Belle Isle is a historic gem on part of Richmond’s urban James River experience. Now a publicly owned City Park, over time it has been the site of disparate uses including an infamous Civil War prison camp, a hydro-powered iron mill dating to 1815, a granite stone quarry, and a legendary riverside party with the Grateful Dead. The enhancements to the trail system highlight the many historic places on the island and pique visitors’ interest in its colorful past. The project includes the design and installation of two permanent accessible routes to river overlook areas and the introduction of new signage throughout the park, including historic interpretation, ecological interpretation, and wayfinding. A key component is the integration of the design into the natural rock formations to withstand flooding.
A specific goal for the park includes the stabilization of two historic structures along the trail. Years of neglect and vandalism have caused irreparable damage to the remaining wall of the 1815 mill; structural stabilization of this wall will prevent further damage and preserve what is left of the mill for future generations. The four walls of an armored storage shed will also be stabilized and capped to preserve the structure’s historic integrity.