Staying safe on the James

The Fourth of July means cookouts, hang outs, and (for many Richmonders) trips to the river. If your Independence Day plans include a trip to the James, take a minute to brush up on your river safety.

According to the James River Association, more than one third of all in-state residents depend on the 340 mile long river for water, commerce and recreation.

No question, the James is a popular destination among Richmond locals—many enjoying the parks running alongside the water’s edge or lounging in high-traffic areas like Belle Isle or Texas Beach—but what the JRA and Richmond’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities stress in addition to recreation, is river safety.

“The regulations were put in place by the city of Richmond to increase public safety at the river. We want the public to enjoy the park, but we want them to be safe and to obey the regulations.

They could save your life,” stated J.R. Pope, the director of the department of Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities.

So, with the Fourth of July holiday trudging to the top of the to-do list, many Virginians might find a trip down to the James’s rocky shores key to the perfect Independence Day weekend.

“Now that the weather is warm, more people are coming out to enjoy the park and the river, and we want the public to know these river regulations,” Pope stated. “If you plan on getting in the water — even if it’s just to wade along the shore or to go sit on a rock — it’s important for your own safety that you follow the regulations.”

The department of parks and recreation has offered a list of safety tips and rules to keep in mind when trading in the cities and suburbs for some more natural scenery.

According to the department of parks and recreation website, park rules include:

  • Park hours are from sunrise to sunset.
  • Glass is prohibited in city parks.
  • No parking on the grass.
  • No amplified music without a special permit.
  • Dogs are allowed only in some parks, which include—Barker Field dog park, Byrd Park, Chimborazo dog park, and Forest Hill Park. (Service dogs are allowed in every park.)
  • No alcoholic beverages are allowed in city parks.
  • No open fires are allowed outside of park fireplaces and grills.
  • No golf or archery is allowed in city parks.
  • No tents, stages or other special apparatus is allowed without a permit.
  • No cutting of park trees or shrubs in city parks is allowed.

The department also suggests some water safety tips:

  • By law, when water levels are at 5 feet and above, everyone on the river must wear a life jacket. When water levels are at 9 feet or above, no one is allowed on the river without a permit.
  • If you can’t swim, do not go in.
  • Never go in the water alone.
  • Let others know where you are going and when you expect to return.
  • Pay attention to your surroundings.
  • Always wear shoes in the river.
  • Young children should always wear life jackets.
  • Do not overestimate your skills.

According to Pope, the conditions of the river can be tougher than they appear and change fast—leaving many unprepared and unable to handle the harsh currents. However, by following the rules and safety tips, river users can be sure to avoid accidents and make the most out of the Richmond’s nearby treasure.

For more information, a park map can be purchased for $2 at Park Headquarters or on the fourth floor of City Hall. If you had additional questions, trying calling the numbers below:

  • Park Headquarters, 804-646-8911
  • River Levels, 804-646-8228
  • Park Rentals, 804-646-0036 or 804-646-0761
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Erica Terrini

Erica Terrini is a contributing writer for RVANews and currently attends Virginia Commonwealth University, where she is also the executive editor for The Commonwealth Times. During her time in Richmond, she has gotten used to running around like a crazy person with a never-ending checklist in her pursuit to report the local news of a thriving, raw, and pretty fly city.

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