Jackson Creek property to be part of public access
|Middlesex County recently bought 7 acres at the headwaters of Jackson Creek in Deltaville that could be developed for public water access. (Photo by Tom Chillemi)|
by Larry Chowning
Middlesex County administrator Matt Walker reported this month that the county’s recent property acquisition on Jackson Creek in Deltaville will be part of a comprehensive evaluation to determine what public access uses are advisable for the property.
This study will be part of a larger county and regional public access authority study funded by a grant from the Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program and the SeaGrant Coalition of Universities. The master plan study will not begin until October 2015 and will last one year, which means there will be no activity on the recently purchased Deltaville property for a while, said Walker.
The county board of supervisors approved a $214,500 bid made by the county at a May public auction of 7.05 acres on Jackson Creek off Paradise Lane in Deltaville. The property has a short pier with about 4 feet of water. A house once stood on the knoll above the creek but was damaged by the tornado in April 2011. The house has been removed. Much of the land is clear and there are some mature trees. The land is about 20 feet above sea level.
The actual use of the property is still in the very early planning stages, said Walker. “Perhaps more importantly, the level and intensity of use will be examined on this and other selected properties with significant public input from the neighbors and communities affected,” said Walker. “This will help ensure a balance between the public’s need for access and the community’s desire for more harmonious uses that fit within their areas.”
Middlesex County is partnering with the Middle Peninsula Chesapeake Bay Public Access Authority (MPCBPAA) to develop this study and comprehensive evaluation of county and/or state owned waterfront property that is or may be utilized for public access to Virginia waterways.
The MPCBPAA was created out of necessity because traditional water access points were built upon, fenced off, posted “No Trespassing,” or purchased by new owners unwilling to continue old patterns of public access uses, said Walker. Therefore in 2000, the Middle Peninsula Planning District Commission directed staff to develop a regional strategy to manage and preserve public access and to seek enabling legislation to form a special purpose political subdivision for the sole purpose of protecting the public’s right to access public waterways, he said. Consequently enabling legislation was created, introduced, and passed for the development of the MPCBPAA.
Since the creation of the MPCBPAA in 2003, other Middle Peninsula localities have been diligently working to assess and improve public access to adjacent water bodies throughout the region. Middlesex County Supervisors, however, did not join the program until 2010.
Walker said there is need to develop a roadmap for public access in the Middle Peninsula for the future. Therefore, with the development of a Middle Peninsula Public Access Master Plan, Middle Peninsula localities, Middlesex County and the general public will gain understanding of local and regional public access accomplishments and current policies . . . as well as clear direction of the future of public access in the region.
The regional grant seeks to research comprehensive plans, ordinances, and land use policies to compile an inventory of current public access policies across the six counties and three towns, including Urbanna. This information will be organized and consolidated for regional assessment.
Further, MPCBPAA staff will organize policies, tools, and management procedures for the 1,000 acres of public-owned public access sites across the region. This information will be included in the Middle Peninsula Public Access Master Plan to showcase successful policies and tools that improved public access, local and regional examples of implementation, and lessons learned, he said.
Walker also noted that Middlesex County will serve as a model/pilot project and partner within the regional study, and will receive specific help shaping and visioning what public access sites, policies, and needs exist within the county, and which sites are best suited for various public access uses.
“I am proud for Middlesex to serve as a model for the region in the analysis, evaluation and development of our public access sites and policies,” said Walker. “It is our goal, as the county works with MPCBPAA staff to analyze the county’s sites, to create a roadmap for other communities to follow that provide public access in a well-managed, coordinated manner that respects a proper balance with neighboring properties and communities in which access sites are located.”