Preserving Plum Point Park: an Oasis on the Elizabeth River

by | Mar 14, 2023

Photo by Andrew Cooper

Situated on the banks of the Elizabeth River across from Sentara’s campus, Plum Point Park stands in contrast to the noise and heavy industry of adjacent shipyards. One can rest on the benches of the sprawling meadow, admire the blue herons and egrets that graze the landscape and revel in the natural beauty of this 5-acre riverfront meadow.

History of Plum Point Park

While its name is shrouded in mystery, its origins are better known. The area got its start in the 1960s with the construction of the Midtown Tunnel. As the adjacent land became a dumping ground for sediment, weeds and various products of excavation, it became a prime target for urban development projects. In the 1980s, developers proposed everything from a condominium, hotel, and marina complex to a medical building, of which all were rejected by the city. In the 1990s, the West Ghent Civic League proposed a public park instead. It took over a decade to secure funding until the Virginia Port Authority came forward with the $1.5 million needed for renovations and wildlife restoration.

Rehabbing Plum Point Park 

Joining forces with the Elizabeth River Project, they constructed a mitigation site to re-establish an open, natural refuge that doubles as a waterfront greenspace for residents to enjoy. The goal was to retain the natural characteristics of the area, protecting and enhancing the estuarial vegetation and wildlife to buffer against coastal erosion. Park amenities such as a paved bike path, interpretive signage, fitness course, and ADA-compliant kayak dock were gradually added, making it an oasis for everyone for recreation seekers, to picnickers, to outdoor enthusiasts. Such amenities are made possible by the continued funding of local government and grants, and the contributions of generous donors.

Plum Point Park Today

Today, the Elizabeth River Trail Foundation maintains Plum Point Park, true to their missions to promote, enhance and transform the Elizabeth River Trail (ERT) into the most iconic urban riverfront trail in the country. Much of the Foundation’s work is achieved through beautification efforts. Plantings along the trail, for example, serve a purpose beyond landscaping. They attract pollinators, provide habitat, and mitigate stormwater flooding.

Keep Plum Point Park Beautiful

Operating with a lean team and leaner resources, volunteers are the backbone of all the Foundation’s endeavors.  Now, you can join this coalition of volunteers and give back to Plum Point Park and the ERT, as part of the community that it serves.  Volunteers are needed on March 18th from 10 AM to 12:30 PM to help with garden beautification around Plum Point Park and the Fitness Course. Work will primarily consist of weeding plant beds, picking up litter, and possibly watering plants and trees.  Work gloves and hand tools will be provided, but should you own any, volunteers are encouraged to bring them. Volunteers can also stay a little longer for a short botanical tour from a Master Gardener, and perhaps hop over to some of the craft breweries in nearby Chelsea to round out the afternoon. Interested? 

Sign up HERE.

Rachel Reiss

Talbot Park, NFK

Rachel Reiss moved to Norfolk in 2021, and, true to her native Floridian roots, has been enjoying life near the beach. Since her day job as an HR Program Manager has gone remote, it offers her the flexibility to explore the area’s rich history, culture, and diverse food scene in her spare time. She is also a passionate pianist, aspiring yogi, and self-proclaimed health nut who loves to cook. Rachel lives near Talbot Park with her husband, Phil - a CHKD resident - and their Maltese, Minnie.

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