Ragged Island provides locals with wildlife access

Published 10:48 pm Friday, October 5, 2018

By Ella Bronaugh


Along the James River in Carrollton lies a 1,500-acre Wildlife Management Area, Ragged Island, featuring beaches, saltwater marshes, forest and access to the riverfront.

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Ragged Island not only is a gorgeous place to experience nature but also provides year-round access to family-friendly activities such as hiking, wildlife-viewing, dog-walking and more. Seasonal activities such as fishing in the summer and waterfowl hunting in the winter are also popular pastimes at the site.

Ragged Island is one of few Wildlife Management Areas in Hampton Roads, so people from several different local cities — especially from the Newport News area over the bridge — will come to the site to participate in wildlife activities that cannot be done elsewhere. Two particularly popular pastimes that attract residents from outside of Carrollton are birdwatching at the observation pier and duck hunting. Ragged Island WMA Supervisor John Randolph says this is beneficial for Carrollton and its residents.

“The activities at Ragged Island bring a lot of people to the area,” Randolph said. “It’s a place you can go to view wildlife, to fish and to hunt while still being close to town. It’s one of the few public lands in Isle of Wight County that people have access to.”

Due to the high levels of foot traffic at Ragged Island, especially in the summer months, littering has become a significant problem. The parking area is often littered with trash from visitors who empty their vehicles into already-full garbage disposals, and Ragged Island employees will find a similarly large amount of refuse throughout the area, as there are no trashcans placed along the trails.

“Trash has been a big issue over the years,” Randolph said. “We have the conservation police check the areas for trash, but they can’t be everywhere 24/7.”

Officials at Ragged Island have been struggling in recent years to come up with a solution for the area’s trash problem. Trashcans are not an option, as wildlife will often get into them, making the problem worse than it would be without them. A full-time contractor that works at the area spends part of his time picking up trash along with the conservation police officers that frequent the site, but the problem persists. Randolph has found that the sheer amount of trash in the area often frustrates those who try to clean up the area, himself included.

“I come in on Mondays and will leave with a pickup truck full of trash bags,” Randolph said. “Groups like the Chesapeake Bay Foundation have come in to volunteer to help pick up trash once or twice but will get fed up with it.”

Despite its trash problem, Ragged Island continues to be a popular spot for wildlife activities in the Carrollton area, providing its residents with a space to participate in hunting, fishing and more, while giving those from the urban areas of Hampton Roads a place to spend time in nature.