Virginia Guard engineers clear undergrowth for community reclamation project
Image by Virginia Guard Public Affairs
Williams: Projects could spur revitalization on North Side
Mike’s Take – Cannon Creek Greenway (Added: July 23, 2010)
By MICHAEL PAUL WILLIAMS | TIMES-DISPATCH COLUMNIST
Once upon a time, suburban farmers traveled Richmond-Henrico Turnpike by horse-drawn wagon en route to the produce markets of Shockoe Bottom.
More recently, this North Side Richmond area known as Cannon Creek Greenway — a 1.4-mile stretch that includes a forested ravine between Valley Road to the south and Craigie Avenue to the north — has been a dumping ground for tires, mattresses, furniture and other debris tossed from the turnpike.
"You can put the energy and effort into cleaning it up, and you come back the next day and you see the trash that has been left," lamented Raymond Turner, president of the Highland View Civic Association.
But yesterday, members of the Virginia Army National Guard blazed a trail for Cannon Creek Greenway — not as a community eyesore but as a key to the revitalization of this area of North Side.
Members of the Guard’s 180th Horizontal Construction Company and its 276th Engineer Battalion began clearing a 20-foot-wide path above the creek between East Brookland Park Boulevard and Dove Street — the first phase of a plan to create a park with picnic areas, benches and encircling nature trails to be utilized by students.
Across from this park, new homes — part of a planned Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority mixed-income development — would face the greenway.
"That means a lot of young families, as I can see it, and this park will be a real plus for them," said Charles Price of the Virginia chapter of the Sierra Club.
On higher ground across the turnpike from the proposed park, plans call for the construction of a bicycle and pedestrian trail. Officials hope this bike path might someday link to the East Coast Greenway and to the Virginia Capital Trail running from Richmond to Jamestown and Williamsburg.
"That’s thousands of bikers coming from Maine to Florida," with the resulting economic benefits, Price said.
The Richmond City Council is slated to vote Monday on whether to endorse the cycling and pedestrian trail.
Councilwoman Ellen F. Robertson sees the plans as a means "to get people to get reoriented to the Cannon Creek as a linear park they can enjoy," instead of a dumping ground.
Throughout the city, "we have not used our green space effectively to attract pedestrians," Robertson said. As a result, such spaces too often have attracted crime or garbage instead.
Turner stressed that no transformation can take place unless residents take ownership by discouraging further roadside dumping. But standing beneath a canopy of centuries-old trees that Price described as "like a nature cathedral," people dared to dream.
In an area once occupied by since-demolished Dove Court, Carrington Gardens and Northridge, the RRHA is slated to begin construction next year on low-income, work-force and market-rate apartments and single-family homes.
The city is trying to come up with creative financing for a new school at the former Virginia National Guard Armory site to replace nearby Overby-Sheppard Elementary in Highland Park, Robertson said.
She projects that all the pieces along Cannon Creek Greenway could be in place by 2015.
Price, meanwhile, envisions a day when suburban cyclists use the Cannon Creek trail to commute to work downtown, alongside the turnpike that once carried farmers to the market.
Still time to apply for cycle challenge
There is still time to get involved with the Community Cycle Challenge. 2011/01/10 10:53:12
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Categories: Biking Legislation Tags: 276th Engineer Battalion, apply, Army National Guard, Cannon Creek, challenge, Community Eyesore, Craigie, Cycle, Cycle Challenge, Dispatch Columnist, Dove Street, Horse Drawn Wagon, Park Boulevard, Pedestrian Trail, Picnic Areas, Project Image, Proposed Park, Reclamation Project, Richmond Area, Richmond Redevelopment And Housing Authority, Sierra Club, Still, time, Virginia Army, Virginia Chapter