September 30, 2021


 Erin Hillert, James River Association
(email)  (phone) 608.239.2644

Joy Niehaus, Amherst County
(email)  (phone) 434.960.9400

Amherst County and the James River Association Celebrate Groundbreaking of New Access to the James and Plans for an Education Center

AMHERST COUNTY, VA – Amherst County and the James River Association (JRA) are celebrating the groundbreaking of imminent construction at Riveredge Park in Madison Heights that will expand public river access to more people and serve a greater variety of river users.

Jennifer Moore,  Amherst County Board of Supervisors Chair and representative of the Madison Heights Voting District, said “The Board’s expansion of features at Riveredge Park continues.  This groundbreaking represents more river access, more educational opportunities and more excellent facilities for public use.  Our close working partnership with the James River Association continues to reap benefits for the people of Madison Heights, the county as a whole and our neighbors across the river.  We are excited to be hosting the Upper James River Center and to be a partner in expanding access and use of the Middle and Upper James to all.”

The new river access will be a paved pathway down to a landing that will be equipped with a ramp to launch canoes, kayaks and stand up paddleboards.  This new landing will allow boats to launch above the rapids at the city’s Langley fountain making it easier to paddle upstream to Scotts Mill Dam. It will also have a floating dock to allow easy boarding onto JRA’s batteau. Batteau are shallow draft but very stable river crafts that were first built in Amherst County and used during the period from 1775 to 1840 to transport tobacco and other cargo on the James River and its tributaries. Adding the batteau program to JRA’s education and James River Adventures programs will open river experiences to a broader audience, including those with physical disabilities or small children. 

JRA also announced plans for improvements at Riveredge Park to establish the Upper James River Center.  The Upper James River Center will turn the existing building into a state of the art environmental education center to strengthen current education programs and serve as a focal point for river activities in the region. 

“Amherst County Public Schools has been a partner with the James River Association for the past four years,” said Dr. William Wells, Assistant Superintendent of Amherst County Public Schools. “The James River Association does a wonderful job engaging students through hands-on outdoor experiences and helps students connect to the nature world. Amherst County schools is excited to see the new access point at Riversedge Park.”

The new facility will include aquariums featuring fish from the James River and new technology to help students understand the connection of their local waters to the entire James River, Chesapeake Bay and the world.  A new pavilion will also be added to serve as an outdoor classroom and can host community events as well.  All of these elements have tremendous potential to increase the impact of JRA’s education programs, attract new users, bolster tourism in the Amherst County and Lynchburg regions, and strengthen the community’s connection to the river.

“The Upper James River Center will help connect many more people to the James River and enhance all of our programs in the region,” said Bill Street, CEO for the James River Association. “Our goal is to ensure that everyone living around the James River is introduced to the river and enjoys a lifetime of benefits that it can provide.”

JRA’s Upper James RIver Center is part of an overall campaign called the James Changer Campaign that will expand JRA’s current programs, add three educational river centers along the James River, restore hundreds of acres of critical streamside and shoreline vegetated buffers and build JRA’s endowment.  The total fundraising goal for the three-year campaign is $20 million and JRA has raised $17.5 million to date.  

For more information about JRA and its programs, visit

ABOUT THE JAMES RIVER ASSOCIATION: The James River Association is a member-supported nonprofit organization founded in 1976 to serve as a guardian and voice for the James River. Throughout the James River’s 10,000-square mile watershed, the James River Association works toward its vision of a fully healthy James River supporting thriving communities. The James River Association believes that “when you change the James, the James changes you”. With offices in Lynchburg, Richmond, Williamsburg, and Scottsville, the James River Association is committed to protecting the James River and connecting people to it. For more information visit

ABOUT AMHERST COUNTY:  Amherst County’s vision is to be the community of choice for people to live, work, play and learn.  It wants to be known for its safety, neighborly atmosphere, connectedness; its business, education, recreational opportunities, and passion for its natural beauty. This project is part of a larger program in Amherst County to expand and enhance Riveredge Park and its entire riverfront for the enjoyment of Amherst County and Lynchburg City residents.  The James River is the boundary of the county’s entire southern and eastern border.