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Posted In: Environment

‘Low Line’ Beautification Project Comes Alive

Andy Thompson

August 12, 2015 9:09am
The work near the Low Line's eastern end.

The work near the Low Line’s eastern end.

I rode out along the first section of the Virginia Capital Trail in Richmond the other day. It’s the portion that runs along Dock Street, from about Bottom’s Up Pizza to Great Shiplock Park. I was really excited to see the progress made on what I’ve heard called the “Low Line Beautification Project.”

Where the Capital Trail runs under the elevated rail line, the weedy, ragged canal bank is being replaced with thousands of (mostly) native shrubs, plants and trees.

I remembered hearing about the project earlier this year, so when I got home I Googled around to find out more. It’s a collaborative effort led by a non-profit group called Capital Trees, and the work along the “Low Line” is actually part of a $825,000, five-year effort at East End beautification funded almost entirely with private money. RVA News recently ran a great feature about the project:

“This was where Lincoln landed when he came to claim Richmond,” said (Jeannette) McKittrick (of Capital Trees). “It’s an important area to Richmond industrial history. It’s where the tobacco barges came in and out (the slips are still there underneath those weeds), and there’s also a real environmental opportunity there.”

Work along the train tracks that cross Kanawha Canal onto Chapel Island.

Work along the train tracks that cross Kanawha Canal onto Chapel Island.

The Low Line work was first announced in October of last year, and has certainly been given a boost by the UCI World Cycling Championships coming to Richmond next month. But if it can be maintained going forward, when put next to Great Shiplock Park, Chapel Island and all the work going on with the almost-finished Capital Trail in the area, the ambitious project has a chance to be the capstone for an area that just a couple of years ago, looked pretty rough.

As far as the landscape of Low Line, they’ve used mostly native plants, wrote Susan Howson, of RVA News. McKittrick envisions a space that can be friendly to both humans and wildlife –“Essentially, it’s a 5 1/2 acre riparian buffer. It’s a filter for water, and with all these native plants, we’re going to have native bugs and birds and try and restore some of the ecosystem.”

The Va. Capital Trail continues east from Great Shiplock Park.

The Va. Capital Trail continues east from Great Shiplock Park.

If you haven’t seen the “Low Line” project taking shape, head down to Great Shiplock Park (directions are in the link) and start walking back west toward downtown. You can’t miss it.

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?