Equity, Sustainability and Resilience

Environmental Justice and Equitable Reinvestment

Watershed Vision Inspires Reinvestment Plan for Schools and Neighborhood –  Richmond, Virginia

Situation

Richmond’s Bellemeade neighborhood is home to 5,000 low-income residents and Bellemeade Elementary School. The community faces several challenges – poor connectivity, inadequate drainage, limited open space. It is also bisected by an impaired and neglected urban creek. Once restored, the creek could be a major community asset and serve as a revitalizing force.

Solution

Skeo joined forces with the Green Infrastructure Center and the City of Richmond to develop a vision and plan for a Walkable Watershed in Bellemeade. While watershed planning is not new, our approach is unique in linking the concepts of equity, community health, water quality and smart growth. A Walkable Watershed features a well-maintained body of water as well as sidewalks, bike paths, parks and other neighborhood amenities. The approach is a creative, effective way to achieve environmental, public health, education and community development goals.

The project brought together community members, nonprofits, business leaders and students to develop a Watershed Concept Plan for the Bellemeade neighborhood. The Plan identified strategies within the “schoolshed” and the watershed to improve the health of the creek and the community. Combining innovative planning with community capacity-building and a focus on youth leadership, the project led to a cohesive strategy to improve the watershed’s overall health.

Outcomes

The plan resulted in an EPA Urban Waters grant to build additional capacity as well as partnership building, community engagement and strong support to move the Bellemeade Watershed Concept Plan into action. Today, the Plan is helping guide efforts to clean up the Goodes Creek watershed, build sidewalks along school routes, strengthen local infrastructure and leverage neighborhood investment.

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“You must do the things you think you cannot do.”

– Eleanor Roosevelt