That little old shack in the woods

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 28, 2003

Had some guests in from town that had an interest in camping, natural woods camping with leaky tents, unlimited mosquitoes, damp matches and half cooked food. They wondered if we had a place where there were trails to walk, birds and snakes, creepy owls and other all night wild noisemakers making it difficult to sleep. So I took drove them around the roads inside Lone Star Lakes Park.

They couldn’t believe such a place could be tucked away hidden from the civilization that surrounds it. They gave up counting the many lakes spread all through the park; some you can’t quite see but you know they are there. There has just got to be fish in that water.

One lake, a large one, is tidal water and at low tide you can smell that distinct perfume. I pointed out the large archery range and the field expansive enough to fly model planes without smashing into anything except grass.

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They were disappointed by only one thing; the entrance to the park. They wondered how any city could own a place with such potential and have nothing but a beat up shack to set the tone.

If I were to be stuck there at that gate on a summer weekend, greeting those who venture in, I would be ashamed to admit that was all the city could afford. I’ll gamble that many would-be lookers turn around right there.

Once inside, the roads seemed OK, no big holes or ruts, two boat launching ramps, a few places for picnicking, but enough work for a dozen employees just to keep up with nature that strives to reclaim the entire area. You turn off at the new fire station, pass by our modern water plant, and come to an entrance that immediately puts doubt in your plan to poke around in there. I wonder if our new City Manager has ever driven up to that gate. You can bet he will replace that shack when his city marina gets under way, now that the Indians are out of he way, or build a new entrance off Kings Highway. Maybe it can be spruced up, temporarily, like the intersection of Main and Godwin that was recently weeded and redecorated. Looks nice, again, was it the garden club’s doing?

I see that Chesapeake found a way to capitalize on the Dismal Swamp by running honest cruises from Deep Creek down to Elizabeth City for the night and return the next day. The 72-footer lolls along at 6 mph, faster than a mosquito flies, and for $215 you get two lunches, a breakfast, a hotel, and a ride and a guide who knows every foot of the way and the name of every live thing you will see.

Unfortunately Suffolk lacks the waterway so the Dismal Swamp Visitor Center becomes a must for our city if we are to make a buck. I suspect the trip to Elizabeth City will be more interesting than one we took from New Orleans up to Memphis. Fortunately the good food and nightly shows offset the depressing muddy water. Mark Twain had a good imagination to find that stretch tolerable. Of course he continually smoked cigars and never ran out of bourbon. I stayed with scotch but it didn’t help much. I guess the highlight was hoping Elvis was really under that black marble slab in Graceland – so many sobbing women in one place.

I read the pro and con articles between Mayor Dickens and Mike Barrett, a cheer leader for those developers who think so highly of us Suffolk citizens they want us to give us homes on every square inch of dry land.

Their pipe dreams, they call them studies, prove that growth pays for itself and helps pay for infrastructure as well. Notice their word &uot;helps.&uot; I don’t know what these guys are smoking but I have noticed that my property taxes go up every year just trying to keep up with new schools, sewers and water lines, no matter how many houses they build, or how big they build them. None of which would be necessary if overzealous developers found more fertile ground in some other county to use up their inexhaustible supply of building materials.

Notice how they whined when the UDO rule &uot;flaw&uot; was discovered and whiteout used to repair the text. Of course they didn’t take any advantage of the UDO slip up, did they? Even if Dickens and Barrett were both right, I’d stick with Dickens because he has proven he is a reasonable, unselfish man with the best in mind for Suffolk and it’s citizens. Developers haven’t proven anything.

Sign on the South Carolina state line. &uot;You are entering the great state of South Carolina. Set your watches back 20 years.&uot; As I waited to pay a speeding ticket in a small town speed trap down there I heard the judge ask another violator, &uot;Is your appearance here this morning pursuant to a deposition that I sent to your attorney.&uot; The violator replied, &uot;No, this is how I always dress when I go to work.&uot;

&uot;News flash! Get ready for an automobile dealership on the grounds on the former Louise Obici Memorial Hospital.&uot;

Robert Pocklington lives in Suffolk and is a regular News-Herald columnist.