Category Archives: Letters to the Editor

Better stewardship trumps boat launch

Rappahannock Record, April 10, 2014

It is written (Genesis 1:28) that God gave man dominion over the earth. “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

We have been fruitful and multiplied, and as we have multiplied we have hunted and fished and cleared land and spilled our wastes into the seas and the air. We have taken much while giving little in return. Is this what was meant by dominion?

The history of the Chesapeake Bay is replete with tales of abundance—of bountiful harvests of fish, and crabs and oysters.

Where is that bounty now? What have we, as the stewards of this planet, done to preserve the bounty of the Chesapeake?

Despite well intended legislation “to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the nation’s waters,” we continue to destroy the balance of the bay for our own convenience.

How much “crabitat” has been lost through indiscriminate installation of rip rap? How many boaters know they are responsible for shoreline damage done by their wakes and destruction of sea grasses by their propellers?

How many are aware of the effects pesticides and fertilizers have on oxygen/nitrogen levels in the bay? Have you noticed that in some creeks the “No Shellfish Harvesting” signs have been relocated down stream?

County supervisors propose to destroy more of the bay’s ecology. To construct a boat launch in Dymer Creek’s shallowest headwaters where the heron nest, fish spawn, otters play, eagles nest and small crabs find safety is bad enough. To dredge an access channel through soft mud to further upset the natural habitat borders on sacrilege.

Responsible stewardship demands more. Dominion requires respect for God’s creation.

Richard Seymann
White Stone

Who stands to benefit most from proposed public ramp?

Rappahannock Record, April 10, 2014

Lancaster County proposes to build a public boat ramp on the headwaters of Dymer Creek. The location is a narrow and very shallow channel in a marshy area. The creek itself contains many sandbars and other obsta- cles.

The bay would be a more than two-mile, twisting and turning ride away. Peaceful Dymer Creek would become a highway for those heading to the bay, resulting in wake damage, noise, and destruction of wetland habitat currently home to eagles, ospreys, oysters and other wildlife.

The logical place for a boat ramp is close to the bay, with deeper water and wider access. The proposed location makes absolutely no sense, yet plans have been drawn up and thousands of taxpayer dollars have been spent in secret. Why?

It turns out the location was selected only because a developer has donated the land—but this was not just a benevolent act by a concerned citizen. He also owns large parcels of land nearby that he presumably hopes to develop. Imagine how much more desirable his properties will be with easy access to a new public boat ramp.

So by donating a small piece of land with marginal waterfront access, the developer persuades the county to dredge hundreds of feet of the creek, build and maintain a boat ramp he can use for marketing purposes, and build a new road alongside his property—all at taxpayer expense.

Sounds like a pretty sweet deal—for the developer. Not so much for the property owners on Dymer Creek and the other residents of the county, who have been kept in the dark about this process and who will end up paying the price if this misguided proposal goes through.

Randall Eliason
White Stone

Justification requested for boat launch

Rappahannock Record, April 10, 2014

As stewards of taxpayers’ dollars, the Lancaster board of supervisors has the responsibility to spend local as well as state funds wisely. That does not appear to be the case with the proposed Simmons Cove boat ramp.

Lancaster County is willing to spend over $300,000 of taxpayers’ hard-earned money without performing their due diligence by analyzing today’s need for a boat ramp.

Just listing it in the comprehensive plan is not justification. Just because another county has more ramps is not justification.

Every four years for the past 12, a new board has faced this decision, and every four years they defer the question. In 2002, they failed to act on recommendations from an appointed citizen review committee that concentrated on recommending possible sites for a boat ramp.

One can argue the board’s actions were justified because everyone was getting access, and apparently, they are still finding access today.

Where are all the sites that citizens are launching their boats from? Do we even need another access point in the county? What about the three ramps in and around the eastern part of the county open to the public that charge anywhere from $5 to $10 to launch? Should not the many private ramps that serve neighborhoods and larger communities in the eastern part of the county count in an inventory?

Throw in current and possibly new commercial ramps in and around the eastern part of the county and the number goes up even more.

A newly appointed citizen committee should conduct a legitimate needs assessment before the county spends another dime on the ill-conceived boat ramp in Simmons Cove. A study is needed to truly gather the necessary data to deny or support that another boat ramp is justified—not a decision based on someone’s passion.

Mickey Kendrick
White Stone

A convenient excuse

Rappahannock Record, April 10, 2014

There is lots of talk in the community regarding the proposed boat ramp on Simmons Lane. While I am neither for nor against the boat ramp, I have been reading some of the letters to the editor as well as hearing a lot of opinions about this issue.

I find it very interesting that many of the people who are against the boat ramp are saying that the county needs to be using the money (that has not even been allotted for a boat ramp yet) to fund Lancaster County Public Schools.

Where were all of these people when our schools were in turmoil a few months ago? Were they so concerned about the welfare of the county children when it did not directly affect them?

I hope everyone all of a sudden so concerned about the school system will be supportive when we finally start the process of building desperately needed new schools.

Lindsay Bishoff

Better choices exist elsewhere

Rappahannock Record, April 10, 2014

Allowing the public to speak March 27 regarding a proposed public boat ramp on a narrow cove of Dymer Creek would seem to be an afterthought on the part of the Lancaster board of supervisors.

To proceed with spending county money and pursue this project with no prior citizen input and no consideration for the full impact on landowners and the total environment is beyond my comprehension. I have to wonder if any of the board members have seen this cove by water, particularly at low tide.

How can a landowner be denied cutting any tree 10 inches in diameter within 100 feet of the waterfront and the board of supervisors proceed with plans to dredge 500 feet of natural shoreline and wetlands?

A more appropriate recipient of the five acres would be the Nature Conservancy. Does the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act of 1988 have no relevancy here?

Public water access is much needed in Lancaster County but surely there are better choices than the headwaters of Simmons Cove.

Rosa Lou Johnston
White Stone

Boat ramp site makes no sense

Rappahannock Record, April 10, 2014

My husband and I purchased a new home on Dymer Creek in 2003. We decided to be good stewards of the earth by planting grasses along the waters edge as part of a “living shoreline.”

Two years ago we asked the wetlands board for permission to build a small retaining wall at the base of a very old holly tree that was sliding down the bank. A wetlands board member visited our site but allowed only impermanent coconut husk coir logs because of their minimal impact on the grasses we planted.

Imagine our surprise when we learned of the county’s plans to build a public boat ramp with 35 parking spaces for cars and trailers. According to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries boat ramp construction guidlelines, parking lots of this size will accommodate 80 boat launches a day. Do our supervisors hope to attract many boaters from outside the county yet require our taxpayers to build and maintain the boat ramp for the visitors’ pleasure?

The erosion caused by the wake from so many fishing boats, wake board boats and jet skis will surely cause exponentially more damage to the shoreline of this narrow waterway than any 50-foot rock support wall. Are the environmental agencies monitoring the county’s actions as closely as they monitor ours?

Will the county now allow more residents to build riprap revetments to protect their properties? Then what will happen to the wetlands that we have worked so hard to develop and retain? Does a ramp in this location make environmental sense?

Lynne Engstrom
White Stone

Ramp decisions should be based on realistic data

Rappahannock Record, April 3, 2014

Our county government is basing its requirement for a large boat ramp on Dymer Creek and other future public water access sites on a very questionable requirement in Chapter 5 of its comprehensive plan. This requirement states that the county’s goal for taxpayer-provided public access is: “one water access site per 31.5 miles of shoreline.”

I seriously question this county comprehensive plan criterion as it does not have any statistical correlation to the actual need for public water access. The criterion, “one water access site per 31.5 miles of shoreline” is totally unrelated to the county’s people population, boat population, or the number of trailer boaters needing public access.

The county should conduct a comprehensive survey to determine the number of trailer boaters desiring and needing public access, how often they will use public access, and where they desire public access sites to be.

Using wild guesses and questionable criterion such as “one water access point every 31.5 miles of shoreline” is ridiculous. The county’s personal property tax records contain information on the type of boats owned and where these boat owners reside. The county could use this information to sent survey letters to those trailer boaters who do not live on the water to determine their water access needs and if they really require taxpayer-provided public access.

Before the county spends hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars building public access piers and boat ramps, the county needs to develop realistic data and statistics that prove the actual need for these water access sites. All public water access projects and commitments should be immediately suspended until accurate public water access needs data are obtained and analyzed.

David Herndon
White Stone

Let’s pursue a cost/benefit analysis

Rappahannock Record, April 3, 2014

I am in opposition to the proposed boat launch on Dymer Creek. My wife and I own property on Ashley Cove and this entire thing sounds like déjà vu from what happened a few short years ago on Ashley Cove where the county was trying to shove an ill-conceived project down the affected property owners’ throats.

Anyhow, when is the county just going to wake up and take a look at a sensible solution to the problem, like a county provided, coupon system in which public boat users can use existing commercial launching facilities at a discounted, or on a no-fee basis with the county picking up the tab (or part of it) for the boat owner?

I’m sure if somebody did a cost/benefit analysis of the problem, they would find that the cost of building and annual upkeep associated with the Dymer Creek boat launch facility could very well outweigh the cost of implementing a well thought out coupon system with the coupon system providing more flexibility to the boat owner as to where he/she could launch their boat.

Charles and Rebecca Weber

Defining a welcome ramp site

Rappahannock Record, April 3, 2014

The crowd that turned out to express opposition to the proposed boat ramp at Simmons Cove at last week’s board of supervisors meeting was unprecedented.

According to opponents of the proposed launch facility, more than 800 citizens of Lancaster County signed petitions opposing the project. That number represents far more than just the residents of Simmons Cove.

Other proposed launch sites have also encountered public opposition, but none has been opposed as vehemently and by so many as the Simmons Cove project. Why so much opposition?

The answer lies in two aspects of the project. First, residents are offended by the secrecy under which the proposal was developed. That issue has already been addressed by others. Second, is the very obvious inappropriate nature of the site proposed for the ramp.

Simmons Cove is a very quiet residential area. There is no boating traffic whatsoever in that area. Why?

Because there is not sufficient water to allow boats to operate.

The proposed ramp—that would require the dredging the length of two football fields—would transform that quiet residential area into a very busy, noisy, and possibly dangerous recreational facility. Even those who don’t live in the area are offended by the idea of local government forcing its will in a way that would fundamentally alter the character of a neighborhood.

I would prefer the county seek a site that is already commercial, or industrial in character. There are such sites available—sites with deep water, open water and close to where boaters want to go. At such sites, a boat ramp would be welcome and probably would be unopposed.

Elizabeth M. Southmayd
White Stone

We’ve seen this before

Rappahannock Record, March 27, 2014

Six years ago, Lancaster County announced it was going to put a boat ramp and pier on Ashley Cove. Much the same as Simmons Cove, which is also off of Dymer Creek and is now targeted for the same.

A graceful heron waits in wetland grasses

A graceful heron waits in wetland grasses

Like Ashley Cove, the Simmons site is shallow, requires dredging and will disrupt homes and wildlife lining its shores all the way to the Bay. There’s another similarity: both projects were sneak attacks, with no residents notified until the County was ready to approve the projects.

People who own waterfront property pay premium annual taxes for that privilege. So why the jihad against those who shoulder a heavier share of the tax burden?

Access to the Bay is not the question; that’s available whether the Simmons project is ultimately approved or not. The question is whether it is necessary to diminish waterfront residents’ enjoyment of their property in order to provide additional access to the Bay.

The answer is “no.” The County can do now what it should have done years ago: buy a deep water lot close to the Bay and put the ramp there. With ramp users passing fewer homes and with less environmental disruption, opposition would be minimal and the County would have what it wants.

Yes, it would cost more upfront than a “free” donation of land (read: proffer for future development rights), but if the project is as beneficial to the county at large as the Board of Supervisors would have us believe, then all of us should logically share the cost.

The County turned away from the Ashley Cove Project for good and sufficient reasons. There are plenty of reasons to drop the Simmons Cove idea as well. Then they should do it the right way.

Brian Hart
White Stone