Airfield foes make online appeal to Kaine

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 29, 2007

FRANKLIN—An online petition makes an emotional appeal to Gov. Timothy M. Kaine to remove Southampton and Sussex counties from the list of potential hosts of a new practice landing field for Navy jet fighters.

The petition, which can be found at, refers to the historical significance of sites the Navy is considering for its auxiliary landing field and argues that their heritage should be a disqualifying factor.

&uot;The proposed sites include land that has been part of local families’ heritage since the early 1800s,&uot; it states. &uot;While this land is not valuable as rich farming acreage, nature conservancy or for any underlying natural resource, it is of great historical significance to us as individuals and families and to our state and nation.&uot;

Sarah Parker Christian, a Sussex County native who now lives in Northern Virginia, is the author of the petition opposing placement of an outlying landing field in Sussex or Southampton.

&uot;My siblings and I grew up in the area, attended Waverly Junior High, and all four graduated from Sussex Central High School in the ’70s,&uot; she wrote in an e-mailed response to a reporter’s questions. &uot;My mom grew up in Waverly, and our father, who passed away several years ago, grew up on Parker land near Littleton.&uot;

Christian said she hopes the petition will be a factor in a decision by the Navy to &uot;take their OLF somewhere else or scratch the idea altogether.&uot;

As of Tuesday afternoon, only 70 people had put their names on the two-week-old appeal, though Christian hopes more people will sign up as word of the effort gets out.

&uot;We are surprised by the small amount of signatures,&uot; she wrote. &uot;But this is an online petition. It is not in paper form. My mother does not have Internet access, and I would guess there are many others who do not have ready access to it.&uot;

Those who choose to affix their names to the petition have the opportunity to leave comments at the same time, and a number of people have done so in relation to the proposed airfield.

&uot;As a lifelong resident of Southampton and Sussex counties, I implore you to not destroy our simple, quiet way of life,&uot; wrote Joanne Elizabeth Grizzard.

&uot;We should not have to worry about our homes being taken by our government due to the mistakes of the Navy, Virginia Beach and Chesapeake,&uot; wrote Nancy J. Cramer.

An early signer, Robert M. Snead Jr., wrote: &uot;This would be an abomination to our beautiful countrysides.&uot;

The online appeal states that the Southampton County Board of Supervisors has made a &uot;strong case&uot; against the airfield based on its potential impact on property values. It concludes, though, with an emotional appeal.

&uot;What is hard to communicate is the emotional bond we feel to this land and our connection to generations of families who have lived and worked on it. If you allow the OLF to be built here, you not only alter the land and affect the local economy, you forever change the ’emotional memory’ of this place for the people who have called it ‘home.’ Please remove our counties from the list of possible sites for the OLF.&uot;

&uot;We have to believe the governor will listen to the families on these lands,&uot; Christian wrote Tuesday after being asked whether she believed her effort would make a difference in the governor’s actions. &uot;We hope and pray the State will be true to its word.&uot;

But at least one member of Southampton’s Board of Supervisors seems to have a hard time taking state officials at their word that unwilling counties would not be forced into a relationship with the Navy.

Berlin-Ivor District Supervisor Ronald M. West pointed to the Lake Gaston pipeline and the Hampton Roads Transportation Authority as examples of initiatives that were forced on citizens, despite widespread opposition.

&uot;If someone has preordained in their mind that they’re going to do this, then they are going to do this,&uot; he said during a discussion at Monday’s Board of Supervisors meeting.

He had suggested that Southampton join the other four counties proposed as OLF hosts in a regional effort to deny the Navy access. &uot;Would not a regional effort be better than an individual effort?&uot; he asked.

Responded Richard Railey, Southampton’s county attorney: &uot;In the long run, a united front may be disastrous, because for national security, you’ve got to put an OLF someplace.&uot;

In the end, supervisors agreed to wait until the Navy’s Sept. 15 deadline for more information about the 10 potential sites proposed by Gov. Timothy M. Kaine. By that time, some sites are expected to have been taken off the list by the Navy itself, if not by the governor.