A spotlight on Henrico County’s growing, evolving parks system

The system, which began in 1969, now includes over 4,000 acres of parkland.

From Henrico Now:

Henrico’s park system is experiencing an evolution – one shaped by the character of its residents and the commitment of its local government.

“We are in growth mode, and we are experiencing a system shift from that growth,” says Neil Luther, Director, Henrico Recreation & Parks. “Over the years, the park system has developed a strong backbone. Now we are in our late adolescent phase of development, and we’re starting to add parks and features within parks that really complement the growing tastes of the community.”

“In my experience, I have found that park systems generally absorb the flavor and character of the community in which they are located,” adds the parks industry veteran. “Not every park system is the same. What you see in Henrico County, in terms of how we provide park services, is a reflection of the commitment the county makes to provide a good quality of life for everyone.”

It’s hard to believe the system, which began in 1969 as a simple recreational facility, has blossomed to include a full-on park network, including 26 miles of trails and just over 4,000 acres of parkland. Henrico’s Recreation & Parks department employs 170 full-time staff and an additional 300 to 400 temporary hires in the summer peak season. Its annual operating budget is $17.5 million.

As Henrico’s population evolves, Luther and his team are delivering a park experience that evolves with it – and that means designing different spaces to meet different needs. “We find that people want parks and sports facilities set within a larger park context,” Luther explains. “When they’re at a sporting event, they want other things to do while they’re there during that two- to three-hour timeframe. They may have other children who want to play on a playground or ride their bike. The parents may want to run or enjoy a family picnic.”

“We find that today it’s about becoming a signature sports and tournament facility. The expectation and level of quality of the field itself – and the facilities and infrastructure that support it – is very different now from how it used to be,” adds Luther. Taylor Park, a 100-acre tract in eastern Henrico, and Greenwood Park in the western part of the county are a growing expression of this desire.

On the other hand, Tuckahoe Creek Park offers a very different experience. The new boardwalk trail system, when completed, will be the first of its type in Henrico – offering residents the experience of hiking in a natural flood plain.

As the network of leisure opportunities in Henrico continues to evolve, perhaps no single park has matured more than Dorey Park. What was once a few soccer and softball fields in the middle of nowhere is now coming into its own.

Continue reading here.

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Trevor Dickerson

Trevor Dickerson loves all things Richmond and manages RVANews’ West of the Boulevard and West End community sites.

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