RALPH WHITE, Park Manager and Naturalist, James River Park System
It was not love at first sight. The first time Ralph White saw the James River, he was following a girl. It was 1978. She’d come to Richmond to study at VCU and some friends took the young couple tubing.
“I was struck by how filthy the water was,” remembers White. “And filled with litter. Boucher dam was topped with shards of glass like some rich man’s house in South America.”
Within two years, and for more than three decades since, White has overseen the health and safety of the more than 500 acre James River Park System, which under his care blossomed to be named one of the nation’s best places to hike in 2011 by Natural Health magazine.
White is retiring at the end of this year, but he won’t be leaving River City, or his favorite spots on the James. “Every season has its specialties,” says White. “In the summer, it’s to float in the moonlight. In spring, I go watch the Great Blue Heron’s nesting, and the running of the shad, herring and rockfish.”
But this fall, his favorite season, you’ll find him just upstream of the Pony Pasture rapids. “You can disappear — literally, figuratively, emotionally — sitting on a rock, encased in river fog, waiting for shafts of sunlight, like spotlights in a theatrical production,: says White. I call them the fingers of God.”
Article from Issue #16