Editorial: Use common sense
The remains of a shipyard, it is said, lie at the headwaters of Put-in Creek. The late Eugenia Murray quoted a 1926 book on Virginia’s historic trees: "Somber, grim across the morning sky stands an old pine tree … marking the site of a pre-Revolutionary shipyard. Captain James used to build sloops and other craft when Put-In Creek was navigable, and this yard was one of the prominent ones in former days." If that is true, the creek was once so deep that ships could float down the narrow channels that lead from present-day Mathews Court House to the East River.
And, if true, there is not only an archaeological treasure under the deep mud, but a stirring lesson in natural history, the effects of thoughtless human practices upon a pristine environment, and the backwardness of contemporary policy to protect wetlands even when they are the result of man’s interference in the natural order.
Taking these thoughts in order:
Archaeological treasure: Imagine discovery and excavation of a pre-Revolutionary shipyard, the tools, the hardware, the history from days long forgotten waiting to be found.
Natural history: Farmers from colonial days until very recently plowed nearly to the water’s edge, cut down trees that held the banks, and generally gave no thought to the dirt running into the waterways or to the marshes and trees filtering the runoff. Early residents scoured dirt roads into the countryside and a series of ditches rushed the mud, washed from these roads, right into the creeks and rivers.
Contradictory modern policy: To maintain an artificial state instead of restore to ancient condition. Thus a study figured that permits to dredge Put-In Creek would be very difficult and expensive to obtain, as prime wetlands would be disturbed; and thus county supervisors have tabled the issue. We point out that those wetlands have filled in the original condition of the creek and the 1934 dredging that opened a deep and spacious basin at Mathews Court House. Would it not be better to restore the creek to its pre-settlement condition, than to maintain its present artificial marshy state?
The late L. Wayne Hudgins dreamed of a dredged creek and a Mathews Court House revitalized by steady marine traffic. This vision has been set aside in a discouraging tangle of policy, money and lost history. The dredging prospect excited quite a few visionaries. The threats of red tape and cost apparently stifled their dreams.
As the creek now stands, the small dock at the village has been surrounded by the marshes that consistently fill in and choke the waterway. Is this what Congress had in mind when it enacted the wetlands act? Where is common sense?