Good first steps on access

Published 9:59 pm Thursday, July 27, 2017

Public access to the Nansemond River and other waterways in Suffolk hasn’t always been the best, but the city government has taken significant steps to rectify that in recent years.

After many years of lobbying by the Nansemond River Preservation Alliance and many individuals, the city opened kayak and canoe launches at both Sleepy Hole Park and Constant’s Wharf Park in the last year or so.

Folks have been taking advantage of the new facilities, according to estimates provided by Suffolk parks superintendent J.R. Ruggiero. He guessed about 10 kayaks per week have been spotted at Constant’s Wharf Park since May, with about 15 each week at Sleepy Hole Park and even 25 to 35 at Lone Star Lakes Park.

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Some folks enter the water equipped to fish from their kayaks, Ruggiero said. Others are simply enjoying getting a closer look at nature or interested in getting some refreshing exercise.

Ruggiero said some of the paddlers are from Suffolk, but others are from across the Hampton Roads area and even from Richmond, he told a Suffolk News-Herald reporter earlier this week.

The Nansemond River Preservation Alliance supported both projects to increase access for non-motorized boating in the city as well as to bring attention to the waterways’ historical and environmental value, public access chairman John Wass said. Both facilities were designed for easy docking and handicap accessibility, and informational kiosks nearby recognize the inclusion of the Suffolk Water Trail as part of the 3,000 miles in the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historical Trail.

Of course, there is still a ways to go to improve public access to the Nansemond. Some have asked what the city can do to allow closer parking to the Constant’s Wharf kayak launch, and others want a third access point between that one and the one at Sleepy Hole. A way to enjoy the river on foot is also desired by many.

We trust the Nansemond River Preservation Alliance will continue its good work and urge the city to continue improving its excellent first steps toward public access for the river, and we expect the city to respond with its best efforts.