Owing in part to its industrial legacy, Richmond is a city with urban environmental challenges.
Which is why Mayor Gayle McLaughlin hails the establishment of a local nonprofit dedicated to cleaning, restoring and reusing urban parcels of land that lay dormant.
The new nonprofit, named Groundwork Richmond, will “operate in areas adversely affected by industrialization and within poor urban communities with significant numbers of brownfields,” McLaughlin said during a ceremony Monday at City Hall celebrating the completion of a feasibility study and strategic plan. The completion of the documents is a key step toward securing funding, she said.
Groundwork Richmond is part of a network of independent community ventures aimed at improving urban environments through local action by linking local people, business, government and other organizations, according to a program summary.
The Groundwork USA network works with the Environmental Protection Agency Brownfields Program and the National Park Service Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program. Brownfields are lands previously used for industrial purposes, which may contain hazardous residue.
The city has agreed to an annual contribution of $25,000 toward the nonprofit’s mission.
The initial focus of Groundwork Richmond will be areas within the city’s Iron Triangle, said Nicole Valentino, a community advocate within the Mayor’s Office.
“It’s one of the most negatively impacted areas of the city, in terms of toxic residues and land that needs to be remediated,” Valentino said. “And it suffers a high rate of poverty and high rate of crime.“
Within the Iron Triangle, and extending beyond it, the venture will focus on the Richmond Greenway, a trail project linking public transit and cutting through the heart of the city. The city’s Parks Department and local representatives of the National Park Service are also likely partners, according to the executive summary.
Valentino said a key component to the initiative will be the formation of a Green Team, a group of local youths who will work to renew unused and toxic parcels within the city’s urban core.
“The vision that we have is that the team would reforest areas, plan and develop urban tree canopies, work on building parks out of brownfields and learn leadership skills on the way,” Valentino said. “This will be a group of local young people who are trained to be stewards of the projects.”