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Conservation groups announce purchase of riverfront property for education center and future parkland.


The Conservation Fund announced today the purchase of a 5.2-acre Dock Street Property on the James River downtown where it plans to build an environmental education center on a portion of the land. This is a strategic effort between the Conservation Fund, Capital Region Land Conservancy and James River Association, who jointly announced it via press release earlier today.

The acquisition will have benefits for the community to include "new public access to the riverfront, enhancing the Virginia Capital Trail and youth education programs and safeguarding the historic 'view that named Richmond.'"

According to the release,"conservation easements will be placed on the land to prevent future commercial development of the site and ensure public ownership of the riverfront from Rocketts Landing to Browns Island and the Belle Isle pedestrian bridge. They will also support water quality for more than 2.6 million people who live in the 10,000-square-mile James River watershed, as well as wildlife like the Atlantic sturgeon."

“The ability to help our partners purchase and secure key properties like this one quickly and effectively is what the Conservation Fund was built for,” said Heather Richards, Mid-Atlantic Regional Director at the Fund, in the release.

JRA will purchase approximately one acre of the land from the Conservation Fund to establish "a new river center for environmental education. The program will focus on connecting Richmond youth with river-based, hands-on learning experiences while inspiring confidence, ecological understanding, nature appreciation, and conservation action." Read more about it here.

According to the release, the remaining 5.2 acres will be transferred to the City of Richmond to become part of the James River Park System where it will be opened for public riverfront recreation and to "secure a critical link of the Virginia Capital Trail—a 51.2-mile trail that connects Richmond to Williamsburg. This effort will allow the trail to be moved entirely off city streets and onto waterfront parkland."

More quotes from the release:

“Our goal is to ensure that every child growing up in ‘America’s Best River Town’ is introduced to the James River and enjoys a lifetime of benefits that the river can provide,” said Bill Street, JRA’s Chief Executive Officer. “Building a leading-edge education center on Richmond’s riverfront will expand our ability to engage local youth, particularly in the historically underserved East End.”

“The James River Center represents a great opportunity for Richmond Public Schools students to take part in meaningful environmental science education that focuses on the issues and resources within their city,” said Josh Bearman, Science Curriculum and Instructional Specialist with Richmond Public Schools. “Its presence so close to downtown will greatly increase the possibility of access to high impact field experiences on the river, a crucial piece of RPS Science's goals for place-based learning.”