Is Libby Hill Park in Danger?

In bustling urban settings, parks can be windows into the past. In some cities there are historic parks that have been preserved since the founding of the city, in others, parks are created in an attempt to reclaim some of the land from development. Libby Park is located in Richmond, at the intersection of East Franklin and 28th streets. It is one of three original parks in Richmond. Libby Park looks straight down onto the James River; unfortunately, due to urban development a large white building obstructs this view and truly brings home the dangers threatening the park systems. Many parks in this country are in danger due to pollution, budget cuts, and unchecked development. If the white building at the base of the park is any indication, Libby Hill Park may be in danger, too.

The view of the river from the summit of Libby Hill is supposedly what inspired the name for the city due to the likeness of the view of Richmond on the Thames. Due to the encroachment of urbanization towards the banks of the river, the likeness of these views risks being destroyed. At the summit of the hill you can view the panoramic landscape of Richmond, it is both a reminder of how successful this city has become and how much the city has changed. Richmond is a bustling urban settlement with a lot to offer. It is a city filled with history, art, culture, and industry. Regrettably, industry throughout history has also been responsible for much pollution. As cities grow and industries boom precautions concerning the regulation of pollution and expansion are often pushed to the side as urban growth takes root.

In urban settings pollution can be one of the biggest concerns. Factory runoff and chemical output, erosion, over-illumination from various urban venues, and littering can all contribute to urban pollution problems. Parks can be decimated by air pollution, water pollution, and littering and trash pollution, while the views from these parks can be disrupted by construction and development, and light and visual pollution. Pollution can cause haze or smog to obstruct views, it can kill off animal and plant wildlife, harmful emissions can make it dangerous to be in these places, and acid rain can slowly eat away at statues, monuments and memorials. While Libby Park does not seem to be in an extreme state desolation yet, it would be pertinent to keep in mind that the urban development of the city has the potential to harm the parks in Richmond, and it would be wise to at least plan, if not enact some more rigorous legislation to prevent our Parks from destruction at the hand of development and pollution.

The only thing that seems to be bright in the future of Richmond’s parks is that they are not in danger due to budget cuts. This year the city has budgeted for almost sixteen million dollars to be spent on the parks, recreation, and community facilities of Richmond; this is almost a million more than last year. Also, in the capital improvement plan proposed by the city of Richmond to be implemented over the next five years, almost nine million dollars are pledged towards the improvement of parks and recreational facilities.[1]

Libby Hill Park is in good condition for the moment, but the development in that area, around parks in general, should be watched, or else it could endanger one of the few sites we have left from the founding of Richmond. Libby Hill is an important part of Richmond’s history and it would be devastating to see it destroyed at the hands of development and urbanization. The city of Richmond has plans to keep the parks in good shape, but we need to realize that not all decay is visible. These parks need to be protected from invisible enemies, such as pollution, if they are to survive for future generations.

[1] Office of Budget and Strategic Planning, Operating Budget Highlights (Richmond, VA,

2011), 2,

(accessed January 18, 2011).

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5 Responses to Is Libby Hill Park in Danger?

  1. uryn2bk says:

    I would have really liked to read more from you about the historical relevancy of this park to the region in general. It is extremely important to conserve areas with great cultural and historical significance, especially when modern technologies make this a an easy, albeit expensive, task to take on. However, when I research Libby Hill Park and look at contemporary pictures, the first thing I see is the memorial to the soldiers and sailors of the Civil War. Additionally, I’m sure there is a story in why the name was changed from Marshall Square to Libby Hill Park.
    Nevertheless, I’m very glad that you wrote on this grassy little section of the city because as we read in Nonesuch Place: A History of the Richmond Landscape, parks are not only important environmentally and ecologically, but are also very historically significant in that they reflect the eras in which they were constructed. You mention this in your introduction, and that is something that I think is very understated when citizens consider the reasons to restore or conserve parklands.

  2. uraw2ys says:

    It is interesting that you bring up the question as to whether Libby Hill Park is in danger or not from encroaching urban settlement. It is actually very relevant to the original Richmond-upon-Thames. As you might remember from the picture on that information table as you overlook the James, there is marshland / farmland between the river and the top of what is known today as Richmond hill. Either last year or in 2009 there was a town-wide debate as to whether there should be more housing built on that land.
    Luckily, it was decided that there should be no building there for the foreseeable future. Although I think the reasoning for that was that the building would have been on floodplains and unstable land; not to preserve the picturesque landscape.

  3. urty4rt says:

    It is distressing and unfortunate that parks all over America and the rest of the world are subject to the misfortunes of pollution. The problem with being an industrial world is the harm that it causes nature and the population as well. Richmond happens to be a very industrial city, with much of this industry revolving around the James River. As industry grows in Richmond, the parks are in more and more danger. You bring up the point that if industry were to stand in the way of the view from Libby Hill Park it would be especially devastating because it is how the city of Richmond was named. Like you say, it is fortunate that more money is being delegated to the up keeping and survival of not only Libby Hill Park, but of the other parks in Richmond as well. Libby Hill has much cultural and historical significance to the people of Richmond and it would be a shame to lose even a part of it, even if only the view.

  4. urch2wa says:

    It is good to hear that Richmond is making some effort to keep hold of some of the more natural areas. As history has shown us, the Richmond area has always been under constant change. By having a piece of land kept untouched by the progress around it allows people to appreciate the history of the area.
    I like your title in the fact that it captures the readers attention and plants that question in their mind making them want to read your article. Although you do not give a definitive answer to your question, which is not a bad thing, you do give the facts and leave it up to the reader to decide whether or not the park is or is not at risk.

  5. urzf8qq says:

    I like how you analyze not only the past of the area, but also what we can expect in the future. Your research into funding for parks in the city provided you with an important piece of information; that, even in a tough economic climate, Richmond is stepping up its efforts to preserve parks and other community areas by spending additional money.

    I also think that you do a great job in your second paragraph highlighting why Libby Hill, and others like it, must be preserved. Your essay convinces the reader to support maintaining what little open space remains.

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