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Who wants to live next to a public water access site?

by Larry Chowning

The one thing made certain at a public forum on public waterfront access (PWA) on November 29 was the Middlesex County Board of Supervisors will ultimately have the final say on the future of every PWA site in Middlesex. 

Most attending the forum agreed that public waterfront access will play an important role in the future of Middlesex County. However, it was evident that most attending do not want public access next to them, and those who already have public access next to them want better management of the sites.

David South, who lives near Wake Beach, said the main problem with Middlesex County’s public waterfront access sites is that surrounding landowners are left to monitor sites because the county provides little to no enforcement of rules and regulations on those sites.

The lack of public supervision on these sites has been a generational complaint from landowners who live near Wake Beach, Canoe House Landing in Jamaica, Fairfield Landing in Hartfield, the public dock on Locklies Creek, and elsewhere throughout the county.

These issues in part have led to a group of landowners living on and near Paradise Lane in Deltaville wanting supervisors to not start developing public access near their homes on Jackson Creek. Over half of the people who attended the forum were there to address the Paradise Lane site.

In 2015 Middlesex County purchased 7.05 acres off Paradise Lane at the head of Jackson Creek for $214,000 to provide more public water access in the county.

Middle Peninsula Planning District Commission planner Doug Diedrichsen is working on his master’s thesis at Virginia Commonwealth University and, as part of his thesis work, he has agreed to assist the county in creating a vision of what public access should be in Middlesex County.

Diedrichsen said he is creating a “conceptional site” of public use on the properties at Grey’s Point Beach next to the Rappahannock River Bridge at Topping, and at the Paradise Lane site on Jackson Creek.

Paradise Lane opponents have argued the site does not provide the depth of water needed for a boat ramp and there are other problems with the location that make it undesirable for large numbers of people to use.

Diedrichsen explained he is creating a “roadmap” for supervisors that should enable them in the development of all sites in the county. He said the Paradise Lane site is an ideal location for his “case study” because the site (on water and land) involves issues similar to all other sites in the county.

“We are not going to send bulldozers down there to build a boat ramp,” said Diedrichsen. “No one is proposing a boat ramp at Paradise Lane. My conceptional site might show a boat ramp, but that is to show county officials what might need to be done at other sites to deal with dredging, parking and other issues.”

Diedrichsen also said his conceptional sites will provide a “template” for the entire region to study and develop public access sites.

When Diedrichsen re-marked that the Middlesex Board of Supervisors will have the final say in the use of the Paradise Lane property, one spokesperson against the site remarked, “If you are trying to ease my worry, you are not doing a good job.”

Diedrichsen also had information on 15 other public access sites throughout the county. “The purpose is to create a plan for all of these sites,” he said. “Remember, it is only a plan and that does not mean it is going to happen.”

posted 12.07.2016

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