Imagine a natural corridor just off the beaten path, winding along a portion of the Lynnhaven River, replete with observation decks, kayak launches, fishing coves, miles of trails, and interpretive markers. You stroll along this route with your children, grabbing sandwiches at the waterfront deli for lunch and taking in an evening of crab exploration along the muddy banks at sunset. Sounds nice, right? Well, perhaps someday!
I recently took my family to the Canal Walk in Richmond, Virginia and was very impressed with the beauty and the enchantment of the entire corridor. This linear space offered something for everyone. There were places for running, walking, sight-seeing, and sitting in the shade. The length of the canal was perforated with bridges, tunnels, mini-parks, trails, historical markers, a boat taxi, and an occasional restaurant. The place was awesome! I thought, why can’t we have something like this in Virginia Beach?Not long ago, we had the chance to work on Virginia Beach’s Lynnhaven River Strategic Growth Area (SGA) Master Plan. One of the main unifying elements of this plan is the Lynnhaven River as it cuts and winds through the district. It is the most significant natural resource in this SGA, and yet, it’s possibly the most overlooked element in the community.This portion of the Lynnhaven River is actually very beautiful. With cordgrass, saltbush, and wax myrtle fringing the meandering water channel, its habitat is lush and scenic for those who happen to catch a glimpse into this natural treasure. The main segment running through the Lynnhaven area is in fact called the London Bridge Creek. To the North, it connects to the Chesapeake Bay via the Lynnhaven Bay and Inlet. It continues south, looping around the Lynnhaven Mall and continues formally through the Army Corps’ Canal Number Two, providing emergency flood relief to nearby residential properties. Through this waterway, you can conceivably kayak all the way to Florida through the Intracoastal Waterway. This no insignificant creek!
Unless you are paying close attention though, you won’t likely notice this natural corridor as you pass over one of the seven major crossings within the SGA. The only places that seem to have capitalized on the beauty of this estuary are the office complexes straddling Lynnhaven Parkway at the southern tip of the SGA and the Riversedge Complex on the Boulevard. Why is that? Why can’t we celebrate this creek like other blueway / watertrail destinations? Is it possible to create a recreational corridor along this great local resource?
Our team briefly explored some of the wonderful opportunities for such a corridor, and we have uncovered many sobering constraints as well. We think that with a lot of community support, hard work, and savvy funding, a “Lynnhaven River Walk” may be possible. It would certainly look and function very differently from some of the renowned water trails and blueways often heralded. It may be simpler, more natural, and focused on water quality, habitat, and history. We expressed only some of this potential in the SGA Master Plan. What are your thoughts and ideas on a river walk? What other possibilities exists in Lynnhaven, or in your own community?