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Westham Gauge
Gauge Height: 6.26'
Flow: 9270 cfps

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Todays Tides: Richmond Locks

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Low Tide: 1:36am

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‘Friends’ report: JRPS usage dwarfs other area attractions

Andy Thompson

December 4, 2014 11:57am

If you’re a James River Park System user, you might already know about the Friends of the James River Park and the regular newsletter they send out. It’s full of valuable information and volunteer opportunities for park lovers. I wanted to highlight the lead item in their most recent newsletter because it offers some updates on a topic I’ve covered before.

Volunteers from the James River Hikers at the new Texas Beach bordwalk in the JRPS.

Volunteers from the James River Hikers at the new Texas Beach boardwalk in the JRPS. Credit: Dennis Bussey

Back in early September, I wrote about the sky-high usage numbers that park Superintendent Nathan Burrell found when he pulled the data from the newly-installed infrared and electronic counters. “Up through July,” Burrell said at the time, “we were at 500,000+ visitors. That’s May through July. And we only have counters at seven locations right now.”

Well, now the Friends of the JRP newsletter is reporting that the park saw “795,117 visitors from May 2014 until the end of October 2014.” Extrapolating from that now rather large data set suggests that by May 2015 the JRPS will see well over 1 million users and probably closer to 1.5 million.

Here’s some perspective: In February the Times-Dispatch reported that Maymont was the “most-visited place in the Richmond area,” with 527,153 visitors in 2013. The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts was second with 479,907 visitors. Rounding out the top five were the Children’s Museum of Richmond with 393,529 visitors; Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden with 339,139 visitors; and Henrico’s Three Lakes Nature Center and Aquarium with 304,621 visitors.

The Washington Redskins training camp brought in 164,789 visitors this year. Needless to say, the Redskins, with their tax breaks and sweetheart deals, don’t offer the city what the JRPS does in one or two summer months.

The James River Park has always been a popular place. We now know how popular.

The James River Park has always been a popular place. We now know how popular.

And keep this in mind too, as I wrote in September, “The JRPS with it’s 1 million or more visitors a year is maintained by four full-time employees (including Burrell), two seasonal employees and one part-timer.” Note to the mayor and city council: That’s crazy!

And the Friends’ newsletter also reports that the park “provides a huge economic benefit to the City. Using the $16 per day per user estimate for park economic impact numbers from the 2014 edition of the Virginia Outdoors Plan, JRPS right now, provides a $12,721,872 economic impact directly to the City and local businesses.”

About Andy Thompson

I was the Outdoors Columnist at the Times-Dispatch from 2007 to 2013, writing twice a week about mountain biking, fishing, hunting, paddling and much more. I live a 1/4 mile from the James River, close enough to see bald eagles soaring over my house on their way to find a meal. Pretty cool, eh?