Bringing a lake back to life

By Andrew Freiden - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Richmond's Forest Hill Park is being transformed, as an accidental wetland - turns back into a lake. For now, fences keep interested park-goers at a distance.

A pile of dirt in the parking lot of Forest Hill Park?  It's tons of sediment scooped from the lake at the bottom of the hill. Years of development along Reedy Creek provided the dirt, and rain storms washed it all into what used to be a lake, a gathering place that entertained families for years. But sediment slowly erased the lake from the map. It's been slowly filling up since the 70s...

"We're basically getting rid of 66 thousand tons of silt that has settled here over the years and the lake has pretty much been neglected for many, many years. So we're trying to restore one of Richmond's many amenities to its original condition," said Roslyn Johnson, Richmond Parks Deputy Director.

And don't worry, treasure hunters, they haven't found anything valuable in this dirt, just a few shopping carts. The dirt sits here to dry out, before it's carted away to a landfill.

"Well, the silt we take it up to the top of the hill so it can dry out so it can be moved to a landfill and it will help fill the landfill so it will be seeded and grassed," said Johnson.

Richmond Parks Deputy Director Roslyn Johnson says southsiders can't wait to see what's going on the other side of this fence -- but she urges you to wait.

"This is a construction site. Sometimes it gets worse before it gets better. But we do want citizens to know that this area should not be entered into under any circumstances. It is dangerous. There's a lot of heavy equipment and right now it is not safe at all of the public to enter. We're on the other side of the fence but we are in a safe area," Johnson said.

You'll get your chance to check out the fully restored park for yourself in just a few months. The project is slated to finish in November -- months ahead of schedule. So what's to stop the lake from filling up yet again? It's not like dirt and trash will stop flowing along Reedy Creek into the park. The solution:  two "forebays"

"A forebay is basically a hole. It's a settlement hole where the silt will kind of build up. We will be able to clear it out with a Bobcat and haul it off and it will fill up again. So the process will be able to continue. But it will not affect the lake so that the citizens' investment that they have in the lake will certainly be safeguarded," Johnson said.

And that will ensure Richmonders can enjoy the lake for years to come. Crews are removing more than 60,000 tons of silt. The project is being funded through the capital improvement, city of the future program.

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