Suffolk’s future is history

Published 8:52 pm Monday, March 9, 2015

To the editor:

The downtown area of Suffolk “is” Suffolk. This city is rich in history, and her story began in this two-and-a-half square-mile downtown area.

The historic buildings, Cedar Hill Cemetery and Civil War earthworks all tell her story. The siege of Suffolk took place at the old Obici Hospital site. Constance Wharf on the Nansemond River, now part of the Captain John Smith Water Trail, was once a bustling port. The Dismal Swamp provided wood products that played an important role in early commerce.

Email newsletter signup

The history of Planters Peanuts and the great Mr. Obici make this a story worthy of being told. The old Obici Hospital site should be preserved as a city park in his honor.

City parks have economic benefits. They attract non-resident visitors who put new money into the local economy by eating in restaurants, retail spending, hotel stays and other tourism-related expenses. Tourism is one of the largest industries in the U.S. New money from outside the community creates income and jobs for residents.

Windsor Castle Park in Smithfield is a great example of how tourism helps the economy. They have sponsored five special events since 2012, creating hundreds of thousands of dollars of economic impact from tourist spending.

An economic impact analysis of the 2013 Wine & Brew Fest shows it generated more than $340,000 in local spending, with 349 hotel-night stays.

Texas A&M University is well known for research on the benefits of parks throughout North America. I called to talk to some of the staff about how Suffolk, with all her amenities, might benefit from a city park. The response was they were “astounded” the city of Suffolk was not tapping into all the resources it has for tourism.

Our city planners need to look beyond 2015 to future generations where there are beautiful open spaces, walking trails and access to our waterways. Smart development looks toward long-term effects.

Suffolk is a unique city, rich in history, ecology and the beauty of the water surrounding her. Suffolk is a great destination for naturalists and history buffs. Let’s not kill the goose that lays the golden egg. Our history is our future in economic growth through tourism.

It’s all right here in beautiful surprising Suffolk.

Jean Carmean