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A great draw to River City...

The new South of the James market is a great draw for this quiet community on River City's Southside, but just down the hill is a place that used to be an even bigger people magnet, the Forest Hill Park Lake.

Of course, "Lake" is the wrong word to use today try weed chocked swamp.

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But it IS home to lots of wildlife, the abode of bullfrogs that sound like they're the size of Texas, turtles, birds. Not spotted, but there almost certainly should be a fair share of raccoon and squirrel. Maybe a hawk or two.

Even if you don't see the raccoon, you can still see the relics of the lake's glory days. The roads and paths and the rock cliffs are still there and graffiti free (though some of the park benches and street lights have been overtaken by weeds).

At least the trash around the lake a couple of months ago has been cleaned up, a foot path repaired. There is evidence of activity down by the spillway, and all the globes on the vintage street lighting are now intact.

There's still a nice stone gazebo, and evidence of the old outdoor grills ( I forget what we used to call them) that provided many a Richmond family the joy of burnt hotdogs and toasted marshmallows on a hot summer evening.

Today you'll see a few runners, bike riders, folks with babies, dogs. But there was a time this lake was the hub of the whole neighborhood.

In addition to the cook-outs and picnics and softball games, throughout the 50's the lake was the home base for many summer day camps.

It was the place where urban kids first learned to do the butterfly stitch with gimp, learned squirrel and woodchuck logic, sometimes caught pan and crayfish.

It's a place where many first spent a night sleeping "under the stars" (actually in surplus army pup tents) and experienced the Zen of being bitten by every kind of bug that makes it's home in the humid climate of Central Virginia.

And of course, there we're the end of year Patrick Henry Elementary School picnics, where kids had all kinds of fun with the "hot ice" after all the Eskimo Pies had been eaten.

There was even one "spy" moive filmed by students from nearby George Wythe High School on the hills overlooking the lake back when "Dr. NO" was hot in the early 60's.

Not everyone went home when the sun went down

Even up until the 60's (when kids got their own cars and the heavy duty action moved to the parking lot topside) a lot of woo was pitched by this lake, as night fell and the glow of the incandescent lamps of the era put everyone in the mood.

Even in winter, the visitors continued to come.

There wasn't a more soul stirring night scene in Richmond in the 50's, than the warm glow of the old street lights on the banks of Forest Hill Park Lake, reflected off the newly fallen snow.

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Posted in Other Recreation Post Date 05/28/2017


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