Could Lake Springfield be an ecotourism destination?
When smokestacks at the James River Power Plant collapsed last year after the 63-year-old station was decommissioned, city planners were looking ahead to the future of the facility, which borders Springfield Lake.
The City of Springfield and City Utilities – in partnership with project specialists from around the country – have since collected data and input from area residents to help determine the future of the 1,000 acres around the power plant.
It was a grueling process with a series of public meetings, including an open house on Thursdays at the Springfield Lake Harbor that brought only a standing audience, many of whom got tours of the power plant.
“It fits with the quality of the place and the priorities of the economic vitality of the city. It intertwines with that,” Springfield Mayor Ken McClure said before Thursday’s presentation. “We want to make Springfield a better place.”
The final plan — local city leaders believe the plan could spur new economic development and recreational opportunities — won’t be completed until summer 2024.
The city, consulting, and engineering firm Crawford, Murphy & Tilly provided updates and visual presentations of potential amenities, with many different concepts, and many recreational examples.
I look forward
Springfield Lake, which was created in the 1950s by damming the James River in southeast Springfield to serve the cooling needs of the James River Power Plant, was identified as an opportunity area for redevelopment during the city’s comprehensive planning process.
The City of Springfield received $800,000 from the United States Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration, and $200,000 from the Hatch Foundation to begin a redevelopment plan.
The City has hired Crawford, Murphy & Tilly, whose goals for the redevelopment plan include: Attracting innovative economic development and creating flexible employment opportunities within the study area that complement the regional vision and priorities; Develop a strategy for sustainable water quality and green infrastructure improvement; and developing an adaptive reuse strategy for the James River Power Plant.
According to surveys from Springfield’s extensive age and ethnic demographics, residents are most enthusiastic about potential recreational opportunities for redevelopment, including trails and water use.
Pollution and traffic are among the biggest concerns, according to data presented at the open house Thursday.
The re-configuration of the power station’s large structure brought in a range of proposals, including retail and leisure, as well as conversion into an apartment building.
According to reports, the dam will be partially removed, the water spillway lowered, or the canal bypassed.
Among the concepts presented on Thursday were five distinct districts that would encompass 1,000 acres.
Some areas will be geared toward outdoor recreation and sports venues, others toward recreation, museums, gardening, cabins and more.
Jay Wohlschlaeger of SWT Design pointed out the reasons during his presentation that would likely draw people to the renovated Springfield Lake.
“They come here because of Lake Springfield, not just because of the water, but the experience, and we call that the idea of ecotourism,” said Volschleiger. “They’re also coming for an event or an experience. How does 1,000 Acres and the Power Plant really become an entertainment destination? The third (idea) is really focused on the event; they come because of the activity at the Power Plant or 1,000 Acres, we call it the Entertainment District.”