Richmond’s riverfront and James River Park System are on their way to becoming more accessible thanks to action taken by City Council earlier this week. On Tuesday, May 26, 2020, Richmond’s City Council adopted an ordinance that restores funding to the Universal Access at Huguenot Flatwater and Tredegar/Brown’s Island Accessible Walk Improvements projects. Both projects are closer to becoming realities with additional funding commitments from the City of Richmond.

 Facilities designed and constructed to be universally accessible accommodate people of all abilities. Many access sites along the James River and its tributaries were not designed and constructed to be universally accessible. In fact, the concrete access ramp at Reedy Creek is the only universally accessible river access facility in the James River Park System. By reengineering existing access sites and designing new sites to be universally accessible, we can ensure everyone can enjoy the James.

The Universal Access at Huguenot Flatwater project will replace the existing stairs and canoe slide leading to the James River with a universally accessible concrete ramp. When complete, the project will allow people of all abilities to easily launch a paddlecraft and enjoy the James. The Tredegar/Brown’s Island Accessible Walk Improvements project will improve pedestrian infrastructure and safety along Tredegar Street near Brown’s Island, a popular venue for recreation and events on Richmond’s riverfront.

 The two accessibility projects were partially funded in Richmond’s FY 2020 Capital Improvement Plan. Funding for both projects was reduced to balance the City’s FY 2020 budget during a City Council budget work session last year. The ordinance adopted by City Council on Tuesday evening restores $180,000 to the Universal Access at Huguenot Flatwater project, for a total contribution of $330,000, and $282,558 to the Tredegar/Brown’s Island Accessible Walk project, for a total of $400,000.

 An accessible James River that provides opportunities for people to develop an appreciation for the river and its natural resources is an ideal the James River Association works toward everyday. The James River Association has been a proponent of both projects and staff members have worked alongside leaders of the James River Outdoor Coalition (JROC) and other organizations to advocate for them. The James River Association is appreciative of Mayor Levar Stoney and Richmond’s City Council for supporting projects that will break down barriers to enjoying the James River when they are complete.