Around me, I see a riverside park with many families having barbecues and enjoying the sounds of the river. Most of the men are fishing, but not for sport or bragging rights. Instead they are holding a fishing rod, more just to have an excuse to sit outside and enjoy the magnificent James river. For my reflection spot I traveled to Rocketts Landing in downtown Richmond. As I sit here I reflect mostly on the history of this place, and what that means for its future.
Change has always happened here. In the early 1700s, Rocketts Landing was a ferry port to cross the river. Before bridges, railroads, cars, or even an independent American country, a large amount of commerce was happening here. If someone wanted to get cargo across the James, it had to be taken across at this place. This pinch point meant Rocketts Landing had sort of became a confluence of goods and materials for the city of Richmond. I imagine that it must have been bustling with people and cargo going in all directions. From a place of prosperity, Rocketts Landing then changed into a place of destruction. During the civil war this spot was the naval shipyard for the Confederacy. Iron was forged shortly up river near Browns Island (now the location of Folk Festival) and then made into warships. These new iron ships and other boats purchased were all stored and launched from Rocketts Landing, making this a very important piece of history which had a large scale effect.
As I sit on the dock today, the place looks much different. It is no longer defined by coal burning ironclad fortresses, nor is there industry moving across the river. Instead there is a magnificent green space with recreational opportunities. A 53-mile-long paved path runs from this spot down river to Jamestown. I like to think that this connectivity is much more constructive than what the warships took advantage of. Although all around me is peaceful now, I wonder what this place will evolve into next. High end apartments seem to be overhanging above me and this makes me wish that development will not take over this little spot of Cronan’s wilderness. Although I know that I will not live long enough to see changes like those I read in the history books, I hope to come back to this spot regularly and notice something new.
See comments below for follow up visits.