiful healthy and mature Magnolia as well as a nearby Maple, this is what is left of the Maggie. It was destroyed over the last two days…

The lack of coverage in the local media is troubling.

Belle Isle POW Graves

With the Artifacts Roadshow this weekend, perhaps this is a good time to share this fascinating blog post about using a high resolution Gardner image to find the actual names on a few of the tombstones of prisoners buried on Belle Isle during the Civil War.

From John Banks’ Civil War Blog:
Exploring photo of soldiers’ graves at Rebel prison in Richmond

On April 8, 1865, days after the fall of Richmond, Alexander Gardner captured scenes on Belle Isle, a 54-acre island in the James River opposite the former Confederate capital, where thousands of Union soldiers were imprisoned from 1862-65. Among the images Gardner shot was the poignant photograph at the top of this post of a graveyard for Union soldiers, many of whom died of disease, starvation or other inhumane treatment on the island that was home to nearly 10,000 prisoners of war at its maximum capacity. In the image, heaps of earth and crude, wooden headboards mark the final resting places of dozens of soldiers.

(Alexander Gardner/Library of Congress collection)

Holly Street Playground and Ravine

In response to recent concerns, it look like Holly Street Playground area will be receiving more attention. Incoming Oregon Hill Neigborhood Association (OHNA) President Todd Woodson has requested a structural assessment from the City on the embankment that supports the playground. He is interested in the possibility of making this area, which is sort of an extension of S. Cherry St, more of a public walking trail than just a utility alley. Other neighbors have suggestions that include repaving the basketball court and establishing a tool lending program. These ideas will probably be discussed at the upcoming OHNA meeting next Tuesday.

This is the 1867 Michie Map showing the ravine that was filled in to make Holly Street playground. Thanks to neighbor Charles Pool for this…

Complaints About Holly Street Playground

Some complaints about the condition and use of Holly Street Playground were recently posted on

I am appalled by the condition of our neighborhood playground. I have contacted the City of Richmond Dept of Parks and Rec regarding the filth and takeover by skateboarders and have received no response for one week.

There is vandalized material on the “basketball court” and dog poop is everywhere.
I have witnessed people smoking pot and “playing” with the swings in a rough way that could damage the equipment.
As a taxpayer, I feel that this area should be more closely monitored for littering and misuse of the property. I would appreciate any feedback from local residents.
Thank you!

Certainly this is not the first time that concerns like this have been expressed about Holly Street Playground. There has been a lot of tension in the past about how different ages have used and misused this space.

James River Park System Adopts Leave No Trace Principles

From Councilperson Parker Agelasto’s FaceBook page:

Richmond VA Parks and Recreation’s James River Park System (JRPS) Adopts Leave No Trace Principles
Beginning in 2018, the JRPS became a “Leave No Trace Parks and Municipalities Partner.” This initiative marks a big change for the JRPS and goes beyond the “Pack it in, Pack it out” rule many of us are familiar with. Leave No Trace is built on seven core principles that provide comprehensive guidance on how to enjoy our natural world in a sustainable way: minimizing human-created impacts.
Most noticeable will be the removal of the many standalone trash huts which will be replaced with centralized dumpsters, requiring Park users to either carry their waste to these dumpsters, or even better, home with them. Current plans include dumpsters to be placed at these locations:
• Pony Pasture Parking Lot
• Huguenot Flatwater Parking Lot
• Belle Isle Pedestrian bridge (north end)
We encourage all visitors to the Park to get involved with this bold initiative! Find out more about the Leave No Trace and Center for Outdoor Ethics at

Street Closure Next Week

From City press release:

For Immediate Release

December 20, 2017
For more information, contact:
Paige Hairston – (804) 646-3659

Street Closure – West Main Street

WHO: City of Richmond Department of Public Works

WHAT: Street Closure

WHEN: Tuesday, December 26 to Friday, December 29 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

WHERE: West Main Street between Belvidere and Laurel streets

BACKGROUND: The aforementioned area will be closed to install new sewer connections. This work is part of the Monroe Park renovation project. Westbound traffic on Main Street will be detoured to West Broad Street. Please drive carefully and follow the detour signs.


Larus Park Revisited

Again, public park Larus Park is no where near Oregon Hill, but it is something that should concern all citizens.

More correspondence from Laurel Street neighbor Charles Pool:

It is incredible that the DPU negotiated a lower reimbursement rate for the trees removed in Larus Park than the trees in Bryan Park in part because the trees in Larus Park were not planted in “in a linear arrangement.” [Where is it written that trees planted in a straight line are seven times more valuable per caliper inch diameter than trees not planted in a straight line?]

Why was the DPU and not the Urban Forestry division negotiating the reimbursement price for the trees?


From: Green, Rosemary H. – DPU
Sent: Friday, December 15, 2017 3:39 PM
To: Charles Pool; Turk Sties
Cc: Agelasto, Parker C. – City Council; Larson, Kristen N. – City Council; Gray, Kimberly B. – City Council; Cuffee-Glenn, Selena – CAO; Steidel, Robert C. – DPU; John Zeugner; Jeremy Lazarus
Subject: RE: 2017-208

Mr. Pool – The Urban Forestry guidelines for tree replacements are intended for trees that are removed from the public right-of-way. These are generally applied to trees in a linear arrangement and are for project areas that are usually very small in size. Projects that are outside of the right-of-way are evaluated on a case by case basis. DPU believes that a 3 to 1 replacement of mature trees for the tree area that will be impacted by construction is a fair negotiation. There are no changes planned for the Ordinances related to this project.

Rosemary “Posy” Green, PE
City of Richmond, Department of Public Utilities
Interim Director
804-646-8517 (Office)
804-317-0283 (Mobile)

From: Charles Pool []
Sent: Friday, December 15, 2017 11:46 AM
To: Green, Rosemary H. – DPU; Turk Sties
Cc: Agelasto, Parker C. – City Council; Larson, Kristen N. – City Council; Gray, Kimberly B. – City Council; Cuffee-Glenn, Selena – CAO; Steidel, Robert C. – DPU; John Zeugner; Jeremy Lazarus
Subject: Re: 2017-208

Dear Ms. Green,

Why did the city negotiate an astonishingly lower rate of reimbursement with Chesterfield for trees proposed to be removed in Larus Park than the city negotiated with Henrico for trees removed in Bryan Park?

Henrico paid $169 per caliper inch for trees removed from Bryan Park for utility work. By contrast, Chesterfield would pay only $25 per caliper inch for the trees proposed to be removed from Larus Park.

Using the formula that Henrico paid (at $169 per caliper inch) Chesterfield would pay $619,554 for the trees proposed to be removed in Larus Park. The trees proposed to be removed in Larus Park have a combined diameter of 3,666 caliper inches. Instead, the city has negotiated a much lower reimbursement of only $91,136

The city determined in Bryan Park that the $256 dollar amount that you cite would be the replacement value for only a 1-1/2″ diameter tree. All of the 356 trees proposed to be removed in Larus Park are larger, some as large as 28″ in diameter.

If Chesterfield pays the city’s previously accepted reimbursement rate of $169 per caliper inch, the city would not have to pay any towards the land offset of the 18 additional acres.

Please let me know if the ordinance 2017-208 will be amended to reflect the reimbursement rate of $169 per caliper inch that was negotiated with Henrico County.

Thank you for your assistance.



From: Green, Rosemary H. – DPU
Sent: Friday, December 15, 2017 11:20 AM
To: Turk Sties; Charles Pool
Cc: Agelasto, Parker C. – City Council; Larson, Kristen N. – City Council; Gray, Kimberly B. – City Council; Cuffee-Glenn, Selena – CAO; Steidel, Robert C. – DPU
Subject: RE: 2017-208

Mr. Sties – I will answer your second question first. When the FY2018 General Fund Budget was adopted, it assumed an amount for the PILOT payment tied to the DPU Water Utility for FY2018. Using four months of actual water sales for FY18, we have projected that the Water portion of the FY18 PILOT Payment will exceed the budget by at least $328,864. We have recommended that this part of the payment in excess of budget be applied to the Parks budget, along with the payment from Chesterfield County, to allow Parks to purchase the 18 acre parcel from the Redford Land Trust.

In regard to the fee paid to reimburse for the trees that will be removed when the pump station and ground storage tank are built, we looked first at the cost per replacement tree ($256 x 356 trees removed). We compared that value to the amount of forested land that payment would purchase. At a purchase price of $420,000, the Redford Land Trust property was valued at approximately $23,000 per acre and therefore, the Chesterfield payment was paying for over four acres of forested land and seemed a reasonable payment (3 to 1 recovery of what was being removed). This solution also meant that the replacement trees (land purchase) would have a direct benefit for the residents living closest to where the trees were being removed.

The 2021 date is tied to when the pump station and water tank are scheduled to come on-line. That is, when the asset is put into service. This is in keeping with how our water contract has managed payments for the past 20 years.

Rosemary “Posy” Green, PE
City of Richmond, Department of Public Utilities
Interim Director
804-646-8517 (Office)
804-317-0283 (Mobile)

From: Turk Sties []
Sent: Thursday, December 14, 2017 2:46 PM
To: Green, Rosemary H. – DPU; Charles Pool; Agelasto, Parker C. – City Council; Larson, Kristen N. – City Council; Gray, Kimberly B. – City Council
Subject: 2017-208

Ms. Green, please help me understand ordinance 2017-087. 1) the dollar offer for reimbursement for lost trees seems low compared to other similar tree loss reimbursements, e.g. with Henrico County at Bryan Park, and 2) How is $328,864 being obtained through PILOT fees, is the DPU raising the PILOT rate charged to the County? Is the City actually receiving an additional $328,864 that it would otherwise not receive from the county because of water sales?

I feel I am missing something.

p.s.Congratulations on receiving $420,000 but getting a “Revenue to City” of $4,103,000.00, but why are we waiting until 2021? Couldn’t the County at least pay the $420,000 a bit sooner?

Turk Sties

Drone Flight Video

From description on YouTube

On this windy and quite cold day I took a flight with my DJI Spark after first taking the same flight on the same route with my XIAOMI MI 4K from the Oregon Hill neighborhood in Richmond VIrginia to the MLK bridge across the James river. This is a particularly beautiful spot in our city and many people take photos from it or of it. I am trying to learn the ins and outs of photography as well as learning how to fly a drone (so please try to be patient while watching knowing that improvements are coming in fast!).