Give Doug Wilder some credit – the arrival of Richmond's new director of parks and recreation under Wilder's tenure as mayor has resulted in huge changes. Huge, positive changes.
Ed Slipek does what he does best in the latest Style Weekly – uses words to walk readers visually through an urban landscape. In this case, an urban landscape that has a deciduous grid.
Two of Richmond’s sprawling, old school pleasure parks, Byrd and Forest Hill, are so entwined in Richmond’s verdant terrain that lots of us pass these familiar haunts on a regular basis without acknowledging what a tonic they provide our frayed nerves and frenzied days. But occasional, unexpected changes at these taken-for-granted precincts smack us in the face: We see things afresh and with renewed appreciation.
Recent enhancements at Byrd Park, our city’s largest greensward, and Forest Hill Park on the South Side prompt such a jolt. Byrd Park’s Fountain Lake has received a welcome amenity with a handsome new brick concession structure while the lake at Forest Hill Park has recently returned to, well, lake status after being swamplike for far too long. Bottom line: Summer in the city is better this year.
In addition to casting a critical (but overwhelmingly positive) eye on how both parks have been given a new lease on life, Slipek also educates readers. Who knew, for starters, that Byrd Park was cobbled together over decades!?
The lakes were just one feature of an ambitious and long-range development plan that city engineer Wilfred E. Cutshaw doggedly maneuvered through City Hall from 1873 to 1907 that made Byrd Park, at 300 acres, Richmond’s largest public open space. Like Manhattan’s 700-acre Central Park, it offers a broad range of activities — including passive natural areas, athletic playing fields and a highly programmed cultural line-up of exhibitions, theater, dance and music.