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Posted In: Features

Three Lakes Park: What’s in a name?

Leonard Adkins

October 15, 2012 9:22pm

The person that named Three Lakes Park was certainly well-versed in the ways of public relations. When I moved to Richmond a number of years of ago, I heard the name and that the park had a system of pathways encircling the lakes. When I finally went there last week, I found that the three lakes, which I had envisioned to be long, wide, and far-reaching with clear rippling water, are actually small, flooded borrow pits (another public relations phrase—will anyone ever replace the dirt that was borrowed?) just a few acres in size.

I hope you have continued to read beyond that first unenthusiastic paragraph because I’m going to suggest you visit the park despite the small size of the lakes. For one thing, it has a 6,500 square-foot first-rate nature center (free admission!) where, after having obtained a trail map, I watched multitudes of visiting children, some not much older that toddlers, become fully engaged in the hands-on exhibits and “ooh” and “ahh” over the snakes housed within glass enclosures.

The second most popular park attraction appeared to be the chance to fish two of the ponds for the stocked carp, bass, bluegill, and catfish. It was quite entertaining, once again, to watch the antics of the kids. In contrast to the older man sitting peacefully on the pier and pulling out one fish after another, the youngsters would cast a line first in one place and then another, running about and hollering to each other about never catching a fish.

The nature center at Three Lakes Park.

Of course, I was here to hike and, based on the number of people I had already encountered, I expected to have many fellow amblers. Yet, other than a star-crossed couple that were groping each other in places that most people would have been taken aback to see happening in a public place, I only saw one other person on the 1.3-mile, level trail network. That meant that I had no distractions when watching a great blue heron take off from the shallow water, using its impressive 70-inch wing span, or when I stopped to examine the impressively red and pink berries and pods of the aptly-named hearts-a-bustin’. (The plant is easily overlooked at other times, as its unassuming five-petal flower is a green that blends in with other foliage.) I’m sorry that I didn’t pay much attention to the low-growing ground cover, for when I mentioned that I had been to the park to Catharine Tucker, president of the Pocahontas Chapter of the Virginia Native Plant Society, she said that the park’s flora was amazingly diverse for such a disturbed area and included three species of ground pine. These plants may creep along the ground today but, in ancient times, their ancestors stood as tall as trees.

Three Lakes Park—it may have a somewhat misleading name, but its attractions more than make up for the misnomer.

 Getting There: Take I-295 Exit 41B north of Richmond, turn onto VA 2 South, go 1.9 miles, turn left onto Wilkinson Road, continue another .9 mile, and turn right into the park.

About Leonard Adkins

Leonard M. Adkins has hiked more than 19,000 miles exploring the backcountry areas of the United States, Canada, Europe, New Zealand, and the Caribbean, including his five traverses of the full length of the Appalachian Trail. He is the author of more than 17 books on the outdoors, nature, and travel; his latest is "Hiking and Traveling the Blue Ridge Parkway: The Only Guide You Will Ever Need, Including Detailed Maps, GPS, and More." Paraphrasing a famous American humorist, Leonard once said, “I never met a trail I didn’t like.” Find more about him at