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Middlesex residents voice concern over current and potential water access sites

One complaint voiced by several citizens at a May 9 public hearing on a Middlesex Public Waterfront Access Vision Plan (PWAVP) is that county-owned and state-owned waterfront land for public use is not always maintained properly, which leaves monitoring the sites up to adjacent landowners who often have to contend with people trespassing on their beachfront property. County-owned Canoe House Landing (above) in Jamaica consists of about .442 acre with about 100 feet of beachfront on the Rappahannock River and a parking area and outside privy. The PWAVP states that Canoe House has “moderate” potential for expanded development. The fence in the photo above was installed by the county to show visitors where the public beach ends and the private beach begins. (Photo by Larry Chowning)

by Larry Chowning

A proposed Middlesex County Public Waterfront Access Vision Plan was presented to the public and Middlesex Board of Supervisors on May 9 by Douglas Diedrichsen, who created the plan as part of his master’s degree studies at Virginia Commonwealth University.

At the meeting, comments from residents living from one end of the county to the other voiced frustration and concern over public waterfront access issues between the public and neighbors living close-by. 

The plan states that two of the highest potential waterfront sites for development are a county-owned Paradise Lane site on Jackson Creek in Deltaville, and Grey’s Point Beach in Topping, which is beside the Norris Bridge over the Rappahannock River and is owned by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT).

There was no opposition to the Grey’s Point site—but several people spoke against the development of the Paradise Lane site.

Paradise Lane
Lud Kimbrough of Deltaville said he was representing 100 people who signed a petition against the Paradise Lane proposal presented by Diedrichsen at the meeting. The plan states that the site has “great development potential” for park facilities and as a watercraft landing. The plan calls for a boat ramp, playground, 32 parking spaces, gazebo and walking trails.

Kimbrough said in a written statement that “the county has built [its economy] upon the marine industry. In the past five years . . . boat tax revenues have declined by 36%, marinas have emptied, and their business values have significantly declined.”

He also noted that Deltaville and Jackson Creek already have well-developed public access at the Deltaville Maritime Museum. The museum is located on Mill Creek near the mouth of Jackson Creek.

“The museum has developed a beautiful kayak and canoe landing, waterside park, picnic areas and has become an educational and entertainment destination for tourism,” said Kimbrough.

Kimbrough asked that in the face of “waning” real estate market demand, why is the county envisioning a plan for Paradise Lane that includes “a passive park design, an active park design, and an active boat landing design. The county has also considered subdividing and developing the remaining property with townhouses. Really!”

Kimbrough said that the Paradise Lane Vision Team was clearly taken aback by the outrage from owners of . . . “200 homes on Jackson Creek who will not tolerate their refuge becoming a one-mile-long thoroughfare for boats that want to reach the Chesapeake Bay. Never mind the lack of [water] depth [along the shoreline] to even operate a boat.”

He also said it is poor use of taxpayer dollars to develop the Paradise Lane property “to create an alternative to the maritime museum, compete with existing marinas, and compete with private real estate developers.

“This failure to integrate the work done in this report with a viable economic strategy is a slap in the face to entrepreneurs, investors, volunteers, and residents who strive to make Deltaville a destination,” he said. “What we have here is just some tactics without a strategy.”

He suggested selling the Paradise Lane property for $200,000, and put those funds back into other public access properties or to support and bolster the Deltaville Maritime Museum or help the marine industry thrive. It (the boating industry) is truly the only economic engine we have and it has been woefully ignored thus far by this county administration.”

Donny Hatchett and Craig Dozier both live on Jackson Creek. They spoke against developing Paradise Lane property. They both said the creek is one of only a few in the county that is not classified as a “no wake” zone. Dozier said she is having to spend a “considerable amount of money” to have her riprap repaired. “A boat ramp on the creek will only bring more boats and more wakes,” she said.

Rachel Dickerson, who lives at Bucks View near the mouth of Jackson Creek, said she was in support of making the maritime museum property more user-friendly for boaters. She said she is opposed to developing the Paradise Lane property.

Read the rest of this story in this week’s Southside Sentinel at newsstands throughout the county, or sign up here to receive a print and/or electronic pdf subscription.

posted 05.17.2017

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