Danville considering small public park in River District

A small public park could come to the River District. The planned Witcher Park would be less than a half-acre and located between the 500 blocks of Craghead and Lynn streets downtown.

The project would enhance the area and add a public amenity for residents and visitors to enjoy, Danville Economic Development Director Corrie T. Bobe told the Danville Register & Bee.

“After working with multiple city departments and surrounding property owners, it was decided to make enhancements to the area that was already exposed along this block,” Bobe said. “It is important to continue to explore softscape or greenspace opportunities throughout this urban core that is densely populated with buildings and hardscapes.”

The park would include a 150-to-175-foot pedestrian bridge over the creek that runs from north of the Community Market and connects through the Danville Fire Department property on Lynn Street.

“The pedestrian bridge will connect along the sidewalk beside of 554 Craghead St.” and will connect to the public greenspace area behind the buildings, Bobe said.

Witcher Park is a result of the city’s River District Redevelopment Plan released in 2011 that served as a guide for public improvement and private-sector projects that would help spur “growth with the historic core of our community and create a vibrant downtown district,” Bobe said.

“As part of this plan, our consultants recommended making improvements to the stream,” she said.

The park would be owned and managed by Danville Parks and Recreation. The Witcher Park is to help support the private investment that has helped to and continues to revitalize that area, said Danville Parks and Recreation Director Bill Sgrinia.

“It will provide a pedestrian connector from the Lynn Street area over into the Craghead Street area,” Sgrinia said.

The Witcher Park project is in the conceptual phase and construction plans that would help provide a cost estimate and timeline have not been completed, Bobe said.

According to preliminary plans, the park would also include sculptures along the walkways, a row of trees, swings, picnic tables, chairs, benches, cornhole boards and a ping-pong table.

An elevated walkway — or pedestrian bridge — would connect Witcher Park to Craghead Street, and two walkways would enter the park from Lynn Street, with one following the former railroad trestle location and the second following the former creek path.

A pergola — a structure including parallel colonnades supporting an open roof of girders and cross rafters — would be included and would feature timbers similar to railroad ties, said Trenda Leavitt, landscape architect with Beechgrove Design Landscape Architecture in Moneta.

The pergola would be located behind 546, 548 and 550 Craghead St., which developer Rick Barker is renovating into Airbnb units. Barker, who has been behind the evolution of the 500 block of Craghead Street since 2015, is bringing an Airbnb with nine units to that part of the River District. One of the rooms will be for an artist-in-residence under a partnership with the Danville Museum of Fine Arts & History.

Work on the Airbnb project at 546, 548 and 550 Craghead St. began in December 2020. The historic properties used to house Nabisco (546), Eldridge Drug Store (548) and Swift & Co., which was a butcher shop at 550 Craghead St.

Witcher Park would be a continuation of existing green spaces at the rear of 530, 532, 536 and 542 Craghead St., Leavitt said.
John Crane | Register & Bee