How volunteers are making Richmond neighborhood greener -- and improving the environment

Posted at 3:49 PM, Sep 29, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-29 15:49:23-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- After nearly a year of community engagement, planning, and design work, the Greening Richmond Public Libraries team is giving Richmond Public Library's East End Branch a landscaping makeover. Hundreds of plants are being placed around the library to improve stormwater runoff issues and increase tree canopy in one of the East End's hottest areas.

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Stormwater runoff can carry pollutants such as nutrients and sediment into the James River and its tributaries. Justin Doyle, the Director of Community Conservation at James River Association says by intercepting stormwater runoff from rainfall before it enters storm drains, the project can reduce pollution flowing into the James River.

“We're in one of the hottest parts of the East End. And so one of the things that we heard when we were doing community engagement a year or so ago was that residents, library users, library staff, they want to see more shade right here. And so these trees and plants will also help to hopefully cool this area of the city in time," said Doyle.

Justin Doyle
Justin Doyle

Volunteers from numerous organizations will work four shifts over two days to plant native species such as Sweetbay Magnolia trees, Sumac shrubs, Hummingbird Summersweet and Virginia Sweetspire bushes, along with other herbaceous plants.

Financial support for the library beautification projects has come from various grants, including contributions from Altria, Richmond Department of Public Utilities/RVAH2O, Virginia Department of Forestry, and the United States Environmental Protection Agency through a grant from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.

Geda Mankowski
Geda Mankowski

Geda Mankowski of VCU library services, one of the volunteers, emphasized the value of projects like this for the community. "Events like this, they're a lot of fun, you get to play in dirt. You get to do something good with that time. You get to put in plants that are native, help build up this ecosystem, help revitalize a community, give people a nice space to be because libraries are so crucial," said Mankowski.

Mankowski also highlighted the significance of libraries in communities. "Libraries are one of the really unique sort of places where you can get all kinds of services," she said, recalling her experience helping with everything from immigration paperwork to shoe repairs in her 12 year career at VCU Library Services.

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Friday morning a crew of 25 volunteers took the first shift, with more joining in the afternoon. Additional crews are scheduled to complete the project on Saturday.

Looking ahead, the Greening Richmond Public Libraries team has set its sights on enhancing the Ginter Park Branch Library. Click here to learn more about their initiatives or to volunteer orfollow the James River Association on social media.

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