New education center won’t ignore James River’s painful past

6/1/2023, 6 p.m.
On May 8, 2023, the James River Association broke ground on a new river education center on Dock Street in …

On May 8, 2023, the James River Association broke ground on a new river education center on Dock Street in Richmond’s East End. The James A. Buzzard River Education Center will be located on Richmond’s riverfront, just steps from the James River, and is scheduled to open in the summer of 2024. Education programs offered at the center will explore the James River, its natural resources, as well as its historical significance.

The location of the James A. Buzzard River Education Center, at the head of the tidal James in Richmond, provides an ideal location to not only introduce people to the river but to amplify its historical significance. It is important to remind people that the James River has served as a backdrop to much of Virginia’s history, including its most painful parts.

The displacement of Virginian Indian tribes and the transport of enslaved Africans happened along the James River’s shores and on its waters. We are committed to teaching the full history of Richmond’s riverfront, “the good, the bad, and the ugly,” as Mayor Levar Stoney put it during our groundbreaking event.

Through both our educational programming as well as our community partnerships, we hope the river education center can serve as a hub in which voices can be uplifted, especially those from communities that have historically been underrepresented, in which the stories of past and present Richmond can be shared.

Additionally, one of our primary goals is to make the river education center an inclusive space for all Richmonders to enjoy. Our plan is to build upon our existing relationships with Richmond Public Schools and partner organizations offering after-school programs, particularly in the East End, to invite students to the river education center.

We want every child who grows up in “The Best Rivertown Ever” to have a relationship with the James, to be able to access the James, and to enjoy a lifetime of the benefits it provides. Public programs offered at the river education center will help connect families to the James and educate them about its full history as well. We also intend to explore opportunities to complement the planned Shockoe Heritage Campus Interpretive Center through the installation of interpretive displays at the river education center that will be accessible to the public on a daily basis.

To learn more about the new river education center, visit https://www.jameschanger.org/greater-richmond.html.


The writer is president and CEO of the James River Association.