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.
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.
The first phase of this project, 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.
The Low Line Green was the second phase of the larger Low Line project, and completed the restoration of the final 1.5 acres of the 5.5-acre space in 2020. The Low Line Green is located at the western end of the Low Line and is designed to remediate polluted storm water run-off from I-95 and the Downtown Expressway to promote the ongoing health of the Kanawha Canal and James River. The Low Line Green provides a beautiful urban green space away from the CSX train trestle and the plaza can be used for formal and informal community gatherings.
Committed to the long term management of public landscapes, Capital Trees sustainably manages the The Low Line from Great Shiplock Park to the Low Line Green 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.