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Virginia CZM Program: 2014 Coastal Grant Project Description and Final Summary

Project Task:CZM logo



Richmond Regional Planning District Commission 

Project Title:

Brown’s Island Dam Walk South Bank Habitat Restoration and Native Plant Demonstration

Project Description as Proposed:

The Brown’s Island Dam Walk South Bank Habitat Restoration and Native Plant Demonstration will restore native habitat to part of the southern bank of the James River in downtown Richmond.  The project will clear invasive species from the southern bank.  Habitat will be restored using native plants, bioswales and rain gardens will filter runoff, and interpretive signage will educate the public.  This habitat restoration project is part of a larger Brown’s Island Dam Walk project.

South Bank Native Habitat Restoration
An elevated Dam Walk structure crossing the James River as part of the Brown’s Island Dam Walk project will be joined by a series of shared use paths on the south bank of the river.  Clearance of invasive vegetation along the route of the Dam Walk structure and new earthwork on the south bank will be necessary. Much of the area of land disturbance on the south bank is currently colonized by invasive species such as kudzu and English ivy. The project aims to replant only native species which will improve the value of this space as habitat and serve as an opportunity for educational interpretation.

The sloped nature of the site and its riverside location makes green infrastructure for water management a key part of the project. The new slopes created on the south bank and on the perimeter of the new structure will afford opportunities for re-vegetation of native plants and habitat restoration.  Bioswales and two rain gardens will filter runoff for water quantity and quality. The presence of this green infrastructure along a major recreational and active transportation amenity means that it will be a prominent public part of the project, easily observed and understood through interpretive signage by visitors.

The proposed use of grant funds on this project will be to purchase and install native plants as part of the habitat restoration on the south bank of the James River.  Specifically, funds will be used in the creation of one of the two planned rain gardens.  In addition, grant funds will be used to fabricate and install one interpretive sign describing the value of native habitats and the ecosystem services provided by them.  At the conclusion of the project, RRPDC staff will produce a report summarizing the process of designing and installing the native habitat and interpretive sign.

Grant funds will add value to the South Bank Habitat project by enabling the inclusion of an interpretive sign educating the public about native habitat.  Grant funds will also enhance the ability to purchase and install native plants.  In summary, grant funds will feature habitat restoration as a full project element of the Dam Walk and serve as an educational opportunity for the public through interpretive signage.

Brown’s Island Dam Walk
The South Bank Habitat Restoration and Native Plant Demonstration is part of a larger project to improve public access along both banks of the James River in downtown Richmond.  The Brown’s Island Dam Walk will transform an industrial era structure into a key connection between both banks of the James River;  the retrofit of an existing dam structure on the James River will provide a new elevated pathway over the river. Cut and fill earthwork will create shared use, on-grade paths on the former Richmond and Petersburg Railroad Embankment on the South Bank to create a universally accessible, non-motorized route extending from Brown’s Island southward to the Manchester neighborhood.  Interpretive signage along the structure and paths will detail subjects such as river ecology and geologic explanations of the Fall Line, coastal plain, and Piedmont.  All signage subject matter has not been finalized.

As the first implementation project of the Richmond Riverfront Plan, the Brown’s Island Dam Walk aims to be a standard-setter for use of native species, habitat restoration, and green infrastructure throughout the Riverfront area.

Federal Funding:


Project Contact:

Barbara Jacocks, 804.323.2033;  

Project Status:

10/1/14 - 9/30/15; Project Completed

Final Product Received:

Tyler Potterfield Memorial Bridge South Bank Habitat Restoration and Native Plant Demonstration Project Final Report (PDF)

Project Summary Provided by Grantee:

This habitat restoration project created a native plant demonstration that functions as a rain garden on the south bank of a public access bridge spanning the James River in the City of Richmond.  The habitat restoration project provided for the purchase and installation of 185 native plants including trees, shrubs, and ferns.  The project also included the design, fabrication, and installation of an interpretive sign about the value of native plants in the landscape and their function in the project rain garden. 


The habitat restoration project was part of a larger undertaking that dramatically improved public access to the James River.  The Tyler Potterfield Memorial Bridge is a bicycle and pedestrian bridge crossing the James River in downtown Richmond that has proven very popular among residents and tourists.  On December 2, 2016, the Tyler Potterfield Memorial Bridge was officially opened to the public. In the first month open, more than 35,000 people crossed the bridge.  The bridge is used for both recreational purposes and commuting. For more information about the Potterfield Memorial Bridge see the City’s website on the Riverfront Plan: .


In the fall of 2016 landscaping was completed on the south bank of the Tyler Potterfield Memorial Bridge.  The native plant restoration area associated with this grant was planted at that time. 


Interpretive signs were the last element to be designed, fabricated, and installed.    Design for the sign associated with the native planting area and this grant was completed in February 2017.  Contractor error that necessitated correction on the incline of the ADA accessible path from the bridge to street level caused a several-week delay in sign installation.  Installation was completed in the summer of 2017.

Disclaimer: This project summary provides the federal dollars initially awarded to the grantee. Due to underexpenditure or reprogramming of grant funds, this figure may change. For more information on the allocation of coastal grant funds, please contact Laura McKay, Virginia Coastal Program Manager, at 804.698.4323 or email:

A more detailed Scope of Work for this project is available. Please direct your request for a copy to

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Virginia Department of
Environmental Quality
P.O. Box 1105
Richmond, VA 23218
(804) 698-4000

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