Nathan Burrell, former superintendent of the James River Park System, is a 2018 RTD Person of the Year honoree.

Nathan Burrell, the influential former superintendent of the James River Park System, is stepping down from Richmond’s Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities Department after 17 years.

Burrell took over as superintendent of James River Park in 2013 after park manager Ralph White retired, serving as interim manager for a few months. In 2018, he was promoted to facilities maintenance manager of the city parks department.

In an email, Burrell said that he received an unsolicited offer from Gov. Ralph Northam to serve as a deputy director with the Department of Conservation and Recreation. His last day with the city is Jan. 29.

He said he accepted the new job “with a heavy heart and gratitude.”

Burrell said that over the past 17 years, he had witnessed Richmond change from a “capital of the South” mentality to a city that sees itself as one of the best places to live, work and play in the nation, which is related to enjoying and preserving James River Park.

He mentioned several improvements at the park during his time, including “the development of over 40 miles of single track trails, multiple river access points, the development of a mountain bike skills course, legitimization and expansion of a bike jump park, increased operational and capital funding for James River Park System and ... a master plan to guide and further protect it into the future.”

The park welcomes nearly 2 million visitors a year, according to Burrell’s findings from using electronic counting devices.

A native of eastern Virginia, Burrell holds a degree in parks and recreation management, with a minor in environmental studies, from Virginia Commonwealth University. He began at the park as a summer intern in 2002, took a seasonal post after graduation in winter 2003 and grew into larger roles.

Mike Burton will be acting maintenance and operations superintendent for the parks department’s Southern Division, which oversees the James River Park System, all parks south of the river, as well as the trails and greenway division.


(804) 649-6151

Twitter: @collcurran

Colleen Curran covers arts and entertainment for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. She writes the weekly column Top Five Weekend Events.

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