Gift Protects Important Public Access to James River Park System
Richmond, VA – Richmond’s nationally celebrated James River Park System grows by a few acres today; private landowners have donated nearly 3.5 acres in a crucial area of the park system.
Buttermilk Trail is an essential part of the James River Park Trail loop that Men’s Journal named one of the best in the country in 2021. It wasn’t long ago, however, that portions of this trail were at risk of being closed due to liability concerns from public use, organized races, and events that brought more than 60,000 people onto private property. The City of Richmond was delaying acceptance of a 10’ wide trail easement despite owners seeking city-provided liability coverage since 2007.
Such was the case of Josh and Carrie Belt Rogers who wanted to allow for continued use of 0.3 miles of the Buttermilk West Trail on their property from a trailhead located at Westover Hills Boulevard on the south end of the Boulevard Bridge. It was not until 2015 that the Rogers were able to establish a recreational easement with the City of Richmond. Such agreement secured the use of the trails though they also contained termination clauses that could again threaten the closure of Buttermilk Trail.
Today, the Rogers have taken the ultimate step of ensuring the public will forever have access to the Buttermilk Trail from Westover Hills Boulevard. The Rogers have subdivided their property and donated 3.46 acres, including the entirety of the trail network located on their property, to the Capital Region Land Conservancy (“CRLC”) to be protected in perpetuity and be added into the James River Park System (“JRPS’) conservation easement upon transfer to the City of Richmond. In so doing, the Rogers are fulfilling a promise to keep the trails open to the public and taking action to implement the James River Park Master Plan by increasing the acreage of the park.
“We have been proud to protect the public use of these trails for the past 15 years and are thrilled to share that this land will be conserved as parkland for all to enjoy for generations to come,” shared the Rogers.
“Carrie and I grew up in this neighborhood—Westover Hills—independently developing our love of the outdoors by playing in these woods and hiking these trails when they were still just animal trails,” said Josh Rogers.
“Residents of the 4th District, and the City, routinely prioritize the park not just as a neighborhood amenity but as a regional attraction and economic driver for outdoor and adventure tourism boasting over 2 million visitors annually,” said 4th District Council member Kristen Nye. “On behalf of so many users, we thank the Rogers for addressing the need to expand the park through their generous donation.”
Friends of James River Park provided a grant of $25,000 to CRLC to support due diligence expenses to facilitate this transaction. “Opportunities to expand JRPS are usually pretty hard to come by, so we are grateful for the chance to help CRLC make this a reality. We really appreciate the hard work that went into this. I know our visitors appreciate having a little bit of extra room, and the comfort of knowing that this segment of Buttermilk will forever remain open to the public” said Josh Stutz, Executive Director of Friends of James River Park.
Additionally, the Rogers gift is helping to save the highest priority conservation value lands in the Commonwealth of Virginia by protecting scenic as well as cultural and historic resources identified in ConserveVirginia 3.0, a tool consisting of 24 mapped data inputs that rank the top 10%. The property also ranks for important forestlands for conservation and land that is essential to maintain or improve water quality according to the Virginia ConservationVision, a digital atlas for green infrastructure planning developed by the Virginia Natural Heritage Program.
“Access to the outdoors is important to a healthy and vibrant community and protecting land from development is essential in allowing the trees and soil function to improve air and water quality” said Parker Agelasto, Executive Director of the Capital Region Land Conservancy. “Where the public has been able to enjoy these benefits for years through the agreements the Rogers had with the City of Richmond, it is truly their gift of this land to CRLC that assures all of us that these privileges will last in perpetuity. For that we will forever be thankful for Josh and Carrie and their family.”
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About Capital Region Land Conservancy (CRLC): Incorporated in March 2005 as a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, CRLC seeks to conserve and protect the natural and historic land and water resources of Virginia’s Capital Region for the benefit of current and future generations. Visit www.capitalregionland.org to learn more about CRLC’s land conservation programs.
About Friends of James River Park (FOJRP): Friends of James River Park is the largest nonprofit support organization for the James River Park System (JRPS). With a mission that focuses on protecting, expanding, and enhancing the JRPS, FOJRP works with the City of Richmond to implement projects that make a real difference in the Park. 2022 marks 50 years since the creation of the JRPS, and FOJRP are excited to be dedicating additional resources to park expansion and improvement. For more information, visit https://jamesriverpark.org/.
For more information: Contact Parker C. Agelasto, Executive Director at firstname.lastname@example.org and 202-302-0153
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