A ground-breaking ceremony was held Wednesday morning on the site of an old golf course in Goochland County that a Richmond nonprofit intends to turn into a memorial for victims of COVID-19.
Dr Arlene Simmons said: “The ‘Gardens of Tranquility’ is where healing begins. “Whether it’s mental, emotional, physical, spiritual or educational. We want this to be a place of peace and quiet.
Simmons is the founder of American Community Development Corporation’s Humanitarian Ambassador, a nonprofit with 25 years of experience in Richmond, and says they bought the land earlier this year and were inspired. to turn it into a COVID-19 memorial to the children she worked with. who told her about what they were going through during COVID-19.
“They document the hardships associated with the loss of housing, the deaths of loved ones, health issues, depression, hunger and other challenges experienced because of the COVID pandemic,” Simmons told the crowd. “. “In the pain of their grief, young souls decided that it was not only important, but necessary, to remember loved ones and honorably and forever.”
Simmons said the plan is to redevelop the 151-acre site into four phases with a budget of $33 million. COVID-19 victims will be remembered in rock gardens and memorial walls, but Simmons said it also intends to include memorials for those who have passed away from other health issues. and children lost to gun violence.
“Design will be functional and will extend to programmatic opportunities geared towards active youth development processes,” added Simmons, who said this could include things like par 3 golf, gardening and hiking. “It’s a challenge if you’ve never been exposed to it, but it’s a blessing when you’re exposed to it,” Simmons said.
However, anyone attending Wednesday’s ceremony will have to drive past dozens of beaches along the only road leading to the site to express concern or skepticism about the project.
CBS 6 spoke with a number of homeowners who put up signs, and they said while the project appeared well-intentioned, they raised concerns about the amount of traffic it could bring, its ability to maintain properties and said they were not included in the conversation about the proposed plans.
Simmons says they don’t need to have those conversations because the property is not part of a homeowners association and said nothing they are planning to build will fall outside of their current zoning. real estate.
“It’s a rural area, everything is beautiful here. And so we didn’t want anything to change, we just wanted to fit in,” Simmons said.
However, Simmons said when they begin designing the first phase next month, they will update the county on what they do, and she said neighbors will have a seat at the table.
“We want them to welcome us and we welcome them here,” Simmons said.
Simmons said it hopes to at least complete the renovation of the clubhouse and build a memorial garden and a wall for the ribbon-cutting ceremony in December.
CBS 6 also reached out to Goochland County and inquired about the proposal and received a written statement.
“County staff met with representatives of the American Community Development Corporation’s Humanitarian Ambassadors, who are proposing a COVID memorial garden at the former Royal Virginia golf course. planning has not been applied or approved. It is too early to say what may be required until staff are provided with more information,” wrote Community Affairs Director Paul Drumwright. “If a zoning application is filed, community meetings and public hearings are required so that citizens can voice their opinion on the request.”
“Goochland County encourages all potential applicants and new businesses and organizations to forge an open dialogue and engage with the larger community as they continue the proposed plans and developments, ” he added.