You asked me to provide a narrative to go along with my land use concept. It’s very rough, I’ll admit, but what I have tried to do with the concept is to balance human needs and desires with the conservation of habitat diversity and the potential for ecosystem restoration.
In general, wetland restoration activities would help to restore the estimated 40 acres of wetlands that were filled on the property. Wetland restoration activities would enhance habitat for aquatic, wading bird, migratory songbird, and waterfowl species, reduce pollution and improve water quality, control erosion, provide for enhanced flood control, enhance habitat diversity, and make the ecosystem more resilient to the effects of sea level rise. In addition it would enhance the aesthetic of the property for land-based visitors and boaters. It would also provide enhanced educational opportunities for public grade schools, universities, home-schoolers, citizens from all over Virginia Beach and and for visitors to our city.
Berm removal would allow for proper and maximized functioning of wetland ecosystem services (both inside and outside of the existing berm locations). Berm removal would take away a structural barrier to the natural landward migration of wetlands in response to sea level rise. Berm removal would demonstrate proper natural area management (education opportunity). Retaining berms that were created to retain fill and prevent natural tidal flooding (they were not designed as a public trail amenity) would also seem contrary to sustainable practices.
Please refer to the attached diagram and legend at the bottom of the page for specific reference to areas on the concept plan).
Area 1: The is an area where wetlands were filled in the past. The goal would be to expand the width of the existing marsh to restore lost wetlands. This would also help to enhance the view of the property and Pleasure House Creek from the City’s multi-use path along Shore Drive.
Area 2: Maritime forest would be preserved. A ring path and interpretive signage would educate the public about this resource.
Area 3: The maritime forest path would connect with the ring path around the brackish pond. The berm in this area would be retained preserving the pond and giving exceptional views of the pond (looking north) and would provide the closeness and great views of Pleasure House Creek that the public desires.
Area 4: The berm would be removed in these locations and wetlands would be restored consistent with a wetland mitigation study prepared for the City and the Trust for Public Land. However, contrary to the wetland mitigation study, sufficient maritime forest buffer must be retained to provide habitat diversity for wildlife and migratory bird use, proper wetland buffering and function, a location for wetland migration with sea level rise, and a path that would link with other pathways throughout the property. Bridges over ditch features could provide for enhanced views and aesthetics.
Area 5: While this area may provide an important public access point to the shoreline for a water view (and perhaps an ADA accessible observation/education pier), others in the Stakeholder Committee have questioned whether a passive boat launch facility (and associated parking and support facilities) in this location is needed. Where would necessary parking be provided? Would the PHP launch facility and associated parking be redundant with the one provided by the City nearby on Crab Creek (Area 9)? Ecotour companies have been running trips out of the City facility for a long time.
Area 6: A kayak launch in this location would block navigation access for kayaks and canoes, would segment the existing marsh island with the potential to negatively affect wildlife usage, and would affect natural area aesthetics. It would also necessitate that the berm be retained and that would negatively affect wetland preservation and restoration potential. It would be a private facility on government land, and it raises the question of necessity given the redundant services already provided at the City launch site (area 9). Perhaps a better option would be to enhance City launching facilities in Area 9 to accommodate future use needs.
Area 7: Preserve (and/or create ADA) public access to the shoreline and sandy beach area. Public access for wade fishing should be preserved and accommodated. This would be a great locaiton for beach seining for educational purposes and where LR Now could conduct the outdoor segment of their citizen wetland education workshop. This area would be designated for higher public use as opposed to areas 1, 2, 3, and portions of 4.
Area 8: Restoration of wetlands is proposed in the area where the majority of wetlands were filled in the past. Because of its compelling narrative and educational potential, public access and educational opportunities in this area should be highly encouraged. While access to other natural preserved areas on the property might be controlled dawn to dusk, perhaps this area should provide for greater access to accommodate historic pre-dawn and post-dusk fishing, river viewing, and wetland experiences (seeing, hearing the sounds of wildlife, etc). “Expanded hour access” to the river is a benefit boaters already enjoy; perhaps pedestrians deserve the same opportunities in a limited, controlled area. Something for the Stakeholder Committee to consider.
Connecting pathways would provide views of restored wetlands and would connect with paths to the shoreline and sandy beach areas (areas 7 and 10).
Area 9: Public boat launch facility at Crab Creek.
Area 10: Proposed CBF Educational Vessel Pier. This location should also provide access for historic wade fishing access. Access for pre-dawn and post-dusk fishing should be considered.
Area 11: Ring path around the City’s existing stormwater pond. Enhanced plantings and interpretive signage could provide for passive educational opportunities – especially in conjunction with the proposed CBF Living Building Challenge site and facility (area 12).