A little progress

Oregon Coast - Circa 1989 Scanned from 35mm film print

Oregon Coast - Circa 1989 Scanned from 35mm film print

I miss the mountains.  I grew up on the Oregon coast and lived a good bit of my life among the Blue Ridge and Appalachian mountains.  Here in Hampton Roads Virginia (aka Tidewater, Coastal Va, and other colloquial terms of endearment that aren't family friendly) we have nothing vaguely resembling a foothill, much less a proper mountain.  Our highest elevation in Virginia Beach is Mt Trashmore Park.  Yep, it's a city park (a knoll and a pond) made from an old city dump which stands about 60' above sea level.  There is one natural berm, White Sands "Hill" in First Landing State park, which my GPS says is between 55-58 feet tall depending on the day's cloud cover.  That's a lot of words to say it's pretty flat around here.  But that doesn't mean there isn't an abundance of nature to admire and protect.  

Jim Paddling Back Bay's North Landing River - Photo by Ryan Setzer

Jim Paddling Back Bay's North Landing River - Photo by Ryan Setzer

What we lack in mountains we make up for in spades with water.  There is water everywhere here.  In "Hampton Roads" the word "road" (short for roadstead) is a nautical term meaning a protected waterway where ships can safely anchor.  It's no accident the largest naval military base in the world is located here. 

The Virginia Beach oceanfront is a major tourist destination, the Chesapeake Bay is a fisherman's dream and the watershed that feeds it includes over a dozen major rivers and hundreds of smaller tributaries.  Wetlands, marshlands or whatever you want to call them (but you can't call them swamps!) pepper the landscape for hundreds of miles.  

The wetland region that is most near and dear to us is called Back Bay and the protected lands surrounding it comprise Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge.  We love to kayak all around this area to observe the amphibians, marine mammals, and water fowl that make this their home and others too that stop along their migration routes.  

We bought our first kayaks years ago so we could hunt geocaches that can only be gotten to from boat.  We immediately fell in love with the beauty of these waterways which you simply can't see from city streets.  

Two years ago I got involved with a project to study new transportation alternatives to and around this area. The goal of the project is to encourage more people to discover this jewel without paving away the delicate ecosystem we're trying to preserve.  With some federal grant money and input from us lowly citizens, the city explored several alternative transportation options including extending and improving bike and foot trails, creating new and updating kayak/canoe launches, extending the current tram service, and creating a water taxi circuit.  I was as excited as a kid who'd just gotten his secret decoder ring in the mail when I saw that the final version of this study has now been published.

I'll continue to stay involved with this project as it gets incorporated into the City's Long Range Plan, funding is fought for, and hopefully see some results from all this effort one day, years down the road.  It is a Government project, after all.

Jim SetzerComment