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East End News

What is the future of Chimborazo Park?

All interested in learning about the work recently finished eliminating the trees on Chimborazo Hill and the plans for maintenance of the hill and the trails in the park are invited to an informal meeting on Tuesday August 8th at 7:00 PM at Chimborazo Park. Meet at the Chimborazo Hospital rock near the Statue of Liberty. In the event of rain, meet under the covered pavilion near the rock and the statue. If you are interested in helping with future work but can’t make the meeting, or for more information contact Rick Tatnall at

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Kathi Sanders 07/31/2017 at 7:43 AM

I will be there!

Kathleen 07/31/2017 at 9:12 AM

Is anyone from the Parks department attending?

frank pichel 07/31/2017 at 10:22 AM

“work recently finished” ?

crd 07/31/2017 at 11:04 AM

@2 Same question, anyone from Parks dept. coming, AND anyone from any other city gov’t , like Councilwoman Newbille or a representative from her? Or is this just a bunch of neighbors sitting around complaining to each other?

Rick Tatnall 07/31/2017 at 2:33 PM

@ Kathleen and crd – Dr. Newbille and her liaison Sam have been invited to join us, but they have not shown any interest in the park to date. Also invited are folks from Parks & Rec and DPW. Ultimately, DPW has done just about all they plan to do on the hill and there is no plan of ongoing maintenance for the hill. Bottom line, if there is to be maintenance of the hill and the trails, the work will have to be done by the citizens – that is what this meeting is really about. The Friends of Chimborazo Park exists in name only, so the main goal of the meeting is to recruit folks to get involved in a revamped Friends organization. Community members and park supporters who want to help are asked to attend the meeting and those who want to complain are asked to stay home. One of the ideas to be introduced at the meeting is a food forest on the hill. Another idea to be presented is connecting Chimborazo park to the future Gillies Creek Greenway with a bridge over Gillies Creek. Those with other ideas about enhancing Chimborazo Park are asked to come and present those ideas.

Ella Bandy 07/31/2017 at 3:34 PM

How about just leaving the poor park alone? EVERY time someone has come up with a new idea for this park it has ended in DISASTER. The hideous apple orchard in the kudzu field, the $5,000 a pop goats, the hundreds of dead fruit trees and the ridiculous half clearing of the park this year. Let it go.

crd 07/31/2017 at 6:28 PM

@6 oh but Tatnall has an idea to plant a “food forest” there (said sarcastically). I was wondering about that failed orchard, so thanks for bringing it up.

Nathan 07/31/2017 at 9:00 PM

Parks & Rec must have some idea of hill maintenance. I love the work done and the open views but not maintaining this work would be bad planning, a wast of funds, pure negligence. I plan on helping where I can but I would like to hear the plan parks&precisely has.

Bill Kinsley 07/31/2017 at 9:32 PM

I will be there.
Why doesn’t the city finish removing the trees? What has been removed this month is a joke.
The park needs a lot more repairs than removing trees. How about the side walks, trimming the trees,edging the grass around the walks and flower beds?
I think signage is needed to let people know about the park and why it s here. Safety is never mentioned but it is waiting to happen.

PFT 08/01/2017 at 9:24 AM

Hey Crumudgeons,
The city is putting in time and expense to make our park more accessible, enjoyable and beautiful. Good Grief, stop the whining, please.

booster 08/01/2017 at 11:07 AM

I fear for the success of this effort based on the rough way the organizer handles folks.

Animal lover 08/01/2017 at 3:40 PM

Leave the park alone!!!!

Chris Lumpkin 08/02/2017 at 8:32 PM

For the peanut gallery: I am the one who hatched the food forest idea, with lots of encouragement from Rick and advice from many others. I’m open to any valid constructive criticism of the idea. I hope you will get out of your arm chairs and come to the community meeting to share your experience, your knowledge, and if you don’t have either of those I’m sure you will share your opinions anyway. Bring it on!

I have replaced invasive trees like this with fruiting perennials before, though on a smaller scale. I spent many hours over the past few months studying the geological history of Chimborazo Hill, mapping the accessible areas using GPS and Google Earth, searching for the right mix of plants to replace the Ailanthus, and determining what resources would be necessary to improve the ecology as well as public safety and community use of the park.

There are some incontrovertible facts underlying my design and choices:

1) The hillside has stability issues stemming from soil disturbance and major rain events, most recently after Gaston in 2004. If you are going to remove the Ailanthus, you must replace them with deep rooted perennials or risk further destabilizing the hillside, including the sidewalks and road around the edge.

2) Ailanthus can grow 20 feet or more per season. Richmond DPW just spent over $30K removing them, but they have no plan or budget to continue doing this regularly. The application of herbicides would be prohibitively expensive and damaging to the ecology and stability of the hill. Without citizen engagement, the Ailanthus will continue to grow and obscure the view from the top of the hill.

3) The previous orchard project involved the use of goats, which I gather is expensive and only a short term solution in any case. Orchard trees are expensive, and there were security issues of the plantings being torn out or damaged. The project was abandoned, presumably due to the ongoing expenses and damages.

A food forest is not an orchard. We would be planting herbaceous perennials, shrubs, fruit and nut trees that are hardy and require no care once established. These plants can be sourced for a fraction of the cost of nursery trees. Once they take hold in an area, the shade and roots and improved soil will prevent future incursions of pioneer species like Ailanthus.

The design I have been working on is inexpensive, and the plan to implement is incremental based on the material resources and volunteer labor available. It will not happen overnight, but as we fast-forward the ecological succession on the hillside to something resembling a forest the requirement for labor will decrease and yields of fruit and nuts for the community will increase. The transformation will take a few years, the benefits to the community will outlive all of us.

Hope to see you all on 8/8!

booster 08/07/2017 at 4:54 PM

Calling neighbors the peanut gallery is not a good first step to any community effort. Glad to know in advance that questions will not be welcome. Looks like there is no room for neighbor buy in, here. Good luck with the project.

Rick Tatnall 08/07/2017 at 6:51 PM

While we will miss the insightful input of Mr. Booster, everyone who attends tomorrow’s meeting will be given an opportunity to speak and start participating in what I hope will become a master planning process for Chimborazo Park. As y’all may be aware, the City is in the early stages of developing a new long term Master Plan, so it is a great time to look at the community’s short and long term goals and objectives for Chimborazo Park and all that it connects to. Our meeting tomorrow is intended to start that process, not declare that process.

Rick Tatnall 10/29/2017 at 9:18 AM

The long awaited meeting with the City of Richmond administration leaders happened on October 11th. The meeting involved:
> Dr. Cynthia Newbille, 7th District Council Member
> Sam Patterson, 7th District Liaison
> Deborah Morton, Deputy Director Parks & Rec
> Marlie Creasey-Smith, Parks Programming, Park & Rec
> Bobby Vincent, Director of Public Works
> Carl Otto, Gillies Creek Park Foundation
> Rick Tatnall, Replenish Richmond / East End Community Collaboration

Takeaways from the meeting include:
> The City understands it is very behind in maintenance of Lower Chimborazo and would be willing to consider citizen involvement in Chimbo and other City parks
> Liability is the overriding concern for the City
> While currently doing nothing and with no plans in the works, the City understands that Chimbo and other City parks are being overtaken by a variety of invasive species that need a plan of abatement to possibly include herbicides.
> While no money is currently allocated for any park maintenance at Chimbo, Mr. Vincent and Dr. Newbille believe there is a way to get money in the next budget

Next steps:
It took a couple of weeks and several follow-up emails, but below are the requirements from the City sent by Deborah Morton after consultation with the City Attorney and below that is Carl’s response to the City after he and I agreed on the Chimborazo Phase 1 description (also sent to the City). You will see that $1 million liability coverage is a City requirement which is a non-starter for individual citizens and unnecessary as Carl describes in his response. As stated previously, the City is OK with a plan of maintenance for the parks, and a plan of abatement for invasives, but they will not offer any proactive effort, so that also must come from the citizens. I hope that the Richmond Tree Stewards will help to develop and present such a plan for dealing with invasive species in all Richmond parks to the City and I will be working towards that end. The ultimate plans and requirements for citizen involvement in Chimbo will be used to define and draft a more comprehensive plan for citizen involvement in all Richmond parks.

As far as timing, we hope to get a response from the City to Carl’s email this week and we will see what they think about eliminating the insurance requirement. What was discussed in the meeting but not brought up to the City Attorney is the creation of a waiver to be signed by citizens absolving the City of liability in the event of an accident or injury. Until this issue is resolved, we cannot move forward in a meaningful way. I suggest a way y’all can help is to send Dr. Newbille an email and tell her you want the City to move quicker on allowing citizens to be able to lend a hand in our City parks, and for the City to figure out a way to avoid the insurance issue.

I will send the City’s response when we get it. In the meantime, let me know of your questions, suggestions and concerns.

Rick Tatnall

Requirements from the City

The things we are going to need from you to draft a Right of Entry:

· Summary of the kind of service you will be providing

· Map of the property in question with address

· If you are going to be installing anything in the park or removing property such as gates, fences or anything already affixed to the property please include that information

· How long you want the right of entry to be in affect
· Insurance – you must have insurance with a combined limit of not less than $1,000,000 insuring the City

Carl Otto response to City’s Requirements (including proposed Phase 1 work for Chimborazo)

To all concerned:

This email is intended to create a framework wherein volunteers can assist the city in the war against uncontrolled vegetation in Chimborazo Park.

Rick and I have agreed to provide a significant effort to achieve the immediate goal in Chimborazo Park, and to assist the Gillies Creek Greenway Committee in formulating a plan for that project.

As discussed during the October 11, 2017 meeting in City Hall, the first phase of the restoration effort is to attack the existing vegetation that is out of control. More significant aspects of restoring Chimborazo Park may require funds because the work exceeds the capability of the average volunteer.

It is possible to accomplish enough work using volunteers that the scope of the total project will be easier for everybody to see what is needed and how improvements can enhance the greenway by providing connections to the Capitol Trail and other desirable locations.

I respectfully request that all concerned help find a way to facilitate this effort.
Carl Otto


Phase I of Chimborazo Restoration Project

During this phase, starting immediately, without the benefit of city funding, there would be an effort by volunteers to catch up on the basic landscaping maintenance that has not been done in the lower park for several years.

Overgrown vegetation would be cut back to it’s historical limits, outside the road and off the steps.

Dead trees on the ground would be cut up and moved to a location within the property owned by the Department of Recreation, Parks and Community Facilities for pick up by public works. Such pickups would be requested when there was a pile ready for pick up by a boom truck. The piles would be free of trash (which would be disposed of elsewhere). Tires, if collected, would be kept separate, but also for public works to pick up.

There would be no removal of any installed property during this phase. At this time, there has been no installed property that would need to be removed by any phase of the restoration project.

No new property or equipment is planned for installation by volunteers during this phase.

As damaged property, such as steps and road beds, are uncovered each item would be resolved by mutual consent.

As for insurance, I propose that the volunteers for this phase be treated the same way as any volunteer that would have responded to the public works request for assistance in cutting the city grass or for the participant of any citizen clean up in a park for picking up trash, or for any watering or pruning of trees undertaken by the volunteer tree steward program. Essentially, I think the city should expand it’s self insurance program to cover the grunt work undertake by the volunteers.

As for how long this program should exist, I would suggest it be allowed to continue indefinitely, or until it is no longer useful. This phase is attempting to recover from years of neglect and will take a lot of effort to bring the park back to an acceptable lever. It may have to be continued beyond that point to provide the labor necessary to maintain the property.

Volunteer participation in civic programs such as this should be encouraged to help relieve the financial burden on city staff and to encourage citizen ownership of public spaces. It should probably be combined with or be in addition to a program to discourage litter.


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