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To have sex, of course. Right there in public, outside even, along Riverside Drive in Stratford Hills, a little west of Pony Pasture.  Since that cute Yellow-Spotted Salamander is the  mascot of Friends of James River Park perhaps we should change our name to Lovers of James River Park. No, that’s ok.

I've never had the pleasure....

This photo is from last year, and it pains me to look at it because it reminds me that I struck out twice last year in  my attempts to see these salamanders who call my neighborhood home come out of the mud on a rainy night in February or March to cavort as only salamanders do.  My friend sent me that photo, but by the time I got there, all I got was a bunch of spring peepers going nutty.  Maybe this year will be the one. Hope springs eternal, in matters of love and yellow-spotted salamanders.

I was lucky to be at a classy event last evening at The Boathouse at Rockett\’s Landing sponsored by Rocketts Landing and the Friends of James River Park. The event was a celebration of the James River and a welcoming party for the recently added 2,000 lb. cast iron sculpture, Deepwater Sponger, by Richmonder Charlie Ponticello. The Friends are usually the ones pulling half-empty beer bottles out of the mud in the park, so it was quite nice to mingle with folks overlooking the river with wine and beer in hand and sipping butternut squash soup instead of picking up trash.

He's a real hunk!

Charlie spoke a bit about his sculpture which is installed on the waterfront next to the Boathouse and perfectly suited for clambering on and posing.  Not sure if most people who will see it realize you are standing right across from the wastewater treatment plant. Let us remember that only a few miles upriver, the water treatment plant pulls river water in for our use. A river runs through us–and the city.

Anne Wright, Assistant Professor of Biology at VCU, board member of the Friends, and self-styled “insect geek” spoke about some fascinating research finds doctoral students at VCU are finding right here in our river. Mostly good things…evidence of insects who don’t tolerate pollution living right here in the city–even some varieties that typically are found only in the mountains. They love city-living, it turns out. And regarding the sturgeon’s comeback, she had the video of sturgeon sperm to prove it.  In lieu of caviar, I think.

Multi-media day here in Richmond, VA.

Hear from me about the James River Park System license plate campaign. Just 20 more needed by the end of next week! Here’s the Richmond Times-Dispatch article. interviewed me regarding things to do around town. Since the article was about RVA happenings I wrote about in Insiders’ Guide to Richmond (buy it at Fountain Bookstore or Chop Suey Books, among other places), I behaved and didn’t mention my new food tour biz, Real Richmond.  Let’s just say you have to read between the lines to smell what’s cooking. But these tips are the sorts of things we mention on our tours. Insiders\’ Tips from ME

And here is  Richmond.Com\’s take on Real Richmond\’s Shockoe Slip food tour.  It would appear that I get around. Honestly, I haven’t left this chair in front of the computer for hours. Still need to brush my teeth. I’ll get on that right away.

That ought to sate us for a while. But if you want to DIG IN to RVA some more, go to Real Richmond to see how to taste AND see Richmond.

Where's Grandma Moses when I need her?


‘Twas the week before Christmas when all through the park, all the creatures were stirring; they like it in the dark. The applications were set in the mailbox with care in hopes that a James River Park license plate soon would be there.

The salamanders were nestled all snug in the mud while visions of license plates danced in the crud. And FOJRP board members in our kerchiefs and I in my cap had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.

When out in the park there arose such a clatter, we sprang to the river to see what was the matter. When what to our wondering eyes did appear, but a miniature truck and actual deer, with a little old driver so lively and bright, we knew in a moment it must be Ralph White.

He was dressed all in khaki from his head to his toe except for the kneesocks if you really must know. A bundle of presents he had in his truck but he said the park needed a couple of bucks. His eyes–how they twinkled! His dimples how merry. His cheeks were all bearded–park employees are hairy.

He spoke a few words, but went straight to his work, and filled us with awe; then dealt with a jerk. As anyone who loves the James River Park knows, we’d all be so lost without Ralph’s poetry and prose.

He sprang to his truck, to his team used his bullhorn and away they all drove like the scrape of a sharp thorn. But I heard him exclaim ere he drove out of state, Happy Christmas to all, and to all a JRPS license plate!

Actually, I’m up at 2 in the morning, not dreaming at all, but if I were, I would set it to music, with a surprisingly Bing Crosby-esque voice:

I’m dreaming of a James River Park license plate–just like the ones I’ve never known.  Which plate-less cars and drivers covet, and we’ll just love it, showing pride in Richmond’s very own.

I’m dreaming of a JRPS license plate, with every Christmas drive, I wait. May your walks, runs, paddles, and bike rides be great, and may all RVA vehicles get JRPS license plates.

It’s only a matter of insomnia till you see the Twelve Days of James River Park Christmas. The only way to make me stop is to help us hit our goal of 350 completed JRPS license plate applications by mid-January. All the info and applications are available at

We don’t need Clarence the angel’s help to get our 350 completed license plate applications by January–we need YOURS! We’ve received more than 190 completed applications so far, but we need another 160 this next month to make this dream a reality. I believe, but Friends of James River Park needs all of our members and friends to send applications in today! (Pay with PayPal at  and get the application and info)

Here are 5 ways to help us get the plate now:

 #1 Think of the people who have made the park possible–Jack Keith, Jr., Joe Schaefer, Louise Burke, R.B. Young, and so many more. Buy a plate in their honor. I’m giving Louise a plate as a small token of appreciation for her work with her Girl Scout troop and concerned neighbors saving Pony Pasture from becoming a highway in the 1960’s. I’m a Brownie drop-out and I do NOT want to compound that humilation with having to tell Louise that she’ll never get a James River Park System license plate. Let’s get this done! Whom do you want to honor? 

 #2 Please spread the word on Facebook and Twitter. SportsBackers, Dominion RiverRock and our James River Park Facebook page. That will keep the buzz going.

 #3 Ask your friends and neighbors. Have their walks, runs, paddles, and bike rides in the James River Park System given them $25 worth of value this year?  It’s time to give the JRPS a present for all it has done for all of us. 

 #4 If you know of any large-scale event coming up (even in January) where park-lovers would be gathering and we could set up a table to promote the plates, please let us know at and perhaps volunteer to staff such tables.

 #5 For the person who has everything this holiday season, give him or her the promise of beautiful James River Park license plates. It’s a green gift–no wrapping necessary– and it will add park pride to the owner’s vehicle when they receive it in June. They’ll be reminded of you every time they ogle their plates.

 FOJRP believes it is crucial for the Friends to secure this dependable stream of income (once we have 1000 plates on the road, FOJRP gets $15 of every renewal and new application over that) in light of uncertain budgetary times for parks. We have composting toilets, trailhead signs, kiosks, trail markers and more we’d like to purchase and programs we’d like to underwrite so everyone can enjoy the park for years to come. Thanks so much for your help in clearing the first hurdle of our license plate campaign this January.

Getting word yesterday that one of my neighbor/friends’ house was broken into Wednesday stirred up all sorts of emotions and reactions in me. First I was saddened that their little guy was now understandably afraid, but then I was relieved of course that no one had been hurt. Now I’m just pissed.

It made me so mad and so protective of my neighbors that I was tempted to go out on the street with a pitchfork–in my pajamas. That is a little-known crime prevention tactic. People tend to stay away.

My other crime-fighting technique that I feel guilty for not employing as regularly this year as other years is my pine straw raking robber deterrent. I pull my car in front of empty houses on the pine straw laden section of my street during the quiet part of the day when I won’t be bothered/humiliated by passing traffic and grab my rake and plastic bags and get cracking. No one would dare break in to a nearby house while I’m talking to myself and getting pine needles in my hair and all over my clothes, which tend not to be my pajamas. I’m sorry I’ve been delinquent. There was a nice patch of pine straw down after that crazy storm, too. Mea culpa.

Now, I hope my neighbors don’t get too nervous and call the cops on me if they see me rooting through their glove compartments looking for their vehicle registration. I swear it’s for the good of the James River Park System! Just trying to finagle a few (or 160) more license plate applications this month. I swear I won’t break in to anyone’s car to get the required 350 completed James River Park license plate applications, but that’s all I won’t do.

I suppose it explains how I can live with myself that I find it endearingly cute in a pathetic way that in the disaster that is my material world I think, for a few seconds at least,  that tearing open the cellophane wrapping of a new high-faluting message pad with 4 separate pads all locked together and able to be attached somewhere sensible with magnets on the back will order my life and home and mind. Real Simple, indeed! I just wrote Real Richmond on one pad, Friends of James River Park on another, my Mom’s name on another and ME (which really means everything else in the world except me) on the last one.

Problem solved–except that I left it in the other room cause it’s too messy in here and soon enough when I need it I won’t be able to remember where I left it.  I’m tempted to write the book, The Year of Living Messily, but it would be torture finding all my notes–and then I’d have to read them and relive this messiest of years.

Happy to let those more talented than I have their say or show off their handiwork. People who use their hands for something other than texting and typing are my favorites. Keep your mind out of the gutter, please.

So, until I get there tmw and get my own photo, herewith a link to Friends of James River Park’s Facebook page to see the  Pony Pasture Natural Sculpture done by sculptor R. L. Croft and Ken Huston of northern Virginia. Croft’s daughter is in school at VCU. More proof that the interplay among Richmond’s natural resources and our other less natural but sometimes still organic resources produces some mighty cool stuff.

Reminiscent of Andy Goldsworthy, he of  Rivers and Tides. Now that’s really cheating, plagiarizing oneself.

What I would give to make Chappel Island downtown, just east of the Mayo Bridge on the north bank of the James, into a sculpture park with winding paths leading to whimsical, mournful, and natural sculptures. That stretch of river has seen it all and letting something other than statues of dead guys on horses tell the story of Richmond and the river would be most refreshing. It would be the perfect marriage of Richmond’s arts and parks. I can almost see it.

You will be jealous of my James River Park System Virginia license plates next spring. It doesn’t have to be that way, people. I’ve already put in my order for the prettiest plates that aren’t in town quite yet. You can get our own and not have to drive around behind my cruddy RAV4 ogling my license plates. It’s simple. Click here:  JamesRiverPark_LicensePlate_FAQ11  Read the info, print the Virginia license plate info out, fill it out with your VIN number and such and send in a check for $25 (or $35 for a vanity plate) to Friends of James River Park, P.O. Box 4453 Richmond VA 23220.  Please and thank you.

You can also visit the Friends tent at the South of the James Farmers’ Market in Forest Hill Park this Saturday, Oct. 9th and Saturday, Oct. 30th to chat and pick up park pamphlets ($2) and license plate applications.

When we collect 350 completed and paid for applications (we have more than 100 now), we mosey on down to the General Assembly in January and they approve our special and beautiful license plate. (It might be the only thing the General Assembly will do that will make you happy.)  The plate is then made, and delivered to all those with the foresight to order them, in June 2011.

Yes, you must be patient, but the James River Park System rewards patience–more reliably than state government.  Sometimes you have to wait for the pedestrian to get out of your mountain biking way on the Buttermilk Trail. You have to wait for fall for the sun to set the treetops across the river all aglow near Riverside Meadow. And sometimes you have to wait in line at Pony Pasture in the summer for a parking spot. Nothing wrong with waiting for something worth waiting for.

Besides being able to proclaim your love for the James River Park System, 550+ acres of wilderness in the city (I can steal the Friends’ line cause I’m the president of FOJRP), once 1000 cars are sporting these plates, $15 of the James River Park System license plate fee from each order gets sent to Friends of James River Park, providing our all-volunteer group with a steady stream of income with which to help maintain, preserve, and enhance Richmond’s big backyard.  We have big plans for directional signage at trailheads, our gorgeous and helpful new web site is about to launch (more on that later), and you know quite well that the park is chronically underfunded and understaffed, so the Friends can always find good use for the funds. Don’t be caught in your car with some ugly ole license plate. Park your ride, please!

I’m back!