On the South side of the James, downstream from Belle Isle, lies a lesser known city park. Floodwall Park reaches down the river bank, providing some of the best riverfront views in the city. It is a popular spot for joggers, hikers, bird watchers, and fishermen. The wall itself is a feat of engineering, stretching 13,046 feet along the south bank and protecting 600 acres. The $140-plus million structure is still yet to see its first flood, but the city of Richmond is certainly much safer if an overdue flood does come.
In the Retention Basin Park, baby geese swim through the remnants of the Manchester Canal. It was dug by slaves and Irish immigrants as an alternative to the Kanawha Canal but was never completed. Now the area is preserved so that it can flood in case of heavy rain or storming.
The hike also connects to the Richmond Slave Trail, which starts downstream at the Manchester Docks. If you continue down the trail, you leave behind the modern setting of I-95 traffic crossing the river and eventually reach the wood-chip path once walked by African slaves who arrived at the docks. It is American history hidden in plain site, a scar of slavery still visible today.
Right next to the hiking trail are the Southern States silos, the location of the third RVA Street Art Festival, which took place Friday, April 22. The walls of the silo and nearby crates have been illustrated with vibrant paint to give character to the curious abandoned structure. The pictures above show the complete transformation of the white building into the artistic hub it is now.
An installation in the back was created by festival goers, using tricycles specially mounted with paint. The trikes have paint bottles rigged to spill onto the wheels as they ride, and the result is a colorful arrangement of paint paths. The Art on Wheels foundation, which sponsored the art, has the mission to “bring comprehensive arts programming to communities with limited access to the arts.”
Even after the festival, the silos are still a center for street art. There are several pieces in progress on the site, and spray paint cans indicate recent artistic activity.
The Floodwall Park and surrounding areas are a side of Richmond I had not seen before but definitely a place I will be returning to. The slave trail stretches three miles, and the floodwall walk extends in the opposite direction, leaving lots of terrain to explore. The street art is incredible, and I look forward to seeing what is added next.
All photos by Grant Willard unless otherwise noted.