Overcrowding at James River leads to parking issues

Overcrowding at James River leads to parking issues

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Every summer, Pony Pasture sees an influx of visitors but it’s safe to say almost nothing this year is the same as last year.

”It has been a lot more people this year. I don’t know if it’s because of the coronavirus. I’m sure there’s probably a lot of pools that are not open, or whatnot, and no places for people to go,” said Susan, a Stratford Hills resident who lives close to Pony Pasture.

According to the city’s Office of Parks and Recreation, the number of visitors to Pony Pasture in the month of June 2020 alone was over 44,000. They add that as of June 30, 2020, the James Rivers Park System had seen 1,076,873 visitors whereas on the same date in 2019 - there were 975,433 visitors.

While most of the people visiting are looking for some fun in the sun, it’s anything but for the neighbors nearby.

”People getting blocked in their driveways; they couldn’t get out. It was hard for me to get my car through Rockfall Drive because they were parked on both sides of the street,” Susan said.

Richmond City Councilwoman Kristen Larson, who represents that part of the city, says she’s previously worked to fix those issues.

”Back in early March, we were planning on meeting with GRTC to see if we could get a shuttle,” she said.

Unfortunately, the pandemic scrapped plans for the shuttle bus, and so the next solution was for parking lot attendants - put in place by Parks and Recreation - to navigate drivers around the limited spaces or the overflow parking spots. But in these unprecedented times, the only real solution could be to compromise.

”We need to figure out how to redirect some folks to other areas of the park that aren’t as crowded so that we’re balancing that,” Larson said.

Susan adds that she sympathizes with the people that just want to enjoy the river.

“I understand that everybody’s pent up; they haven’t been able to get out,” she said. “I was young myself once, but you just need to have some respect for the people in the neighborhood.”

The Office of Parks and Recreation adds that it has plans to install more “No Parking” signs in the deeper neighborhood surrounding Pony Pasture, and that tickets are being issued for illegal parking on the weekends and holidays.

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