Kayaks aplenty in Suffolk waterways

Published 10:07 pm Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Fishermen and vacationers have been busy kayaking this summer at Suffolk parks.

Suffolk park superintendent J.R. Ruggiero estimated that 25 to 35 kayaks have been spotted weekly at Lone Star Lakes Park since May. He estimated more than 15 each week at Sleepy Hole Park over the same span and about 10 per week at Constant’s Wharf Park.

“We have just seen an explosion of kayaks out here this past year,” Ruggiero said.


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These paddlers are a mix of residents and visitors from across Hampton Roads and Richmond, according to Ruggiero. Many of them go into the waterways with their kayaks equipped to fish.

“Some of these guys are fully rigged with electronics and rod holders,” Ruggiero said. “They do it very professionally.”

Others simply enjoy getting a closer look at nature, such as Nansemond River Preservation Alliance public access chairman John Wass.

“You can paddle through grasses and look at the periwinkles,” Wass said. “You’re right down there with nature. It’s just being close and feeling good about the environment.”

The NRPA worked with Suffolk River Heritage, the National Park Service and Suffolk’s Parks and Recreation Department to introduce a new pier and floating kayak launch at Sleepy Hole Park in April 2016. Another launch was unveiled at Constant’s Wharf in October as a downtown access point to the Nansemond River.

Both were designed for easy docking and handicap accessibility. Three-paneled informational kiosks near both launches recognize the inclusion of the Suffolk Water Trail as part of the 3,000 miles in the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail.

NRPA members supported the projects to increase access for non-motorized boating in the Nansemond and its tributaries, and raise public awareness of the waterways’ historical and environmental values.

“It’s taking ownership of the environment,” Wass said. “You want to preserve it.”

NRPA members and city officials are looking at potential sites for more launches on the Nansemond River. Ruggiero said that there is also interest in partnering with a local company to allow park visitors to rent kayaks.

“We think it’s definitely something to do in the future,” he said.

Ruggiero recommended to those kayaking to plan using weather forecasts and waterproof bags, going out according to the tide, and wearing life vests with lightweight and breathable UV gear.

“Most people like to get shirtless in shorts, but that’s probably not the best idea,” Ruggiero said. “You can get burned a lot quicker from the reflection off the water.”