Before: The area now known as the Low Line stretches along the James River and Kanawha Canal and Virginia Capital Trail, connecting the recently enhanced Great Shiplock Park with Richmond’s Canal Walk. Prior to the completion of the first phase of the renovation, the land between Dock Street and the canal was severely neglected, overrun with weeds and invasive plant species. Sadly, this was the first introduction to our city for the more than 300,000 annual visitors who enter Richmond via the Virginia Capital Trail.
After: In 2015, Capital Trees embarked on its most ambitious project to date — a collaboration between the City of Richmond, CSX Corporation and Capital Trees to rehabilitate 5.5 acres along the James River and Kanawha Canal. The site, which is in the City of Richmond’s East End and runs beneath raised railroad trestles owned by the CSX Corporation, was dubbed the “Low Line” in a nod to its inspiration, New York City’s “High Line.” Whereas New York City’s High Line park is built upon decommissioned railroad trestles, Richmond’s Low Line runs beneath active trestles.
Capital Trees is implementing this project in phases over several years. The first phase, the Low Line Gardens, was completed in November 2016 and included a $1.2 million dollar horticultural restoration. Today, visitors along this route see the Low Line Gardens and experience an urban oasis enjoyed by cyclists and pedestrians, canal boat tourists, area workers and local residents. There is also a less visible but equally important outcome: the Low Line Gardens serve as a three-acre riparian buffer for the James River watershed. Yet another indication of the progress we’ve made since initiating this restoration — in April 2016, Governor Terry McAuliffe designated the Low Line as a Virginia Treasure.
Future: The next phases of the Low Line project are the Low Line Park and the Passage. The park, located at the western end of the Low Line, will restore and revitalize approximately two acres of derelict land. When completed, it will offer a beautiful urban green space away from the CSX train trestle for formal and informal community gatherings. Steeped in history, the park includes the site where, on April 4, 1865, the day after Union forces captured Richmond, President Abraham Lincoln entered the city at 17th Street from the James River and Kanawha Canal. The Passage, where the Capital Trail runs under the CSX trestle, will be cleared of invasive species and enhanced through horticulture and other amenities.