RICHMOND, VA: On Tuesday September 16th, 2012, Venture Richmond proceeded to damage a portion of the historic James River and Kanawha canal bank and to destroy a century-old brick structural component of the canal.
The Oregon Hill Neighborhood Association (OHNA) has called for the preservation of the 200 year old canal, built largely with slave labor when George Washington was the President of the canal society. The Oregon Hill neighborhood has many connections to the canal, including 601 Spring St, the former home of Samuel P. Parsons, the Canal Superintendent in 1840.
Jennifer Hancock, OHNA President, said, “We are seeing Richmond history disappear before our eyes.”
OHNA finds it disturbing that it is a public/private partnership that is responsible for the destruction. According to the Times Dispatch, Venture Richmond gets a large amount of public funding: $1.68 million from a special city tax on downtown property owners, in addition to $700,000 in public money for the Clean and Safe program.
Venture Richmond’s proposed amphitheater has ample sight lines without damaging the canal.
The Oregon Hill neighborhood has long sought the restoration of the canal to allow boats to travel west to Maymont. But the canal would not hold adequate water to float a boat to Maymont if the banks of the canal are lowered. According to archaeologist Lyle Browning, if the height of the canal bank is lowered below 82 feet above sea level, its current level, the canal will not hold enough water to allow boats to make the trip to Maymont in the future. “Lowering the height of the canal towpath without adequate archaeological investigation of the towpath will irreparably damage a nationally important resource.”