Building the ramp has been a collective effort by neighborhood organizations, the city, Virginia Commonwealth University, private developers and businesses. When complete "I would love to say in time for the colorful trees," Ippolitio says it will mean residents of neighborhoods such as Carver, Randolph and the VCU campus can get to the James River Park system in minutes.
The mound of dirt used to build the ramp comes from extractions made in the construction of developer Scott Middleton's housing units on the Oregon Hill overlook. So in a sense, the materials already are earth-friendly and recycled.
Ippolito says the path will do more than unite two sides of the river. It will augment the identity of a neighborhood already rich with history.
"All of us in Oregon Hill have been looking at no-trespassing signs," she says, "while those on the other side in [Westover Hills] have been looking at signage that invites them to identify themselves as a riverside neighborhood. Here we are 100 yards away but we face locked gates."
Attempts to build an access there have been stymied for years by the questionable state of the land, namely who owned it and whether it stood in a CSX right of way. Ethyl Corp. had owned the site, but when the city deemed it a public necessity, it purchased the plot from Ethyl for $103,400, Ippolito says.
Landscape architect Ralph Higgins, who designed VCU's Monroe Campus, is designing the river path. For months, volunteers have been working to clear the area where the ramp will be, hauling up everything from auto parts to a washing machine. Railroad-tie steps now lead down to a footbridge that crosses the Kanawha Canal. Ultimately it will be ADA accessible, Ippolitio says, and a "great swath of green that leads from the middle of town to the middle of the river." Brandon Walters
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