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Thank the man who saved a Richmond park

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – Kathy Proffitt and her pooch, Max, are fixtures at bucolic Bandy Field park in Richmond’s West End. They visit the park at least three times a day for exercise. But among these tranquil trails and trees a battle has been raging around these best friends for 15 years.

“I come here to walk my dog. Everyone really respects this land,” Proffitt said. “This place is my heart and soul.” At stake? The future of Kathy and Max’s urban oasis.

Kathy Proffitt and Max, explore Bandy Field

Kathy Proffitt and Max explore Bandy Field. (PHOTO: Jesse Burkett)

“I don`t know what I would do without this place here,” she said.

Over the years walkers and their dog discovered the space as a respite from the hustle bustle of city life. During the 1990s the 18 acres near the University of Richmond was once deemed excess land.

Richmond leaders considered selling the property to the highest bidder.

There were offers of more than $2 million on the table, but plans to sell it were met with fierce resistance.

The man who lead the charge was Dr. Charles Price. The 75-year-old former educator never thought much of land conservation, but he just could not stomach the thought of stores or subdivisions rising on this spot.

Dr. Charles Price (PHOTO: Jesse Burkett)

Dr. Charles Price (PHOTO: Jesse Burkett)

“This place sort of instills in you some kind of solemnity and tranquility. It is a peacefulness,” Dr. Price said. “This was sort of a calling.”

Dr. Price along with the Friends of Bandy Field started lobbying Richmond City Hall to save the 18 acres without much luck.

“It makes cities much more habitable to have parcels of green space,” Dr. Price said.

Months of rejection turned into years, but Dr. Price would not to be discouraged. He set his sights on the much larger James River Park System. In 2009, a conservation easement was placed along the shoreline. Meaning no development in the park now or forever.

James River Park System (PHOTO: Jesse Burkett)

James River Park System (PHOTO: Jesse Burkett)

“You don’t get to commune with nature when you have nothing but concrete, glass and steel,” Dr. Price said.

But Bandy Field, along Three Chopt Road, had no such protection. City Hall would not budge. Dr. Price kept pushing for a conservation easement.

“Parks are people. Parks belong to the people,” Dr. Price said.

His dogged persistence finally paid off. City Council reversed course and in March voted to protect Bandy as well.

“Like Motel 6 he kept the light on this issue for 15 years,” Charles Pool, with the Sierra Club, said. “Dr. Price is the hero of environmentalist and conservationist in this city.”

Members of Friends of Bandy Field said Dr. Price’s efforts should be celebrated across the city.

“I wish people would recognize what a great person he is,” member Jane Peluso said. “Dr. Price just works tirelessly on projects and you have no idea. And very modest and will take no credit for anything.”

Kathy Proffitt thanks Dr. Price for his effort to save the park. (PHOTO: Jesse Burkett)

Kathy Proffitt hugs Dr. Price, thanking him for his efforts to save the park. (PHOTO: Jesse Burkett)

When most people his age choose a slower pace or rounds of golf, Dr. Price actually dedicated his retirement to saving our open space.

Dr. Charles Price is a humble man who shied away from the spotlight, but said he relished knowing best friends like Kathy Proffitt and her dog, Max, will now and forever enjoy the fruits of his labor.

“Any way I could tip the scales in favor of conservation I would make that sacrifice again,” Dr. Price said. “This makes me feel great. If you`re in the midst of something like that the gratification comes when you accomplish something what some people would consider an insurmountable goal.”

Greg McQuade and CBS 6 News are featuring local heroes in a weekly “Heroes Among Us” segment. Watch Greg’s reports Thursdays on CBS News at 6 or here on WTVR.com. If you would like to nominate someone to be featured on “Heroes Among Us,” click here to email heroes@wtvr.com.

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