November 8, 2023


Erin Hillert, Director of Communications
James River Association
Cell: 608.239.2644 | Email:

New River Education Center Opens in the Lynchburg Region

The James River Association’s Upper James River Education Center will serve as a bridge between the community and the river

AMHERST COUNTY, VA – Today, the James River Association (JRA) celebrated the grand opening of their Upper James River Education Center located in Amherst County’s Riveredge Park.

Through generous funding from local foundations and donors, including a Century Fund Grant from the Greater Lynchburg Community Foundation, JRA was able to create a dynamic campus of facilities including renovated indoor teaching space and offices, multiple outdoor classrooms, a new river access trail and landing, and a historic batteau.  

“The new Upper James River Center will strengthen the Lynchburg region’s connection to the James River and help it leverage all of the benefits that the river can provide,” said Bill Street, President and CEO of JRA. “We are incredibly grateful for all of the community support to make this project a reality.” 

The interior space of the existing facility has been transformed into a leading-edge classroom with interactive teaching tools and the latest technology that allows students to see their local environment from a global perspective.  A new covered patio and large folding doors opening on the river side of the building will allow educators to accommodate larger groups and avoid canceling trips due to inclement weather. Additionally, a new, outdoor pavilion showcasing views of the river and downtown Lynchburg, is designed to function as both an outdoor classroom and a covered stage for small concerts or community events. 

The entire campus of the River Center features environmentally-conscious details and landscaping that not only benefits the entire building but also serves as demonstration areas for learning activities such as native landscaping, energy and water conservation practices, and the installation of rain gardens.

The grounds of the River Center include a new trail and river landing completed in partnership with Amherst County, which improves access to an area of the river that offers easy and safe paddling conditions for beginner paddlers and helps facilitate JRA’s environmental education and public programs.

“The establishment of the Upper James River Center marks a significant milestone in our endeavor to bolster environmental education programs, underscoring our dedication to fostering a profound bond with nature,” expressed Charles Johnson, Upper James Education Manager for JRA. Johnson emphasized the center’s expanded capacity and innovative teaching resources, envisioning its potential to inspire students to become passionate advocates for environmental stewardship.

JRA also owns a hand-built batteau, added to its fleet in 2018. These vessels have been navigating the James River for centuries and helped establish the river culture and heritage of the region. The batteau provides a unique opportunity to engage students in river ecology lessons and science investigations, and also celebrate the local history. The batteau is a great asset for the community and will be made available regularly for public trips to help connect the community with the James.

“The James River has been the heart of the greater Lynchburg community since its beginnings, but some parts of the community have lost that connection,” said Rob Campbell, Upper James Senior Regional Manager for JRA. “The Upper James River Center will be a new gateway for both residents and visitors to learn about and enjoy this unique natural asset that is important to our history and vital to our future.”

The Upper James River Education Center is the first of three JRA River Education Centers to be opened across the watershed as part of its James Changer Campaign. The organization plans to finish the James A. Buzzard River Education Center in Richmond during the summer of 2024 and hopes to begin enhancements to its Lower James River Education Center in Williamsburg in the coming months. Through the James Changer Campaign, JRA also added the Longview, a 50-foot floating classroom, to its fleet of education vessels. To find out more, visit




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. With offices in Lynchburg, Scottsville, Richmond and Williamsburg, the James River Association is committed to protecting the James River and connecting people to it. For more information, visit