Socially Responsible Design - Retention Basin Park – Richmond, Virginia

Scott Wiley By: Scott Wiley

Socially responsible design and corporate volunteerism have always been a priority and a major part of the Timmons Group mission. Not only do we pursue outlets for our creative juices, we find meaningful ways to give back to the community in which we live, work, and play.

Months ago, the idea for a project was cultivated by Baskervill Architects, long-time friends and colleagues in design, and Ralph White with the James River Park System.  With promises of reaching out to the community at the Earth Day Festival in Richmond’s Manchester district, the focus  was to assemble a team and deliver a master plan for a piece of city property located in the heart of Manchester.

The team consisted of Baskervill Architects, Timmons Group Landscape Architects and Engineers, DPR Construction, RTB Structural Engineers, and the James River Park System. Each team member, native to the Richmond area, volunteered their professional services to assure that the design was evaluated from every perspective.

Tentatively referred to as Retention Basin Park based on its function as a basin for large stormwater events, this dynamic parcel of land was offered to the James River Park System by the City of Richmond Department of Public Utilities. The property is bordered by the floodwall to the north, interstate 95 to the east, railroads to the south and west, and a major Dominion Power easement through the property.  Surprisingly, despite restrictions, the site is an urban oasis—a real treasure nestled below the safety of the flood wall. Formerly part of the Manchester Canal system, the park focuses around a small waterway that is home to osprey, blue herons, wood ducks, fish, frogs and other local wildlife.

Retention Basin Park will be the first new park added to the James River Park System in several years and is the missing link that connects Belle Isle, Browns Island, and the Slave Trail with the overall parks network. The design team sought to create an urban refuge for Richmond’s park lovers and Manchester’s residents. As a grand vision for the park, the master plan calls for a main loop trail with a bridge over the water that weaves through native wildflower meadows and allows for both passive and active recreation. Park goers can play bocce and croquet in the open lawn areas, sit quietly and read a book on a park bench, learn about the history of the site through interpretive signs, eat a picnic lunch by the water and even go for a run or exercise their dog.

On April 21st, in conjunction with the Richmond Earth Day Festival, Mayor Dwight Jones and Ralph White dedicated the park to the city of Richmond. Future phases of the master plan will not be constructed until funding is appropriated and permitting is approved.

Two interpretive signs and numerous bird houses were constructed and installed by volunteers from Timmons Group and the James River Park System. Bat houses, wood duck refuges, and Peterson blue bird houses will now attract more wildlife to the park, adding to the Earth Day message. To cap off the weekend festivities, a ceremonial release of largemouth bass, carp, crayfish, and tadpoles into the basin symbolizes the rejuvenated identity that will become Retention Basin Park.

To view the master plan, click here.