Local and long-distance retreats

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 11, 2002

Andy Damiani took his roadshow up to Lone Star Lakes on Aug. 6 where he visited with Annette Ferrell, superintendent of Parks, and Sgt. J. Roggiero, the ranger that keeps a sharp eye on conditions in the thousand-plus acres.

Their objective is to keep the unique park in its natural state, but make it accessible to all citizens of Suffolk. It is truly a sort of paradise especially to those who do not have the opportunity to live in a woods or near water. Here it seems water is everywhere along the many roads and walking trails. Little ponds, small lakes, quiet streams, here a picnic table where a family can enjoy a quiet time.

There are many places to put over a small boat or canoe for a quiet ride among the trees or to fish. At one end of the park is Crane Lake where the water is brackish and might produce a flounder, croaker, spot, or even a large rock fish. The rest of the water is fresh and contains almost every species of fresh water fish. You owe it to yourself to visit the park, get cost info, and then enjoy a piece of Suffolk land like no other in Tidewater.

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Harold Nedd of The Virginian-Pilot opened a nasty can of worms with his piece about 13 of our city leaders retreating to the Tides Inn up in Irvington for their get-together they refer to as a &uot;retreat.&uot; Does it matter to anyone that it is a luxury resort with room prices – the deluxe versions – costing as much as $295 per night for two persons? And Waldorf Astoria menus that take up valuable retreat time to ingest? Would that upset you just because your 401-k is in the tank? Are you crass enough to suggest there are cheaper places for a getaway?

One of the objectives of the retreat is for the purpose of &uot;bonding.&uot; These people work on the same team but in different buildings and offices. Council members, seven making the trip, do not live or work together and represent seven different areas of our city. We had enough of the 4 to 3 votes that indicated there was much friction on council. Bonding is meant to instill the idea that they should all have the same objective: an ever- improving city.

This concept is so important they took along a &uot;facilitator,&uot; a consultant hired to put their heads together. This may not seem necessary to you and seems silly to me because I’m from the old school where we just banged heads. On our town council we often shouted each other down and even once in awhile called each other names. No fists but plenty of threats. That does not work nowadays if there is to be progress. It’s one thing to vote no on an issue before council, but it should be backed with reasons, not just opposition. OK, so let council bond a little, so long as it does not lead to just going along. Probably any council member you ask will suggest he/she had no part in picking the fancy site for the retreat. But together they could have changed it if they were bonded enough.

I’m sorry more of you weren’t interested in joining the discussion between the public and the professional planners that considered important questions concerning the location of new major city facilities. Your input is as vital as any person on the planning team. You could help decide where the new post office will be, as well as the new library. Obviously we have the services of very talented people from the outside as well as our own city planners.

A big part of future city improvement is what will happen on East Washington to relieve traffic and reinvigorate those businesses and neighborhoods. I was impressed with the thoroughness of the plan as well as the presentation to the attending public. Everyone there had an opportunity to offer his or her ideas, complaints and questions. Freshman councilman Bobby Ralph was there ratcheting up his influence and lobbying to keep the post office and library handy to downtown citizens. And councilman Charles Brown eloquently summed up the hopes and aspirations of his constituents living in East Washington neighborhoods. A major surprise was learning that we are in active pursuit of the Dismal Swamp visitors’ center. One considered location is directly behind the old courthouse on Constance Road. And if the center is done correctly there will be no need to actually venture out to the swamp. You missed an excellent informative meeting.

Robert Pocklington is a resident of Suffolk and a regular News-Herald columnist.