$740,000 in state cash makes splash for Danville’s riverfront park

The riverfront park planned next to the King Memorial Bridge downtown has just received $740,000 from the state.

The money from the Virginia Department of Parks and Recreation brings the total raised or pledged for the project to $7.2 million, said Danville Parks and Recreation Director Bill Sgrinia.

“We were very happy and appreciative of the state recognizing the importance of this and everything else we’ve done to restart our downtown,” Sgrinia said Tuesday. “It’s nice for them to show support of that.”

Danville officials hope to build the riverfront park on about 4 acres at Main Street and Memorial Drive between the White Mill site and King Memorial Bridge.

The park would be a regional draw for residents in Southside Virginia and North Carolina, said Danville City Manager Ken Larking.

“Having the state participate in the cost of construction for something that would be enjoyed by Virginians would be a good use of funds,” Larking said. “I believe they agreed, so we’re happy that came through and we’re glad we got it.”

Engineering, including floodplain modeling and structural engineering of the park, is underway, Sgrinia said.

Raleigh, North Carolina-based Site Collaborative is the design firm for the project.

Sgrinia said he hoped to start getting initial work on the project out to bid this coming winter. Preliminary construction would include relocating utilities at the site so construction on the park can be done, he said.

The project — which has been estimated to cost about $10.1 million — has been in the works for nearly five years. However, that projected price tag from a few years ago has likely increased due to inflation, Sgrinia said.

Most of the $7.2 million raised so far has come from foundations, as well as corporations and individuals, Sgrinia said.

The city officially launched its fundraising campaign for the project in October 2019, though about $5 million had already been raised by that point — including a $4 million “challenge” grant from the Danville Regional Foundation that will go toward the project under the condition the remainder of the needed funds is raised.

However, fundraising was hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic, Sgrinia said.

Officials also received $1.3 million in city reserve money to help pay for the project. That money came from Duke Energy as part of a settlement the company provided following the February 2014 coal ash spill in the Dan River. Part of that money has been used for engineering, with another portion that will go toward construction, Sgrinia said.

The park would include a street-level entrance on its southeast side — from Main Street and Memorial Drive — with an “artistic feature” to lure visitors. Those entering the park would then step down to a water feature — an interactive fountain and spray pad.

That area drops down about 10 feet and leads to a circular lawn. Open green space makes up a large portion of the park, which also would feature a staging area that could be used for small performance events. There would be an elevated walkway/viewing pier stretching about 20 to 25 feet above the park and part of the Dan River.

In the northern portion of the park close to the river, the Riverwalk Trail would snake across the park, bordered by green space. The trail would be 20 feet wide. A step-down terrace would lead to the river’s edge.

A small children’s play area would be at the western side of the park.

Article by John Crane