Bellemeade Walkable Watershed Pilot
Green Infrastructure Center and City of Richmond, VA
The Bellemeade tributary and surrounding neighborhood suffer from decades of disinvestment. Currently lacking sidewalks, adequate drainage infrastructure, and programmed open space, the Bellemeade neighborhood is home to approximately 5,000 primarily African American residents who suffer from economic disadvantage, especially among children. The community is bisected by an impaired and neglected urban creek. The creek could serve as a major revitalizing force if it was restored and embraced as a central asset to the community, along with the adjacent elementary school and community center.
In 2011 Skeo Solutions joined forces with the Green Infrastructure Center and City of Richmond to bring together community members, non-profits and business leaders to develop a Watershed Concept Plan for the Bellemeade neighborhood. This collaborative effort leveraged funding from multiple sources including Virginia Department of Forestry, the Altria Family of Companies and Skeo Solutions.
The Watershed Concept Plan was developed on a unique framework that identifies strategies within the “schoolshed” and the watershed to improve the health of the creek and the community. Goals of this effort include:
Connectivity– connect the neighborhood to the creek and the James River.
Safe Passage – improve pedestrian routes to the community center and new school.
Water + Environment – slow, infiltrate and clean rain water.
Health + Community – develop a sense of community around the new school and watershed.
Education + Awareness – create outdoor education opportunities for elementary school students.
The purpose of the Bellemeade Walkable Watershed project is to identify watershed strategies based on technical analysis and community needs. A Community Workshop held in October 2011 brought together residents, community leaders and organizations, city staff and elected officials, and local stakeholders to develop a shared vision and priorities to improve watershed and neighborhood health. Ideas generated from the workshop were summarized and presented at a public Open House in December 2011. The planning process has resulted in significant partnership building, community engagement, and strong support for moving the Bellemeade Watershed Concept Plan into action. A group of 5th grade students participated in the community tour, workshop and open house to share their ideas on preferred walking routes to school and opportunities for outdoor education at their new school.
As a result of this project, the City of Richmond, the new Oak Grove Bellemeade School, community partners and residents have a Watershed Concept Plan that can help guide, coordinate and leverage investment in the Bellemeade neighborhood. Specific project outcomes include:
A Watershed Concept Plan for the City that can inform their stormwater planning process, support water quality permit compliance, and help prioritize capital investments to reduce flooding.
Student-selected walking routes to the new elementary school to help prioritize sidewalk investments, support Safe Routes to School grant applications, and promote walking to school.
Community priorities for the park, which currently contains no infrastructure or neighborhood amenities. Priorities include creek-side outdoor learning environments, watershed education, community gathering amenities, and community gardening.
Tremendous partnership building and momentum around improving the quality of life for Bellemeade residents.
Inter-department and inter-agency coordination to align and leverage resources for this underserved community.
Please visit www.walkablewatershed.com for more information on this approach for linking watershed health and community revitalization.