Many Richmond residents have long awaited the opening of Monroe Park, which is also known as Richmond’s oldest park, and after roughly a year and ten months later, the reopening and ribbon cutting was completed on Sept. 27.
Monroe Park has been considered a cultural landmark of the city for over a hundred years, and it’s important to recognize how the park affects the city, not the other way around. According to the Monroe Park Conservancy non-profit, the park first served as fairgrounds for the city. Later on, it served as a military encampment, and more recently it has become the site of passage and leisure for both Richmond residents and Virginia Commonwealth University students alike.
With easy access to the college campus, route 95, Belle Isle, and residential areas, the park is conveniently located. With the recent renovations occurring both on the park and the surrounding area, the park now is within walking distance of VCU’s Institute of Contemporary Art and the Gladding Residence Center.
The park itself has gone through some major cosmetic and internal renovations which include fauna, flora, electrical systems and lighting systems, to name a few. The Cultural Landscape Foundation states that the total cost of the project is estimated to be $7 million and was managed by the Monroe Park Conservancy. In exchange for $3 million that the non-profit provided, the City of Richmond will be giving the non-profit a 30-year lease in which they will be managing the park.
Originally, the renovations were expected to be completed by Aug. 15, in time for VCU students to enjoy the park before classes began. Unfortunately, the date got pushed back to the Aug. 19 due to the unexpected amount of rainfall that Richmond received. Finally, after a final pushback of the date, the ribbon cutting event occurred on Sept. 27.
With the amount of cultural influence that the park provides, the site will easily become again the designated area of innovation and fun. The park is expected to not just become a place VCU students are available to study, and Richmond residents, homeless or otherwise, are allowed to relax, but to be a place where the community can come together.
The Monroe Park website offers a wide variety of ideas for any individual that might not be aware of the possibilities they have at the new and improved Monroe Park. Such activities include picking up a cup of coffee at the new café located at the Checker’s House, the building that co-houses a police sub-station. Alternatives include practicing yoga, playing a musical instrument, and grabbing a friend to play games that may be available for rent from the Checker’s House.
Most recently, there have already been LARPing (live action roleplay) activities, dance practices, and illegal swimming in the famous iron cast fountain. There is no doubt that the park will create a new environment for people of all backgrounds and interests to come together. Now that the Monroe Park is open, go out of your comfort zone to discover a new interest, or maybe yourself, in the park that so many others have been doing so in for decades.