Editorial: A vision becomes reality
ongratulations to the Mathews Land Conservancy. With approval last week by the county’s wetlands board, the nonprofit organization can now move forward with plans for the Williams Wharf Boathouse Center.
One hurdle remains, with the Virginia Marine Resources Commission yet to sign off on it. But prospects look good for turning this site into a regional destination for rowing and other water-related activities.
The path to getting to this point was rocky at times, as the group met with some opposition and had to jump through a number of regulatory hoops. Concerns were brought up about the extent to which the project would disturb wetlands, as well as other issues related to the project’s scope and water dependence.
The two sides came to an accord with the conservancy agreeing to mitigate some of the lost wetlands by planting new grass elsewhere and making other alterations to minimize the impact. It was a learning experience for all concerned, and it is hoped that the project will be all the better for it.
But the main point to ponder is what could have been if it were not for the Mathews Land Conservancy. Here was a boatyard and old oil dock—a facility zoned for waterfront business use—that were neglected and in need of repair. Proposals were being bandied about for turning this into, among other things, a place for the storage of rock for shoreline projects, which would have turned this quiet residential street into a highway for trucks hauling away the rock brought up the East River by barges. The peaceful surroundings of Williams Wharf would have been changed forever.
Instead, the county has a prime tourist destination, affording visitors a chance to appreciate the beauty of Mathews and get in some fishing from the pier. Spectators can come to what will soon be a world-class rowing facility to enjoy watching young men and women race on the East River. Novice sailors can get their first taste of that sport through the YMCA’s summer program there. At the same time, visitors will be able to take in the history of the B. Williams and Co. Store, or attend an event at the old oyster-shucking house that is now the facility’s community building.
If not for the vision of the members of the land conservancy board, none of this would be possible.