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Community Effort Saves a Waterfront Jewel

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Exciting news from Virginia’s Hampton Roads region this week: after years of community effort to preserve the last large track of undeveloped property on the Lynnhaven River in Virginia Beach, Pleasure House Point has now been officially saved from future development.

PleasureHousePoint_Cropped (2)Ownership of this 100-plus acre peninsula of marsh, dunes, and trees formally transferred to the City of Virginia Beach this week, capping a partnership effort by Virginia Beach, the Trust for Public Land (TPL), and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) to acquire and conserve the property for the community.

The transfer culminates an effort that the community and passionate citizens of Virginia Beach began years ago and represents a classic case of dark clouds and silver linings. Just five years ago, this scenic property was owned by commercial developers and slated to become “Indigo Dunes,” an intensive development of more than 1,000 high-rise condos and individual homes.

Private development not only would have deterred community access and use of the property, which for decades has been an informal “park” enjoyed by the public for walking, biking, and picnicking; but the runoff, litter, traffic, and other impacts from Indigo Dunes also would have worsened pollution problems in the Lynnhaven River and nearby Chesapeake Bay, undercutting longstanding community efforts led by Lynnhaven River Now to restore water quality and the native oyster.
 
The Indigo Dunes development also would have destroyed acres of natural habitat supporting oysters, DSC_0024 crabs, fish, birds, and other wildlife in the Lynnhaven watershed. That would have been a blow to local anglers, recreational crabbers, birders, and other outdoor lovers.

But that’s what could have been. Instead, the collapse of the real estate market in 2008 and a lingering recession made private development of Pleasure House Point impossible. Lenders eventually foreclosed on the property, presenting an opportunity for the City of Virginia Beach, TPL, CBF, and other funding partners to purchase the property for the relatively bargain-basement price of $13 million.

In two short years, federal, state, local, and private funders stepped up and raised (or borrowed at low interest) the money for the acquisition in what could be a model for future community-based conservation. That’s why as of this week, Pleasure House Point is now a City of Virginia Beach natural area open to the public for everyone to enjoy.

DSC_0280Formal opening ceremonies to mark the public acquisition will come later this year. And CBF looks forward to working with the city and the community to create an environmental education center on a small corner of the tract, an “ultra green” facility that we hope will serve as a resource for outdoor education, habitat replenishment, and community meetings. More details to come on this project in future weeks and months.

For now, celebrate this wonderful news for the community, Virginia Beach, the Lynnhaven River, and the Chesapeake Bay. As Virginia Beach Mayor William Sessoms said of this week’s events, “This is a legacy purchase. By preserving this property, we are creating a brighter, more sustainable environment for future generations.”

Chuck Epes

Chesapeake Bay Foundation

Photos: Top, City of Virginia Beach; all others, CBF.

Comments

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Keep this going please, great job!

Well, congratulations to the people residing near the Lynnhaven River in Virginia Beach, Pleasure House Point for a successful battle on preserving this area. This is a wake up call for people from other parts of the world who have been striving also for the same cause that if we would just be consistent and serious with our purpose in preserving our nature, winning the battle would be very possble.

Yes its true.If all the people in this world deed the same I'm sure that the calamity will be lessen.Good job.

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