A Reminder that the James River is Richmond’s Greatest Asset

Laura and I ate lunch today at the Conch Republic at Rocketts Landing and enjoyed the perfect temperature, delightful breeze and wonderful views while seated outside on the deck. Rocketts, a residential-retail development retrofitted from old industrial acreage just south of the Richmond city line, didn’t exist when I moved to Richmond three decades ago. But it’s thriving now — and it serves as a great example of how this metro area has changed for the better.

The Capital Trail, which leads to Williamsburg, is visible in the photo above. It wasn’t as busy as Arlington’s biking trail along the Potomac, but we did see many dozens of bikers. We also saw kayakers and recreational boaters on the river today. The Richmond Rowing Club’s crew team puts its sculls into the water nearby as well. Biking, hiking, kayaking, rowing and motor boating — those are amenities that people value when they decide where to live. They comprise the soft infrastructure of the 21st-century knowledge economy. For a long time, Richmond didn’t have it. At last it does.

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14 responses to “A Reminder that the James River is Richmond’s Greatest Asset

  1. here’s an activity that young Millennials find attractive… along with the other bike, ped, and now SUPs!!!

  2. Nice creek. Any progress on the mercury?

  3. DJ – are you talking about mercury or Kepone?

    Kepone is in the lower James below the rapids when the Appomattox comes in – but even there it’s only detectable in the riverbed sediment..

    If you’re talking about Mercury -that’s in most all rivers and waterbodies in Virginia that are downwind from Coal Power Plants.

    Washington has it’own world-class whitewater (not to be confused with it’s Big Brother upstream – Great Falls) :

    • I’m not sure if it’s mercury or keypone. However, I’ve seen these signs on the James River when I’ve gone to Richmond – usually to watch one of my sons participate in a triathlon. It’s a pretty body of water. What a shame if it can’t be kept relatively clean.

      D.C. has its own problems with the Potomac although I think it’s been getting better over the years. When I was a kid I remember signs urging medical treatment if you came into contact with the water (at least, that’s my recollection). Now, those signs are long gone.

      • these are likely mercury advisories.. there’re actually pretty widespread – downwind from coal-burning plants of which there are several in the James River Watershed…

      • People swim in the James. Once in a while someone drowns — usually after consuming too much alcohol — but no one’s worried about the mercury or the kepone (which is down in Hopewell).

        • It was about 7 years ago that my oldest son competed in a triathlon where he had to swim in the James. The event was held in Richmond and I definitely saw those advisory signs tacked up next to the river. The signs warned against eating fish caught there not swimming.

          As an aside, when Richmonders come to realize that Richmond’s greatest asset must always be the people who live there real progress will commence.

        • The warnings are about eating the fish – which are contaminated with Mercury that comes from coal burning power plants and bio-accumulates in the food chain.

          How much accumulation depends on the species of fish and the warnings are about limiting how much fish to eat – especially for women and children.

          Many folks who get their food from the supermarket never think much about actually catching and eating fish from the river – but a great number of folks on the lower end of the income scale… often supplement their diets with river fish..

  4. if the James river is their greatest asset, why are they dumping so muck raw sewage into it every year?

  5. Must say I am puzzled. Here’s a nice bouquet for the James but didn’t Dominion rush through plans to put treated coal waste in at Bremo Bluff’s. Dominion insisted that must leave the leftover waste in unlined pits. No, it seems that Dominion could have pumped out the waste water in the pits and treated it elsewhere. It also seems that they could did up the dewatered waste and move it to a proper landfill not in the James’ floodplain.

    I have enjoyed the Rockett’s area restaurant, too, but I happened to notice just across that narrow stretch of the river, a large pipe was pumping out large quantities of what appeared to be dirty water.Also, the west side of the riverbank from I-95 to Hopewell contains some highly contaminated sites. I remember from my RTD days around 1982 that one contaminated leftover and highly toxic rocket fuel from an Air Force missile in production. As for Hopewell and Kepone, forget it.

  6. As this site’s resident Rowinguy, let me add 2 cents worth. The bottom picture Jim posted shows the restaurant, which is the building on the right with the decks. The bottom story of that building housed the Virginia Boat Club in the early 90’s when I moved to the area. Over the years the Club renovated the second floor to store boats there also. The upper floors of the building were a complete wreck.

    The building originally housed a power plant that generated electricity to drive the city’s trolley system. There is still (I believe) a big brick smokestack on the other side of the building. Rumor had it that there was also a long-since flooded tunnel that led under the James at that point. I don’t know about that, but there were a couple of sub-basements below the grade seen in the picture.

    Perpendicular to the building in the posted pic is what appears to be either a 8 or 4 man racing shell, which the club owns and races in regattas up the East Coast. Each year the club has a spring sprint regatta there at Rockets and a fall race, the “Head of the James” at Robious Landing in Chesterfield near James River High School. The sprints are 1000 grueling meters and the head races are a bit more leisurely 2-3 mile affairs. Makes for a nice morning at the river.

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