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Groups Band to Save River From Developers

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Richmond's historic and riverfront preservationists are going digital with an online petition drive to show city and state government that preservation isn't just for fringe groups and angry neighbors.

The effort's greater goal, organizers say, is to push for a regional vision that places appropriate emphasis on preservation of the river and greater acknowledgement of Richmond's potential as a historical tourism destination.

A coalition of a half-dozen area preservation groups began circulating their uber-petition this week, aiming to present thousands of names in favor of their effort.

“Our goal is over the summer to get a list of names so long … that there isn't a question about letting Echo Harbour go forward,” says Rick Tatnall, founder of Together We Stand, referencing a proposed condo project that's become the cause cAclA"bre and a rallying cry for a host of preservation and civic organizations across the region. “The goal is that [riverfront land] should never have left the public domain.”

The effort seeks to protect much more than just the proposed Echo Harbour property or the view from neighboring Church Hill, says Leighton Powell, who heads Scenic Virginia, one of the organizers behind the petition.

“We're at a critical stage in the development of Richmond,” Powell says, calling on other area civic groups to join the effort. “We want to make sure our history is honored and our river is recognized as the asset it is.”

Each of the participating organizations — so far consisting of the Alliance to Conserve Old Richmond Neighborhoods, Together We Stand, Scenic Virginia and the Partnership for Smarter Growth — has posted a link to the online petition on its Web site. 

Powell says that the effort is distinct from past efforts because it doesn't focus on a single issue, or emphasize participation by just a few neighborhoods or groups rallying around a cause. Instead, she says, “what's different about this is it really talks about the history and the riverfront and bringing it all together.”

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