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.
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.
The Indigo Dunes development also would have destroyed acres of natural habitat supporting oysters, 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.
Formal 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.”
Chesapeake Bay Foundation
Photos: Top, City of Virginia Beach; all others, CBF.