Building Bridges to the James: D3G and JRA Unite for River Education and Conservation

"When you change the James, the James will change you." This belief is at the heart of the James River Association (JRA), whose mission is to be a guardian of the James River, a watershed to 3 million Virginians. Dominion Due Diligence (D3G) has been proud to partner with JRA and their work for the James River for over a decade. As their first core value, D3G understands the importance of people, including teams, clients, and communities. It's also why they believe in social responsibility and empowering their employees to cultivate positive change within their workspace, communities, and neighborhoods. "When I started D3G 30 years ago, our sole focus was on environmental reporting to protect and preserve the earth we all share. Running from tributaries in the Allegheny Mountains to the Chesapeake Bay's eastern shore, the James River has been a precious resource to our state. I've enjoyed supporting JRA, and I am proud to know that our contributions, as well as our work, have helped make a positive impact here in the River City.," says Rob Hazelton, CEO of D3G.

James A. Buzzard River Education Center

D3G would like to extend our congratulations on JRA's brand-new James A. Buzzard River Education Center. In May 2023, JRA broke ground on a new site designed to expand their education program and help reach Virginia's goal of giving every student three meaningful watershed experiences before graduation. The site, named "Echo Harbor," is strategically located adjacent to Great Shiplock Park to provide rich history, quick access to environmental education and river experiences, and protection of Richmond's fantastic view.

Last week, D3G's Chief Operating Officer Tim Ungerleider and Marketing Intern Jonathan DiLego had the privilege of visiting the site and witnessing the progress of the center first-hand. They were warmly welcomed by the President and CEO of James River Association, Bill Street, who guided the two on a tour. Bill's enthusiasm for the new facility was palpable throughout the visit. He shared that many students, despite living just a few blocks away, have never been to the river, let alone outside their own neighborhoods. The opportunity to bridge this gap and provide education about the river is one he couldn't pass up.

Outside the new JRA center

Outside the building, Tim and Jonathan were immediately impressed by the green roof and natural growth throughout the building. Intentionality was a key piece in the design process. When designing the building, JRA wanted the James River to feel as though the center was part of it, a forest to the river. Natural growth is abundant on and around the building, with native plant species at the forefront of the exterior. The center is also built per the 100-year floodplain, with HVAC and essential electronics above the 500-year plan. In the event of a flood, the doors to the facility can open to let out excess water, and the hose will lower. A ramp was installed in place of an elevator to maintain ADA compliance at this height because the required elevator hydraulics were toxic to the river. Another notable feature is the addition of a river health stoplight on the front of the building. The stoplight will display the condition of the river and whether it's unsafe, safe to paddle, or safe to contact. The James River's unique combined sewer and stormwater system can cause river conditions to change rather quickly. Not only can water-goers be alerted of river conditions, but it provides an excellent opportunity to educate students.

Upon entering the center, Bill was quick to note that the outside was brought in. The main learning center has sliding glass doors and screens, two large aquariums currently in progress, and murals ready to be painted all over, representing the James River and the sea life it brings. After students have finished their outside learning, they can come in, utilize the wall of backpack hooks, and enjoy the main classroom area. Speaking of learning, Tim and Jonathan were impressed to see the amenities provided to educators at the center to facilitate learning. A laboratory is on-site to test water samples, and an abundance of storage and refrigeration to keep materials appropriately stored. The center features a dock that offers safe river access for learning. The dock, at the western terminus for commercial navigation on the James, used to be the Port of Richmond. Between the excellent location to a variety of river adventures and the rich history of the location, the dock provides many learning opportunities for students.

In progress learning center

D3G is excited to continue our partnership with JRA and work towards providing resilient and sustainable buildings and infrastructure for local communities. Our commitment to environmental stewardship aligns perfectly with JRA's mission, and we continue to passionately strive to foster a healthy, sustainable future for the James River and the communities it supports.