Project Summary

The Urban Rivanna River Corridor Plan is a joint effort between the City of Charlottesville and Albemarle County, along with other stakeholders, to develop a vision and action plan for the Rivanna River. This effort will help to refocus attention on the Rivanna. The planning process and subsequent Master Plan will help localities and stakeholders coordinate on making a cleaner, safer and more livable waterway that serves as a catalyst for community investment. The Thomas Jefferson Planning District is facilitating this process through its initial phases.

The Study Area

  • July 2019:
    • Project kickoff with Technical Committee
    • August 2019:
    • Refine Study Area & Develop Mapping Needs
    • Technical Committee Meeting
  • September 2019:
    • Rivanna River Fest Public Engagement Event
    • Launch Public Survey
    • Steering Committee Meeting
    • Technical Committee Meeting
  • October -November 2019:
    • Refine maps
    • Summarize survey data
    • Technical Committee Meeting
  • December 2019:
    • Develop business outreach strategy
  • January 2020:
    • Technical Committee Meeting
  • April-June 2020
    • Develop Vision and Guiding Principles
    • Technical Committee Meeting
  • August 2020
    • Technical Committee Meeting
    • Develop Community Outreach Strategies
  • September 2020:
    • Steering Committee Meeting
    • Public Engagement
    • Peer Community Benchmarking
  • October-November 2020:
    • Plan Drafting
  • December 2020:
    • Final Plan Delivered for Review

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Vision Statement

The Rivanna River flowing through Charlottesville and Albemarle County is one of the community’s greatest assets. In and near Free Bridge, Woolen Mills, and the Pantops area, the river corridor is and will be a vibrant place where people experience a quiet and serene natural environment, enjoy healthy outdoor activities and venues, and appreciate important historic and cultural points of interest.

Environmental protection of the riparian system shall be paramount in all activities and land uses in the river corridor.

Recreational activities in public parks and greenways along the riverfront will be enhanced; commercial recreation will be encouraged and promoted.

Landscaping and buffering of existing commercial and industrial activities within the river corridor will enhance the natural experience of being on and along the river.

New development and redevelopment in appropriate locations will contribute to a mixture of uses in the river corridor which include residential uses, service sector activities, light industry, and offices. It will also result in or complement recreational activities along the river corridor while protecting key environmental and historic features.

Historic places and cultural features will be protected, identified, and incorporated into the greenway and parks system along the river corridor.

Multi-purpose trails and bridges will offer pedestrians and bicyclists opportunities for movement to, through, and within the river corridor.

Public safety measures will maximize the safety and enjoyability of using the trails and ensure that undeveloped natural areas along the river are not misused.

Draft Urban Rivanna River Corridor Plan

Environmental Protection
The Rivanna River is an urban corridor along the City and County border; however, it contains a rich riparian ecosystem including unique native plant and wildlife communities and habitats. To protect and conserve these ecosystems, the following recommendations are made:

  1. Identify and implement riparian restoration and mitigation projects including removal of invasive plant species and the stabilization of eroding streambanks.
  2. Protect the most sensitive biological and ecological areas by limiting access and installing signage and appropriate barriers where possible.
  3. Continue activities of the City and County to improve water quality.
  4. Promote awareness and appreciation through interpretive and informational signage, educational tours, and river system-focused events.

Recreational activities

Darden Towe Park, Riverview Park, and publicly -accessible greenways enable free public access to the Rivanna River and waterfront trails. Opportunities for commercial recreation and forprofit activities to enhance a river and trail experience exist. To build on these opportunities, the following recommendations are made:

  1. Improve trail connectivity, with nearby neighborhoods, to provide better recreational access to the river corridor.
  2. Increase the number and type of public access points to the river and waterfront for better public use and enjoyment of the corridor.
  3. Establish urban amenities at the public parks. Consider installing rapids, a climbing wall, equipment rentals as well as other activities.

Existing commercial and industrial activities

Several properties along the river contain businesses that support the economic vitality of the community. Some of these businesses can draw in or help support patrons of the river and trails. Others may provide economic support to the community as a whole. Improving the aesthetics of trailside and riverfront properties can enhance the users’ experience. To that end, the following recommendations are made:

  1. Explore voluntary planting opportunities to add vegetative buffers to industrial sites.
  2. Explore the use of industrial art to beautify sites and add visual interest.

New land development and redevelopment

New land development and redevelopment of residential and non-residential properties is expected in the corridor outside of the floodplain. Expected uses, including mixed use areas are shown on the City and County’s respective Future Land Use Plans. In places, an urban appearance is expected and buildings may be multi-storied. In other places, a lower scale, lower impact look and feel will be important. The key to creating attractive development for river and riverfront uses is attention to context.  To that end, the following recommendations are made:

  1. Carefully site and scale buildings, infrastructure, and other improvements to protect and enhance the natural beauty and ecological functions of the river. Use colors and materials that will not detract.
  2. Promote development of small service-oriented businesses such as restaurants and sales that support use of the river and trails.
  3. Promote and enhance additional employment opportunities, especially career ladder jobs.

Historic places and cultural features

The river corridor contains several historic and culturally significant characteristics and features that are important to the community’s sense of place. These valuable resources include Native American sites, locks and dams, and the Lewis and Clark Center in Darden Towe Park. To preserve and enhance access to these features, the following recommendations are made:

  1. Identify historic features using signage. To the extent possible, build on these features to create places of interest and destinations for users of the trails.
  2. Market the Lewis and Clark Center as a destination for residents and tourists.
  3. Protect archeological sites by limiting access.
  4. Conduct educational tours of the Rivanna Trail system.
  5. Hold historic/cultural-focused events.

Multi-purpose trails and bridges

At present, there is one bridge across the Rivanna River in the Pantops area that provides for vehicular traffic and pedestrians. While a secondary bridge for vehicular traffic would be beneficial for drivers to, from, and through Charlottesville, it is not proposed with this plan. Instead, to increase non-vehicular connections along and across the river corridor, and to improve recreational and commuting connectivity between the City and the County, the following additional opportunities for pedestrian and bicycle travel are recommended:

  1. Implement new bicycle/pedestrian bridge across the Rivanna River between Woolen Mills and Pantops.
  2. Implement a new bicycle/pedestrian bridge across the Rivanna River from Pen Park to Darden Towe Park.
  3. Promote use of trails and bridges in Pantops for commuting traffic.

Public safety measures

Recreational use of the river as well as access to trails and natural areas is important to residents of and visitors to the City and County. However, a successful trail network and recreational river experience requires trust in public safety.  Pedestrians, users of the river itself, and bicyclists should not have to experience fear when they are in the corridor.  Criminal activity near Free Bridge and existing homeless camps create cause for concern. Emergency responders need to know where to find users of the river and trails in case of emergency. To help alleviate those concerns the following recommendations are made:

  1. Improve coordination between Departments of Social Service, law enforcement, private property owners, and elected officials to find alternatives to the homeless camps near the Rivanna River in Pantops.
  2. Identify all locations where additional safety measures are needed including low level lighting of the trails.
  3. Provide ongoing awareness of river safety as well as information on emergency telephone numbers and locations for responders.

The Plan

Upcoming Meetings

Meeting Recordings

Rivanna Urban Corridor Steering Committee Meeting
April 26, 2021 @ 12:000 – 1:30PM

Meeting ID: 892 4829 9054
Passcode: 005524
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A Steering Committee and a Technical Advisory Committee help guide Phase I and Phase II of the Rivanna River Corridor Plan.

Steering Committee

The Steering Committee provides general guidance to the overall effort and acts as advocates for advancing planning process. Voting membership includes:

City of Charlottesville

Albemarle County

The Voting members of the Steering Committee may recommend additional non-voting members with technical or community expertise to join the committee and participate in an advisory role.

Meeting Materials

Technical Advisory Committee

Non-voting members of the Steering Committee are part of a Technical Advisory Committee. This group meets to guide and coordinate technical matters of the process. Committee membership includes:

Meeting Materials

Phase I

Phase I of the effort is complete, with final documents under review. The focus was on developing the necessary data and groundwork for beginning a joint Master Plan for the Rivanna River, between the City of Charlottesville and Albemarle County. The study area consisted generally of the areas within a half mile from the Rivanna River, at the North Fork Reservoir dam to the Milton Road bridge, near Shadwell. Phase I deliverables include:

Phase II (Currently Active)

Phase II will result in a conceptual planning document, which with a clear vision and draft recommendations for Phase III consideration. The overall initiative aims to address:

Phase III

Details to come…