Local officials celebrate RVA being named ‘Best Town Ever’

Local officials gathered to discuss and celebrate the city being named the country’s best river town by Outside Magazine.

Update #3 – September 7th, 7:15 AM

One day after news broke that RVA was named “Best Town Ever” by Outside Magazine, local officials touted the achievement at a press conference outside the American Civil War Center.

“Richmond is the best river city town in the country,” said an ebullient Kathy Graziano, City Council president. To secure the honor, RVA beat out 10 cities with 9,315 Facebook likes in a public vote. Outside editors also considered the creativity and content of voters submissions in the decision to put the winner on the October cover, the magazine’s 35th anniversary issue.

“I think a lot of people will be surprised by the choice,” said Outside editor Christopher Keyes in a statement. “Our writer certainly was. But after he spent three days in the city, paddleboarding on the James River, trail running on its banks, and dining all over, he was ready to pack his moving van. Richmond is the real deal—a true haven for adventurous types.”

Bill Street, executive director of the James River Association, said the honor is a “great affirmation for what we have in Virginia’s capital.” While acknowledging the efforts of organizations and individuals, he added that the 1972 passage of the Clean Water Act “provided the underlying structure and mandate” to clean and maintain the James River.

Also on hand was Ralph White, long-time director of the James River Park System, about whom Graziano said “…knew what a treasure the James River Park System was before others.”

White will retire in January after beginning his career in 1980. “This is more than I could ever imagine,” said White, who felt the accolade from Outside was a final jewel in the crown of his career. He underscored how polluted the James River was when he first started. “Now we are the best in the United States.”

Both a recreational hub and city asset, White warned that the James River and surrounding areas should not be exploited by development. He referenced ideas that call for paved banks on certain areas of the river and acres of cut trees to improve views. To him, these ideas undermine what Outside Magazine has recognized.

“The future is very bright as long as we realize….there is a limit,” he said about the James River Park System. “I hope we continue to manage for beauty.”

Hardywood Park Brewery will host a party celebrating RVA’s victory on Friday, September 7th starting at 5:00 PM.

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UPDATE #2 – September 5th, 2:25 PM

The latest issue of Outside Magazine announces that RVA has won the magazine’s Best Town Ever contest. In July, Richmond received the most votes over the other finalists. However, voting was just one component of the contest, with Outside editors considering the creativity use in social media touting each city.

The cover features the James River and city skyline. The issue will be delivered to subscribers on in early September.

Photo by Instagram user znelsrva

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Update #1 — July 11th, 11:46 PM

As voting closed on Outside Magazine’s Best Town Ever contest, Richmond was the clear winner. RVA pulled in 9,315 votes, vastly outpacing the first runner up, Hood River, Oregon.

Voting is just one portion of the contest, so we’ll have to wait until October before the overall winner is unveiled.

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Original — July 10th, 9:46 AM

Barring the miraculous, Richmond will be the runaway winner in Outside Magazine’s Best Town Ever Facebook contest. Among the ten finalists, Richmond leads (at publication) with 8,085 votes. The closest competitor–Hood River, OR–has 2,714 votes. Voting ends tomorrow.

“It says a lot about us,” said Phil Riggan. He is a reporter for Richmond.com and blogger at RichmondOutside.com who has written extensively about the James River and surrounding park areas. “This was a rally call.”

At Outside Magazine’s request, the nonprofit American Rivers submitted a list of the country’s best river towns. Those towns embodied Outside’s ideal area: “a balance of great culture, perfect scenery, reasonable home prices, stress-free living, and, of course, easy access to the outdoors.” Richmond was one of ten finalists chosen by the magazine.

Tomorrow Hardywood Park Craft Brewery will host a “CRUSH the VOTE” event between 4:00 PM and 8:00 PM. “Kayakers, mountain bikers and rock climbers love a finely crafted beer almost as much as their favorite surfing hole, singletrack, or rock wall,” says Hardywood’s website. The event will feature local vendors such as Carytown Bicycle Co., Blackdog Paddle, River City Rafting, and others. Not only does the brewery want to feature outdoor recreation vendors, but also secure a Richmond victory. “Our goal is to not just win the vote, but to CRUSH it.”

Voting is only one component of Outside’s contest. The magazine will also consider the collective creativity of Facebook posts from users praising their favorite town. Outside will profile the winning town in their October 2012 issue as well as feature that town on its cover.

“Since the 1970s, Richmond has been working on fixing the falls of the James,” said Phil Riggan. He said one attribute that makes Richmond unique is that the city has Class III and IV rapids, typically traversed by experienced rafters near the City’s center. “To me, that is hard to beat.”

Despite these rare outdoor amenities, Riggan said most people nationwide associate Richmond with the Civil War. Winning Outside’s contest would not only embolden the affections of Richmonders toward their city, but show the nation that Richmond has more than history to offer. “I think we would certainly be deserving,” said Riggan.

To vote Richmond in the Best Town Ever contest, Facebook users must “like” the page. Voting ends Wednesday, July 11th.


photo by Ashley Jenkins

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Nathan Cushing

Nathan Cushing is a writer, journalist, and RVANews Editor.

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