At the invitation of the Virginia Capital Trail Foundation (VCTF), what began as a request to landscape the kiosk at the western trailhead turned into an extraordinary collaboration with the City of Richmond, corporate citizens, private foundations, local landscape architects, designers, engineers, non-profit organizations and individuals to transform a neglected historic site into a beautiful riverfront park. At Great Shiplock Park, where tree roots once struggled with weeds and concrete, expansive gardens, shady trails, and storm water amenities have taken root, providing a green gateway to historic Chapel Island, where the collaboration resulted in the additional restoration of hundreds of native plants.
Over 1,300 trees and plants were initially installed, including native plants and a rain garden at historic Great Shiplock Park, part of Richmond’s James River Park System, located at Dock and Pear Streets in Shockoe Bottom. Improvements to the park include the adjacent Chapel Island, making the first step in Richmond’s Riverfront Plan green in both plant material and in its gentle treatment of adjacent wetlands.
The gardens came about when VCTF invited Capital Trees to take a look. Capital Trees collaborated with landscape architects at 3north, and soon plans were underway to make the site not only greener and more beautiful, but also greener and kinder to the sensitive James River environment, with rain gardens and bio-filtration.
Built in the 1850s, the site is the eastern-most of the historic James River and Kanawha Canal locks, originally laid out by George Washington. The park includes the former Trigg Shipyard, built in the late 19th century, and now, in addition to a working canal lock, bicycle and foot trails, fishing spots and beautiful views of the river and downtown Richmond, offers visitors environmentally-sensitive gardens.
In addition to the trees, gardens and wildflowers planted at GSP in 2013, Capital Trees subsequently installed educational signage and planted over 10,000 spring bulbs along the western entrance to the park on Dock Street. Capital Trees is seeking funding for an additional gift to the city of riverbank trees and walkway when repairs to the canal are completed.