Ted Elmore, president of the Richmond BridgePark Foundation, near theproposed park site. Photo by Ian Hurdle
Last month's news that the city was inching closer to a design for the proposed Brown's Island Dam Walk generated buzz among planning and development boosters, with the promise of a new footpath linking both sides of the river downtown.
Meanwhile, there's a similar project working to gain momentum, an effort started by two beloved figures in the advertising community, who both passed away in December.
Two years ago this month, Ella Kelley, a former advertising executive, and Mike Hughes, the legendary head of The Martin Agency, made an eleventh-hour attempt to save the old Huguenot Bridge from demolition by proposing in a Richmond Times-Dispatch editorial that it be turned into a park.
Although the timing of their idea proved unworkable — the old bridge was indeed torn down — Kelley and Hughes stirred favorable support from city residents. In late 2012, they announced the discovery of another potential site — the remnants of an old 1838 railroad bridge parallel to the Manchester Bridge — and also established the Richmond BridgePark Foundation to steer fundraising and an organizational campaign.
Since then, the profile of the foundation has only increased. Ted Elmore, the organization's president, says he and his team "have a list of hundreds of community leaders, riverfront stakeholders and other citizens with whom we have met or who have reached out to us in enthusiastic support of the project."
Following the widely mourned passing of both Kelley and Hughes, the foundation has redoubled its efforts to promote its founders' ambitions. "Ella and Mike inspired us all," says Elmore. "Their lives taught us to think big and love our community big."
Elmore says the bridge-park foundation is coordinating with city and state leaders, civic organizations, real estate experts, environmental advocates, engineers, urban planners and others. At press time, city officials had not responded to requests for comment.
Asked if he could imagine the proposed bridge-park integrated with Richmond's Riverfront Plan, Elmore expressed enthusiasm for what he sees as "a natural fit," given the right timing.