Dedication to the James is key for city's Peter Bruce

By Phil Riggan - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Don't call Peter Bruce a trash collector -- that's just one of the many jobs he has as head of maintenance for the James River Park System.

It's just that trash is such a visible part of his daily routine, and the one that can get out of control the fastest, especially at the most popular spots in the park, like Pony Pasture, Belle Isle and Brown's Island.

"200-300 trash cans, and in the hot spots, if we miss one day, you've got a pyramid of trash," Bruce said.

He was born in eastern Henrico and is a long-time city resident. He's been at his job for 12 years, hired on full time under park manager Ralph White after Hurricane Fran in 1996.

His says his duties are mainly trash, roadway maintenance, graffiti, grass, repairs, painting -- whatever the park needs. The JRPS cares for more than 650 acres of park land, including 14 parks and many extra areas like the Manchester climbing wall, floodwall, the Slave Trail and Lumpkin's Jail sites.

There's a lot of work to be done year-round, and the park staff depends on help from volunteers for picking up trash, painting, cleaning graffiti, building projects and more.

"Volunteers are the stronghold of the James River Park System," Bruce said. Many of the groups they see are young people -- residents, college students and children from all over the area.

Bruce said he also has many volunteers from the African-American community -- people that may never have experienced the river that get good work skills. He says that people just want to do something positive in a positive atmosphere.

"At the end of the day, we thank the volunteers and they thank us, and you know, it's just amazing how people love the James River," he said.

Bruce wouldn't declare his favorite part of the park, but loves his job: "I tell everybody ... just get a map and come to the James river ... bring your family, get away ... just to walk and enjoy it."

People may enjoy the park a little too much.  Bruce works long hours in the summer, including most weekends to keep the popular park system clean and safe.

"We need to get our people in the habit of placing material and waste in the right place," he said.

That includes recycling, which Bruce says helps fund the park signage and material for special building projects.

So now that you've met Peter Bruce, keep him in mind next time you're at the James river. Clean up your trash and put it in the right place to make his job a little easier.

If you want to volunteer with the James River Park System, call 804-646-8911 or visit

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