Waterway trail gets boost

Published 9:01 pm Saturday, May 10, 2014

During the unveiling of a national water trail kiosk at Bennett’s Creek on Saturday, Elizabeth Taraski of the Nansemond River Preservation Alliance, Ursula Lemanski and John Davy of the National Park Service, Helen Gabriel and Mike Kelly of Suffolk Parks and Recreation, Karla Smith of Suffolk River Heritage, John Wass of the alliance and Christine Lucero of the service stand with a map of the trail. (MATTHEW A. WARD/SUFFOLK NEWS-HERALD)

During the unveiling of a national water trail kiosk at Bennett’s Creek on Saturday, Elizabeth Taraski of the Nansemond River Preservation Alliance, Ursula Lemanski and John Davy of the National Park Service, Helen Gabriel and Mike Kelly of Suffolk Parks and Recreation, Karla Smith of Suffolk River Heritage, John Wass of the alliance and Christine Lucero of the service stand with a map of the trail. (MATTHEW A. WARD/SUFFOLK NEWS-HERALD)

An information kiosk officially unveiled during River and Creek Fest at Bennett’s Creek Park on Saturday will teach folks about the environmental and historical significance of Suffolk’s waterways, officials said.

The Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail will encompass more than 3,000 miles of waterways, including waters in Suffolk.

The trail “is a way to get people out on the river and actually see and experience what the native inhabitants and Capt. John Smith saw 400 years ago,” said Karla Smith, chairman of Suffolk River Heritage.

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Smith spoke during an unveiling ceremony on the banks of Bennett’s Creek that was attended by instrumental partners on the project, including Ursula Lemanski, a project manager with the National Park Service, David Barringer, grants and community programs director for the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, and Suffolk Parks and Recreation’s Mike Kelly and Helen Gabriel.

Other special guests included State Senator John Cosgrove and Suffolk councilmen Lou Ward and Roger Fawcett.

Cosgrove is chairman of the Virginia delegation to the Chesapeake Bay Commission, which he said worked with Congress to establish the national trail.

“This is where the United States started,” he said of Capt. John Smith’s explorations in and around the bay. “It’s important to remember our history and where it all started.”

The kiosk sits on the bank at Bennett’s Creek Park right above the boat launch. Its three panels are titled Marshland Diversity, Join the Adventure, and John Smith Explores the Chesapeake, detailing the natural environment, features of the trail itself, and Smith’s voyage of discovery, respectively.

“This is a wonderful conjunction of human history and natural history, and, being in a place like Suffolk, you can’t help but recognize that connection,” Barringer said.

The ceremony took place at the end of River and Creek Fest, which Elizabeth Taraski, executive director of the Nansemond River Preservation Alliance, reported was well-attended this year.

“It’s what makes Suffolk special,” Taraski said of the city’s creeks and the river. “We want everyone to enjoy them.”