Built in the 1850s, the Great Shiplock is the eastern-most lock of the historic James River and Kanawha Canal locks, which were first mapped out by George Washington. In 2012, the park, which is located in Shockoe Bottom at Dock and Pear Streets, was severely neglected, with tree roots choked by weeds and concrete.
The project began when the Virginia Capital Trail Foundation asked Capital Trees to landscape a kiosk in the park that now serves as the Capital Trail’s western trailhead. What started as a modest invitation soon grew into an extraordinary collaboration that would transform a neglected historic site into a beautiful riverfront park. Working in partnership with the City of Richmond, corporate citizens, private foundations, local landscape architects, designers, engineers, non-profit organizations and individuals, Capital Trees added more than 1,300 trees and plants, introduced educational signage, and installed rain gardens and bio-filtration. Expansive gardens and storm water amenities have taken root, creating a green gateway to historic Chapel Island. The site is not only more beautiful, but also kinder to the sensitive James River environment.
In 2022, Capital Trees started the process of installing a new rain garden at Great Shiplock Park. The first phase included planting a variety of flowering plants and shrubs around where the rain garden will be planted. The next phase will include the addition of plants placed in a functional location to filter and clean rainwater runoff before it returns to the Kanawha Canal.
Committed to the long term management of public landscapes, Capital Trees sustainably manages Great Shiplock Park 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.