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Richmond plans to transform Mayo Island into the next James River park

Posted at 5:27 PM, Jan 08, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-08 17:27:53-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- Part of the allure that brought Vee Wright to Richmond, after living in multiple large cities throughout her life, was the natural beauty in and around the River City.

On Monday, she was pleased to learn that those options will expand in the coming years after the city finalized the purchase of Mayo Island with plans to make it into a public park.

"I love green spaces. That’s one of the things that attracted me to Richmond. You have all of these hiking trails and other green spaces," Wright said. “I mean that’s sort of like bringing God’s creation back.”

CBS 6 confirmed a report by our partners at Richmond BizSense that Richmond completed the purchase of Mayo Island for nearly $15 millionfrom private owners who own most of the land.

Currently, the only reason to stop on Mayo Island is a food truck operation and several offices, and most of the traffic on the island comes from vehicles whizzing down 14th Street in and out of the city.

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney said the plans to convert the island into a public park as a part of the James River Park System will preserve the space for future generations to enjoy.

“We are excited that the City of Richmond was able to acquire Mayo Island. This historic island, also known as the ‘green jewel’ of the City of Richmond, will be a valued city asset for years to come," the Mayor's Office said in a statement.

While Mayo Island might be a "green jewel," a large portion of it is paved parking lots.

Parker Agelasto, the executive director of the Capital Region Land Conservancy and former Richmond City Council member, told BizSense that approximately seven acres of the 16-acre island is paved.

Although the final project plan is far from complete, officials plan to remove the concrete and asphalt surfaces and restore the natural habitat on the island.

In a staff report to Richmond City Council last year, city planners said there would be extensive environmental benefits to restoring natural vegetation.

"Land use changes that are anticipated after acquisition include impervious urban surface reduction, forest buffers, urban forest planting, urban tree canopy expansion, Ord. No. 202 3 - 123 & Ord. No. 2023 - 124 Page 2 City of Richmond Department of Planning & Development Review Staff Report conservation landscaping practices, erosion and sediment control, shoreline management, urban nutrient management, wet ponds and wetlands," the report states.

Once that restoration process is complete, officials said the Richmond Riverfront Plan calls to connect Mayo Island with existing pedestrian and biking infrastructure. A timeline for when the park is expected to open is not yet clear.

Wright can only see the benefits of rehabbing the island to its natural state.

“I say back to the future!” she said. “We are in a mental health crisis in this country, and I think as many green spaces that any municipality can have, I think it should have, particularly for those residents who might have fewer resources that don’t allow them to go to the mountains or the sea. If they can just enjoy the beauty of nature within walking distance or a short car ride, that’s a good thing.”

Agelasto told BizSense Mayo Island could also help serve as a staging area for the Mayo Bridge replacement project, scheduled to begin in a few years.

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