Changes proposed at swamp

Published 9:35 pm Monday, June 8, 2015

The public is invited to comment through the end of this month on proposed changes to public uses at the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge.

In most cases, the hours and times of year for public uses are proposed to increase. Comment on the “Draft Compatibility Determinations” is welcomed by fax, mail or email.

“All the (changes) we have recommended are based on things visitors have asked for over the last several years,” said Deloras Freeman, visitor services specialist at the refuge. “We tried to address problems that were created and things that just didn’t seem logical. We just really took a big step back and tried to make it easier for people to understand.”


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One of the biggest changes is that the auto tour — where people can drive their vehicles along established paths through the swamp all the way to Lake Drummond, one of only two natural freshwater lakes in Virginia — would be open seven days a week. Currently, it is open only Monday through Saturday.

Hours for the auto tour have been extended, also.

“Our concern is to have the vehicles off the road before the critters start doing all their moving around just before sunset,” Freeman said.

Nevertheless, a slight increase in hours isn’t expected to hurt anything.

Currently, vehicles can enter the auto tour route only from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., and must be out by 4 p.m. That’s been a problem, especially for out-of-town visitors, Freeman said.

“They drive all day, and when they get here after 3 o’clock it’s real disappointing,” she said.

New hours would vary seasonally. The auto tour would be permitted from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. April 1 through Sept. 30, and 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Oct. 1 to March 31.

The other big difference in the draft compatibility determinations is that people will be able to put a boat into Lake Drummond from the west year-around.

Currently, they can do so only from April 1 to June 15.

“It’s not the best fishing site in the world, but it is a great place for canoeing and kayaking,” Freeman said.

Participants would have to comply with the terms of the auto tour permit, Freeman said. Year-around access to Lake Drummond already is available from the east through the Feeder Ditch.

The full draft compatibility determinations are available online at Copies can also be obtained at the refuge headquarters, 3100 Desert Road, Suffolk, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Comments can be submitted one of three ways: