River access projects vie for funds

Published 9:58 pm Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The city of Suffolk says it is progressing with plans for river access at two sites in addition to Sleepy Hole Park, where plans for a project are further advanced.

Public access to the Nansemond River is planned for Constant’s Wharf and Marina and a site known as the Driver transmission station, city Director of Parks and Recreation Lakita Watson said.

“With the Capital Improvement Plan, we’re working to identify other areas to increase access to the Nansemond River, and the area in Driver would be a wonderful area to be able to offer access,” she said.

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“Right now it’s in the long-term plan. We are currently preparing our capital works budget for the upcoming year, and I’m looking to incorporate additional funding to possibly move this project up.”

In a recent Suffolk News-Herald commentary, John Wass, of the Nansemond River Preservation Alliance, urged the city to open up more sites for public use, citing the Driver site which is “fenced off to the public pending improvements that are not included in the city’s capital improvement plan until 2017-2021.”

“The City Council should move up the date for improving this land for Suffolk citizens and let the citizens have a say in how it will be utilized,” Wass wrote, adding that the Sleepy Hole Park canoe/kayak launch — which the city hopes to open by early summer in 2013 — is “a good start.”

Public access projects compete for funding with various other projects, Watson said, such as buildings and public safety initiatives.

But her department is working to identify new opportunities for grant funding, she said.

Watson is set to present rough plans for the Constant’s Wharf project during the Suffolk City Council retreat today.

Through the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission, the city has applied to the Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program for $30,000 toward the project, and an environmental review is under way.

Initial plans include a 30-foot by 30-foot floating dock with disabled access and a fixed platform pier.

“Right now, those are the only projects that we have,” Watson said. “We’re still continuing to work with our citizens and administration to identify projects, and that’s where our Constant’s Wharf project came out of last year, at the City Council retreat.”

The city would also like to provide access to Lake Meade, where a trail is planned, but Portsmouth’s ownership of the lake makes this complicated, Watson said.

“For the Constant’s Wharf project, we are looking at late-spring to early-summer,” she said.

For the Driver project, “We will … work to identify ways to possibly get it funded early,” she said.

The Capital Improvement Plan is a “rolling document. Some things move up, some things, they move out.”