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Supervisor suggests removing trash cans from public beach

Trash was overflowing trash cans at Wake Beach about a two weeks ago when this photo was taken.  (Photo by Larry Chowning)

During the summer vacation season, there are controversial issues concerning public access to the waterways in Middlesex County. This year one concern is at Wake Beach, where trash cans are overflowing and there is no regular pickup of trash.

At the July 3 meeting of the Middlesex Board of Supervisors, Hartfield District supervisor John Koontz recommended the two trash cans at Wake Beach be removed so, hopefully, the beach-users will take their trash with them when they leave.

Koontz noted Wake Beach is owned by Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and that he knew of other similar public properties in the country where trash problems were solved by removing trash cans. 

Middlesex County is not as blessed with public access to the water as its neighboring counties of Mathews and Lancaster. Mathews has several large public beaches on the Chesapeake Bay and Lancaster has the 1,000-acre Belle Isle State Park.

Concern over this lack of public access to the water by supervisors prompted the board to have a “Middlesex County Public Waterfront Access Vision Plan,” created in 2017. The plan studied 16 sites, four of those are in the Jamaica and Saluda districts. Twelve are in the Harmony Village, Hartfield and Pinetop districts.

Without a large public-owned tract of land on the water, Middlesex has been forced to utilize some narrow, small access sites located at ends of roads, where steamboat and schooner landings once frequented. When the boats went away, public water access remained where some roads met the water. 

In the 1970s and 80s waterfront property boomed in Middlesex, and neighborhoods along the water grew and moved closer in on those public end-of-the-road sites. This has created ongoing friction between public use of the land and neighboring private homeowners. 

Supervisors have been trying to address this problem and recently visited the 300-acre defunct Boy Scout Camp in Jamaica District. Although county officials appear to have little interest in spending Middlesex tax dollars on purchasing the property, Harmony Village District supervisor Kathleen Swinehart recommended in June that the State of Virginia buy the camp and make it part of Belle Isle State Park, which is directly across the Rappahannock River.

Supervisors have also looked at expanding and improving Grey’s Point Beach, which is located near the Rappahannock River bridge at Topping. The board has also purchased a site in Deltaville on Paradise Lane at the head of Jackson Creek. The development of this acreage for public access to the water has stalled as neighbors and others have shown opposition to the project. This parcel is also the future site of the Eastern Middlesex Water Project and will serve as a water storage and distribution point.

Also, a committee has been formed by supervisors to study the end-of-the road water access properties and other county-owned properties to determine if they need to be turned back over to private use. There has also been discussion of selling some small sites to generate funds to develop a larger more effective public waterfront site in the county.

posted 08.01.2018

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