When the members of four Richmond area chapters of the Garden Club of Virginia first came together in 2010 to identify areas in Richmond in need of improvement, they selected the 14th Street corridor as the site for a pilot project to be designed and implemented in collaboration with the City. Before the renovations, Richmond’s 14th Street, a key gateway to the city from I-95 and a center of local and state government, was a barren concrete landscape. Because of its steep slope, 14th Street also produced a significant volume of polluted stormwater that flowed directly in the environmentally sensitive James River watershed.
Begun in 2011, this project included the renovation of two city blocks on 14th Street and the installation of the first engineered stormwater bio-filtration system on City property. Tons of concrete were hauled away, and dead and dying street trees were removed from inadequately sized tree wells. Once the area was cleared, bio-retention tree planters were installed to capture stormwater runoff, removing phosphorous, nitrogen and sediment. Swamp White Oaks and Ginkgoes now line both sides of 14th Street and the median, and London Plane Trees grace the area from Bank Street north to Broad Street. A continuous planting of Ginkgoes has replaced the concrete median, visually linking the two blocks together. In addition to the tremendous aesthetic impact of the plantings, phosphorous loads have been reduced by a third and peak flow runoff to Richmond’s combined sewer outfalls has gone down by half.
Committed to the long term management of public landscapes, Capital Trees sustainably manages the 14th Street Initiative including weeding, pruning, mowing, tidying, and planting. To remain spaces that draw people closer to each other and nature, these landscapes require regular attention. We are grateful for our weekly maintenance volunteers along with our community and private work day volunteers whose contributions support keeping these landscapes as transformative public spaces in the city. If you’d like to get involved, donate, or learn more – we’d love to connect.