Set for launch

Published 10:27 pm Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The new canoe and kayak launch at Sleepy Hole Park is set to open next month.

The new canoe and kayak launch at Sleepy Hole Park is set to open next month.

The city’s new $467,000 kayak and canoe launch in North Suffolk’s Sleepy Hole Park opens next month.

Contractors recently finished construction of a 361-foot-long pier and floating dock on the Nansemond River, according to city spokeswoman Diana Klink.

The launch will be the city’s first boat ramp that complies with the American with Disabilities Act and is handicapped accessible, said Karla Smith, a member of the educational nonprofit, Suffolk River Heritage.

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“We’re all excited about this,” said John Wass, chairman of the Nansemond River Preservation Alliance’s public access committee. The alliance is a nonprofit organization that works with the city, businesses and other organizations to promote environmental stewardship and preserve the city’s waterways.

The Sleepy Hole pier and launch will open to the public in early February, with a formal dedication scheduled for later this spring, Wass said. Before the opening, volunteers with NRPA will plant trees and native shrubs and build a walking path within the 100-foot shoreline buffer to stave off additional erosion where the pier was built.

A similar ADA-compliant kayak launch is under construction at the Constant’s Wharf marina, Klink said. That project has an estimated price tag of $165,000 and will be complete this spring.

The NRPA, Suffolk River Heritage, National Park Service and city of Suffolk’s Department of Parks and Recreation have worked in concert for years to lobby for funding for the boat launches, Smith said.

In May 2014, both sites — as well as Bennett’s Creek Park — were named part of the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, which includes more than 3,000 miles of waterways that Capt. John Smith traveled more than 400 years ago. Informational kiosks featuring information about each site’s environmental and historic features are at each site.

“We have all been working hard,” Smith said. “These have been in the cooker for five to eight years.”

Kayaks and canoes are the only boats that can launch from Sleepy Hole, according to Klink. People will also be able to fish from the pier.

Suffolk Parks and Recreation is currently evaluating ways to provide canoes and kayaks to residents to citizens who do not own them, Klink stated. The department has two certified canoe instructors and plans to offer classes.

“These are up and coming environmental sports,” Smith said. “There’s a whole cadre of people who love to go out to see wildlife.”