KATHY GRAZIANO, City Council President
City Council President, Kathy Graziano, sponsored the city’s efforts to legally protect the park from development with a conservation easement, which ultimately passed the council unanimously, in 2009. Her efforts began when the redevelopment of the old power plant on the river was proposed and didn’t conclude until the easement was law.
“It took forever,” says Graziano of the collaboration between government agencies, elected officials, non-profit groups and landowners. “All parties agreed and we have a great park for the citizens that is also an economic driver. People come from all over to go down those rapids.”
Looking ahead Graziano sees two issues that will enhance the James River Park experience. First, as the city acquires more property near the park, there is the question of how that land will be used in the park. “We need to discuss if we want to keep it natural or make it a developed park.” Keeping it natural could be an opportunity to add land to the easement.
The second issue is how to maintain and build on the current success. “The park has become so popular that there isn’t enough parking,” explains Graziano, adding that a bigger issue is giving visitors access to a great natural experience without compromising that natural experience.
“People like coming to the wild place but there isn’t enough parking so people are parking in neighborhoods and the neighbors aren’t happy about that. I’m not sure what the answer is but it’s something that we’ll have to look at,” says Graziano.
For now, Graziano is pleased to see the focus on the riverfront and says that she’s pleased to be a part of protecting it.