James River Park System acquires more land for Richmond Slave Trail

Friends of the JRPS seeking donations to help with the deal

A historical marker along the trail

The Richmond Slave Trail starts at Manchester Docks and winds its way into the city.

Photo courtesy of the Capital Region Land Conservancy.

If you recently visited the Richmond Slave Trail, you may not have been aware that you were likely unknowingly trespassing during your walk. But now that the Capital Region Land Conservancy has recently acquired 4.5 more acres, your entire stroll will be technically legal.

The 130-foot wide, 2,300-foot long strip between I-95 and Ancarrow’s Landing was formerly owned by Norfolk Southern — something both Richmond City Council and the railroad company was aware of when they adopted the Richmond Riverfront Plan in 2012.

But this new purchase guarantees the trail’s long-term accessibility and preservation. Ownership will go to the city so that the land, which runs alongside the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, can officially become part of the James River Park System.

A marker along the richmond slave trail

The Friends of the James River Park are still seeking $30,000 in donations from the public.

Photo courtesy of the Capital Region Land Conservancy

The Richmond Slave Trail Commission was formed in 1998 to establish and preserve the historical riverside walking path. The trail begins at the Manchester Docks — the hub of Richmond’s slave trade — and follows the route that enslaved people would walk into the city. This section of trail is also the same that was recently featured in the VMFA exhibit “Dawoud Bey: Elegy.”

The land is also the site of Virginia’s first rail line — the Chesterfield Railroad Company opened in 1831 and carried freight, carrying freight from the Midlothian Mines to the Manchester Docks.

The Virginia Land Conservation Foundation has provided a $150,000 grant for the purchase, but require that this be matched 1:1. The Friends of the James River Park System has thrown in $30,000 and is asking the public to donate another $30,000. Donations can be made on their website.