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Richmond Public Library, City of Richmond Department of Public Utilities/RVAH2O, Four Winds Design, and the James River Association is celebrating the completion of green infrastructure projects that manage stormwater at three Richmond Public Library branches.

Implementation of green infrastructure plans for Broad Rock Branch, North Avenue Branch, and West End Branch, all approved by the City of Richmond’s Urban Design Committee and Planning Commission, occurred this spring. Each of the three projects features bioretention basins that capture and absorb stormwater runoff from library buildings and grounds, thereby reducing the amount of stormwater pollution entering the James River and its dues.

“After spending a few years securing funding for the Greening Richmond Public Libraries initiative and developing green infrastructure plans with community input for Broad Rock Branch, North Avenue Branch, and West End Branch, Richmond Public Library is thrilled to celebrate the completion of these projects, said Scott Firestine, Director of Richmond Public Library. “These projects are the result of collaboration with committed partners like the James River Association and Four Winds Design and interdepartmental cooperation within City Hall. We’ve reimagined how library campuses can serve the city, from adding Bike Share stations and outdoor reading benches to new methods of landscape maintenance.”

Harbor Dredge & Dock was selected as the contractor to implement the three projects and volunteer assistance was used to install trees, shrubs, perennials, and grasses. A total of 173 trees and shrubs were planted alongside hundreds of perennials and grasses at the three library branches to help manage stormwater and green library grounds. The landscapes were designed to be habitats for pollinators and are complete with interpretive signs for visitors and expanded water-wise irrigation systems. As the trees and shrubs grow, they will help reduce the amount of stormwater runoff leaving library grounds and expand Richmond’s tree canopy. The Richmond Public Library Foundation funded new outdoor seating areas featuring pervious pavers that reduce stormwater runoff near the main entrance at Broad Rock Branch.

“It really is remarkable what public-private collaboration can achieve,” said Justin Doyle, Director of Community Conservation with the James River Association. “My James River Association colleagues and I are grateful for Richmond Public Library’s commitment to the Greening Richmond Public Libraries initiative and their willingness to install green infrastructure on library grounds to reduce stormwater runoff. We are excited to conduct community engagement activities at East End Branch this month and work toward developing a community-supported green infrastructure plan for the library.”

Community engagement activities including a public meeting and rain barrel workshop are scheduled for East End Branch Library this month. A questionnaire available at the library and online is also being used to gather input from library users and residents of Richmond’s East End. A public meeting will be held at the library on Wednesday, June 15, 2022, at 5:00 pm. Attendees will be asked to share thoughts on outdoor spaces at the library and input on where green infrastructure should be installed around the library. On Tuesday, June 21, 2022, the James River Association is partnering with Richmond Public Library and the Department of Public Utilities/RVAH2O to hold a rain barrel workshop at the library. During this workshop, participants will learn how to assemble, install, and use rain barrels to harvest rainwater at home. Participants will also learn about the benefits of native plants and receive a native perennial to plant at home.

Stormwater pollution poses one of the biggest threats to the health of the James River by carrying pollution to its tributaries and green infrastructure helps reduce polluted stormwater runoff. The Greening Richmond Public Libraries initiative, a collaboration between Richmond Public Library, City of Richmond Department of Public Utilities/RVAH2O, JRA, and Four Winds Design, launched in 2019 with the implementation of a green infrastructure plan at Westover Hills Branch Library. Since then, the partners have worked together to engage library users and stakeholders in planning and design processes that resulted in the implementation of green infrastructure plans at Broad Rock Branch Library, North Avenue Branch Library, and West End Branch Library.

The primary goal of these plans is to manage stormwater on library grounds through the installation of green infrastructure. The initiative is funded in part by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) under a 319 grant to the James River Association. Additional support is provided by Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, Altria, City of Richmond Department of Public Utilities/RVAH2O, James River Association, Richmond Public Library, Richmond Public Library Foundation, and Virginia Department of Forestry.

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