Blackwater impresses

Published 12:17 pm Saturday, May 2, 2009

FRANKLIN—Lynn Crump has seen bald eagles and champion trees and met more than a few self-described “swamp addicts” along her 57-mile tour of the Blackwater River.

It was a substantial change of pace for Crump, an environmental programs planner for the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, or DCR.

For more than a month, Crump and colleagues from DCR have been traveling from Richmond to Western Tidewater, evaluating the Blackwater for the Virginia Scenic Rivers Program.

They have floated the river from Proctor’s Bridge, where it becomes the border of Southampton and Isle of Wight counties, to its confluence with the Nottoway at Dockside. This week Crump spoke about her adventure and how well the Blackwater met the program requirements.

“It is a lovely river,” she said. “I had not evaluated a coastal river before, and it’s obviously quite different from a mountain stream.

“The beauty and details of the Blackwater are very unique. There are a lot of Natural Heritage resources along its corridor, and I thought it was just amazing.”

Crump completed her tour of the river Wednesday, floating the stretch from Joyner’s Bridge to Franklin. She’ll spend the next month tallying the results and drafting a letter to officials from Southampton, Franklin, Isle of Wight and Suffolk, the localities that requested the Blackwater be considered for the Scenic Rivers Program.

“I can’t say for sure at this point, but I think that at a minimum certain sections of the river will qualify,” Crump said. “There are some segments below Franklin to its mouth where the forest buffer is close to the river, and those areas will not score as well as others.”

The localities could be notified by the end of May, she said, and they will have to decide how to proceed. All or part of the river could qualify, and to continue the process the localities will solicit public comment and then engage state officials for passage of a bill by the General Assembly.

If the entire segment is added to the system, at 57 miles it would be the longest single river designation at one time, said Crump. It’s possible the Blackwater could be added to the Scenic Rivers Program in 2010, the 40th anniversary of the program.

The intent of the program is to recognize rivers whose scenic beauty, history, recreational value and natural characteristics make them resources of particular importance.

Scenic River designation does not impose any land use controls or regulations, nor does it give the general public the right to use privately-owned riparian lands.

Designation does require federal and state agencies to consider the impact of projects in the planning and permitting process.

For more information about the Virginia Scenic Rivers Program, log onto