Sleepy Hole kayak project paddles forward

Published 8:49 pm Thursday, August 16, 2012

A rough sketch of a boat launch project proposed for Sleepy Hole Park in North Suffolk, for which the city has applied for state funding, shows the city’s plans for the facility.

The city of Suffolk is seeking input from residents on plans for a kayak and canoe launch and fishing platform at Sleepy Hole Park after applying for state funding.

A $125,000 grant application to the Department of Conservation and Recreation has made it to the second round, Director of Parks and Recreation Lakita Watson said.

The city would add to the matching grant another $125,000 already allocated in the approved capital program budget, she said.

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“Currently we don’t have access to the (Nansemond) river at Sleepy Hole Park, and we felt that this would be a good opportunity to explore,” she said.

The period for public comments, required as part of the grant application, opened on July 23 and closes Aug. 23.

Watson said Wednesday that 29 submissions received so far were “all in support.”

According to Watson, one resident wrote, “I live right next to the park, and I feel this would be a great asset.”

Someone else wrote, “Our family took up kayaking a few years ago and will use a kayak launch at Sleepy Hole quite regularly,” Watson said.

The central location of the proposed launch on the Nansemond River would open doors to ecotourism, providing opportunities for “nature observation and interpretation,” Watson said.

“What we’re hoping to accomplish is an opportunity to provide additional amenities at a park that already has high usage,” she said.

According to a project description with the grant application, the facility would be the first of three places to launch canoes and kayaks on the Nansemond in conjunction with efforts by the Nansemond River Preservation Alliance to map a water trail.

It would open opportunities for interpretive nature programs on the river and salt marsh, the description says.

Paddlers could “paddle peacefully down the Nansemond River to Willis Island and meander the Blue Ways trail while marveling at amazing flora and marsh ecosystem.”

The full scope of the proposal includes a 6-by-75-foot concrete walkway from a parking lot to a 20-by-20-foot observation deck, from which a 220-foot long pier would lead to a floating dock and an observation and fishing platform.

A verdict on the grant application should be delivered by late October, Watson said, and, if it goes ahead, project completion is projected for late spring to early summer in 2013.

Environmental permitting would take some time, Watson said, given the ecologically sensitive project site.

Residents wishing to comment on the plans can visit the Department of Parks and Recreation page at