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Richmond’s James River Park Trail Gets National Recognition

Buttermilk trail
Runner Gopinath Jeereddy is just one of many users of the James River Park Trails six and half mile trail. Recently, Men's Journal magazine named the loop as one of the best in the country. (Photo: Crixell Mathews/VPM News)

Every Sunday, you’ll find runner Gopinath Jeereddy on some part of Richmond’s James River Park Trail -- something he’s been doing in the early morning hours for over eight years.

“In the springtime, you can get a good glimpse of the sunrise, [at] the Nickel Bridge,” Jeereddy says. “I just come there a little bit early to catch the sunrise from the bridge. It’s pretty awesome.”

Jeereddy, a data analyst, says the sport helps clear his mind. 

“I started running to lose weight, and slowly got into long distance running. And it’s kind of like a relaxing thing.” But he adds, “Honestly, to eat more, to burn more calories--I think there’s the motivation.”

And the trails also offer a respite from running on the streets.

“When you train for marathons, you always run on the roads,” he says. “It gets boring for the whole week. This is like a break from the roads. You get to see the river and take it easy.”

Jeereddy’s run takes him over terrain that includes spots like the scenic route along the Northbank.

“It goes around the cemetery, the Hollywood cemetery. It’s pretty beautiful over there. Sometimes you can catch little bald eagles,” he says. “You see a lot of wildlife things, like deer, turtles, sometimes a snake.”

Jeereddy, 42, isn't alone in his love for the trail. Recently, Men’s Journal magazine named the loop as one of the 15 best trails for runners in the country. 

The magazine states, “The North Bank offers top-notch views of the James River. However, if your experience allows, our vote is heading to the off-road trail. There, you’ll find rolling hills mixed in with a few steep climbs, creek and river crossings, and multiple access points and trailheads on either side of the river.”

Other sections include a part known as the Buttermilk Trail, for Buttermilk Springs. 

But there’s a legend around this.

“What I’ve always heard is they used it, at some point you know back in the day, they would keep butter, buttermilk, stuff like that, they would store it there to keep it cool,” says Michael Burton, the trails and greenways superintendent for Richmond’s Park and Recreation.

The butter and buttermilk was kept cool in a well until the milkman was ready to deliver. The well is still visible today. 

Burton says Buttermilk Trail has gone through some revisions since it first opened in the 1970s.

“The original Buttermilk Trail ran from the 21st Street Tower to the 42nd Street Tower,” he says.
“In 2003 the trail was extended to the west from 42nd Street Tower to the Boulevard Bridge. And in 2015 the trail was extended to the east from 21st Street Tower to just beyond the Belvidere Bridge and behind the SunTrust Building on Semmes Ave.”

Burton says the city is looking at ways to extend the trial even further. He adds that during the pandemic, the park was one of the few areas that remained open to everyone. Some big events, like the Dominion Riverrock festival and Sports Backers Trails and Ales, take part along the James River Park Trail.

Burton also has a reminder for people. 

“You know those trails get busy. There’s two-way traffic, there’s cyclists. There’s a lot of people wearing ear buds. There’s always potential for conflict,” he says. “So I always remind people, it’s not a race, be polite, be courteous and have fun out there.”

Burton says almost 60,000 people use sections of the James River Park Trails each year. 

As for Jeereddy, you’ll most likely find him on the trail again next Sunday, as he trains for the Marine Corp Marathon in Washington D.C. this October. 

Learn more about the James River Park Trail System.


Ian M. Stewart is the transportation reporter and fill-in anchor for VPM News.
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