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Conservation group in contract to buy James River island


One of the James River islands in the city of Richmond is poised to be transformed from a parking lot into a park.

Mayo Island is 15 acres and sits in the middle of the James, in the middle of Richmond. For 300 years it’s been privately owned. Home to sawmills, boat clubs and even for a time a baseball stadium. Today almost half of the island is asphalt, after years of being a trucking depot.

For decades city officials have dreamed of making the island a public green space. Now those daydreams are closer to reality, says Parker Agelasto of the Capital Region Land Conservancy. The group is buying the island, with plans to bring back meadows and grasslands.

“Really converting it to a natural space and restoring it with its hydrology and then opening it for public access is perhaps the highest and best use for the property,” Agelasto said in a recent interview.

He imagines a new park for downtown Richmond residents to fish, paddle board and kayak.

“It will become the park, the green space, for most of Manchester and for much of Shockoe Slip and areas of downtown Richmond where we’re seeing the repurposing of office buildings into apartment buildings,” he described.

Once the sale is complete the restoration project will go hand in hand with a current effort to replace the bridge that now crosses the island. City officials first proposed turning the island into public space back in the 1980’s.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Mallory Noe-Payne is Radio IQ's Richmond reporter and bureau chief.