The Greater Richmond ARCpark (Photo courtesy Greater Richmond ARC)
There’s something for everyone at one of Richmond’s newest parks, and that has made it an especially popular destination in the past year.
The Greater Richmond ARCpark at 3600 Saunders Ave. is 2.4 acres packed with attractions for all ages and all abilities. Among its assets: three playgrounds, a glider and a tree house that are wheelchair-accessible; fitness equipment that’s handicapped-accessible; a charging station for electric wheelchairs; and a restroom with adult changing table. It’s divided into areas for ages 2-5, ages 5-12 and adults. It’s visited by about 1,000 people each week, about half on weekdays and the remainder on Saturdays and Sundays, according to Douglas Payne, communications director for Greater Richmond ARC. Payne recently discussed the park and its wide appeal in an email interview, and offered a peek at what’s coming in its second year of operation. Here’s a condensed, edited version of what he had to say.
Richmond magazine: Who is using the park? Families? Groups?
Payne: We have families from all over central Virginia as well as schools, day care facilities and summer camps. Groups usually book in advance by contacting our park manager. Weekends are typically busy with birthday parties under the main sunshade pavilion, but there is still plenty of room for all visitors. Groups and parties can learn more about booking on our website, RichmondARC.org.
RM: What kind of feedback are you getting from visitors?
Payne: We have received very positive feedback from our visitors. We have families who have loved ones with and without disabilities, and they appreciate the fact that the ARCpark is designed for all ages and all ability levels. Our “fans” often post their own pics and kind words on social media about their experiences at the ARCpark.
RM: You’ve had visitors from across the East Coast. How has word gotten out about this facility? What makes it worth the trip?
Payne: We only have anecdotal feedback from our out-of-state visitors, but several have said they were in town visiting family and friends and heard about the ARCpark. They have told us they wish their own localities had a park like ours. The park’s appeal is universal – and we hope more communities will be inspired to replicate it!
RM: What parts of the park have proved especially popular?
Payne: The Biggo Duo saucer swings are very popular with kids of all ages. The hand-cranked Goric water table is where you’ll find a line of kids every day. The wheelchair swing is also a big hit because it allows families and friends to sit across from each other as they swing under a canopy shade. And, of course, the all-accessible tree house is a hit with all ages.
The wheelchair swing at Greater Richmond ARCpark (Photo courtesy Greater Richmond ARC)
RM: What’s been most rewarding in the first year?
Payne: The fact that the ARCpark has been so well-received by so many people in our community. Every day during good weather the parking lot starts filling up early. To watch kids and adults of all ages and levels of ability enjoy the park is everything we’d hoped for when we envisioned the ARCpark. It has also increased awareness about ARC and the services we provide for people with disabilities, allowing families to have conversations about similarities and differences.
RM: How is park operation funded? How can you make a donation?
Payne: The ($3.4 million) development and construction costs, as well as a fund for major equipment replacement, were provided through donations from individuals, foundations, government entities and businesses across central Virginia. Routine annual operating costs and maintenance are expected to be $50,000 to $75,000. Revenues from reservations and private parties only cover a small part of that. We hope to cover the rest through donations from people who use the park and other supporters. You can donate on site in the donation box by the gate or online at RichmondARC.org.
RM: What does the next year hold? Any challenges? Any changes?
Payne: We hope the ARCpark will continue to attract people of all ages and all abilities from across central Virginia. The ARCpark offers opportunities for socialization and recreation that those with disabilities don’t often find in a park-like setting. Barrier-free play and exercise help reduce obesity, as well as secondary conditions such as loneliness, isolation and depression. The ARCpark also fosters an understanding and acceptance of those with disabilities and improves the quality of life for every family in the region.
A roundup of health and fitness news of the week
- Free eye exams and eyeglasses may be available to children whose families could otherwise not afford them through Let’s Go See, a back-to-school program offered through Visionworks and Davis Vision affiliates. You can apply for the service for a deserving student or even for a class or school full of kids. About 7,300 exams and glasses were provided through the program in the last school year.
- An open house will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. today to mark the opening of the Greater Fulton Medical Center, 1718 Williamsburg Road. The medical center is the sixth facility for the Capital Area Health Network, a nonprofit that provides an array of health services across the metro region. The Fulton facility is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays.
- Opioid and heroin-related deaths continue to rise in Virginia, with the Virginia Department of Health reporting 325 in the first quarter of 2016 alone. Several metro Richmond organizations are seeking to stem this tide through a new group, the Central Virginia Opioid Awareness and Recovery Coalition. According to a release, its members include: Bon Secours Richmond Health System, Chesterfield Community Services Board, Chesterfield Fire and EMS, Clean Life Medical, Forest View Volunteer Rescue Squad, Henrico Area Mental Health and Developmental Services, HCA Virginia, Indivior, kaléo, Kenneth and Dianne Wright Center for Clinical and Translational Research, the McShin Foundation, Richmond Ambulance Authority, Richmond Behavioral Health Authority, Richmond City Police Department, SAARA of Virginia (Substance Abuse and Addiction Recovery Alliance), SAFE (Substance Abuse Free Environment), SpiritWorks Foundation, The Healing Place, The Virginia Center for Addiction Medicine (VCAM), VCU Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, VCU Department of Psychology, VCU Health, VCU Institute for Women’s Health and VCU Rams in Recovery and VCU C. The coalition seeks to raise awareness of the problem and of services available to Virginians.
- VCU Health’s ongoing series of free health seminars continues at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden with two sessions in September. A session on nonsurgical treatments for aortic valve and aorta diseases will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Sept. 20 and led by Zachary Gertz and Gabor Bagameri. The VCU Health Pauley Heart Center specialists will discuss transcatheter aortic valve replacement and transcatheter mitral valve repair. A presentation on liver disease prevention and treatment at 5:30 p.m. on Sept. 27 will be led by Scott Matherly of the VCU Health Hume-Lee Transplant Center.
- Run and then treat yourself to some quality brews at the Trails and Ales event, to be held at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 24. There are two courses in this Richmond Sports Backers trail race, an 8-mile trek and a 5K. Fees are $40 to $55, which includes one beer. A portion of proceeds benefits trail maintenance through RVA MORE. There’s a 1,000-runner limit.
- The report cards are out for hospital safety from the nonprofit Leapfrog group. They assessed facilities across the nation on a range of safety factors including infections, problems with surgery, staffing and error prevention. Here’s how Richmond region facilities that were included in the survey were assessed: A’s to Bon Secours St. Francis Medical Center, Bon Secours St. Mary’s Hospital, Retreat Doctors’ Hospital, Bon Secours Memorial Regional Medical Center John Randolph Medical Center and Henrico Doctors’ Hospital; B’s to VCU Health System, CJW Medical Center Johnston-Willis Campus and Chippenham Campus and Parham Doctors’ Hospital; and Southside Regional Medical Center received a C.
- A Richmond company that has developed a laboratory mouse useful in the study of certain liver diseases has earned a day in a national showcase event. The company is Sanyal Biotechnology, and it will be a participant in the University Startups Demo Day at Congress, to be held in Washington on Sept. 20. Its founder is Arun Sanyal, a Virginia Commonwealth University professor of medicine. The mice, when fed a Western-style diet high in fat and sugar, respond like people. Sanyal Biotechnology provides contract research services and develops customized studies to screen compounds and provides professional data interpretation. Sanyal was developed through the entrepreneur-in-residence program of the VCU Innovation Gateway.