Protection decision good for everyone

Published 8:57 pm Monday, April 26, 2010

Much as in Suffolk, Isle of Wight County is increasingly a community with two faces. There is the southern, rural part of the county, whose farms, fields and forests all are part of the agricultural base that has provided work and economic stability for folks in the area since long before the first Europeans settled there.

And then there is northern Isle of Wight, which — like North Suffolk — has become a favorite of residential and commercial developers, who are taking advantage of the commuting patterns of those fleeing the gridlock and other problems of Hampton Roads’ core cities.

Even in the face of a grinding recession, the area along the Route 17 and I-664 corridors has continued to sprout new homes, new shopping centers and new commercial enterprises. All that new construction has contributed to Isle of Wight’s position as one of Virginia’s fastest growing counties and to Suffolk’s similar position among the commonwealth’s cities.

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The rampant growth in Isle of Wight makes an announcement last week by Gov. Bob McDonnell all the more pleasing to those who cherish not only the county’s ability to attract new businesses and residents, but also its natural beauty and environmental heritage. The governor announced that the Virginia Department of Forestry and the Department of Conservation and Recreation would team up with the county to protect more than 2,500 acres of forested land, much of it along the Blackwater River, from development.

Not only could the move help create a huge area for a riverside park to serve current and future Isle of Wight residents, it also will help protect the Blackwater from pollution. That’s especially important, as several cities in Hampton Roads depend on the river for part of their water supply.

Along with the commonwealth’s recent designation of the Blackwater as a State Scenic river, last week’s announcement is good news for those who worry about the effects of unchecked development in Isle of Wight County.