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James River Association breaks ground on new river education center

James A. Buzzard River Education Center could open as soon as Summer 2024 and will serve 10,000 students a year with river access, indoor and outdoor spaces, and activities


Officials (and Scoot the Sturgeon) broke ground on the upcoming education center.

Photo by RICtoday

The James River Association will soon have a new facility to introduce thousands of students to the riverfront. On Monday, May 8, JRA representatives and government officials broke ground on the upcoming James A. Buzzard River Education Center.

JRA announced the center in March 2022 along with plans for other centers in Lynchburg and Williamsburg. With the help of The Conservation Fund and the Capital Region Land Conservancy, the group purchased a parcel of land along Dock Street, adjacent to Great Shiplock Park.

JRA’s president and CEO, Bill Street, emphasized the prime location and the considerations taken into account by architects when designing the new center. Since it will rise directly on the riverfront, Street said steps have been taken to make the building flood resistant for decades to come.

The Dock Street location provides nearby access to shallow water, the tidal James, protected waters, and woods — allowing for a variety of hands-on educational experiences.


The future James A. Buzzard River Education Center will serve ~10,000 students annually.

Rendering courtesy 3North

Mayor Levar Stoney and 7th District Councilmember Cynthia Newbille also spoke at the groundbreaking. In his comments, Stoney tied in the recent purchase of Mayo Island as another example of the city reimagining the riverfront.

Newbille voiced her support for the development, noting that the land has been vacant for decades.

Once opened, the center will reportedly serve ~10,000 students annually. There will also be a public experiential ramp where visitors will be able to observe flood levels and access the James.

Now that construction has begun, the grand opening is slated for summer 2024.