Creek qualifies as Scenic River

Published 3:08 pm Tuesday, December 24, 2019

By Frederic Lee

Staff writer

SURRY — The Surry County Board of Supervisors is aiming to designate a stretch of Grays Creek as a Virginia Scenic River, meaning that it would be adopted into and then protected by the Virginia Scenic Rivers program, instituted in 1970. 

Following a request from Surry County Administrator Jonathan Lynn on behalf of the Board of Supervisors, the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation conducted a study of the roughly six-mile stretch of Grays Creek, and based on certain natural and aesthetic criteria, it qualified for designation. 

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The Board of Supervisors passed a resolution on Dec. 5 in support of the Scenic River designation, and officials state that in order to officiate it, the General Assembly will have to vote on it. 

Grays Creek is a tributary of the James River and its mouth is located just northwest of the Jamestown-Scotland ferry landing in Surry County. 

In order to pass the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation’s evaluation process, the waterway has to have a certain amount of natural beauty, with limited houses visible from the water, according to Lynn. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Staff from the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation conducted a field study along Grays Creek to examine the flora, fauna and other natural aspects near where it connects to the James River and more inland during the evaluation process, before finding that it qualified for designation, according to Lynn. 

Lynn said that Kristi Hendricks with the Surry Garden Club was instrumental in coordinating the process between county and state officials to have Grays Creek evaluated by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, and that she’s spearheaded the effort since last spring. 

Hendricks stated in an email that Del. Emily Brewer, R-64th, and Virginia Sen. Louise Lucas, D-18th, have both been contacted to serve as patrons of legislation that would officiate Grays Creek’s Scenic Rivers designation in the General Assembly’s 2020 session. 

A Virginia Scenic River designation would come with protections for Grays Creek when facing state and federal agencies, according to the Grays Creek Scenic River Report issued by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation.  

A Scenic Rivers designation would require the Federal Energy Commission to consider the impact of proposed hydropower or related projects on a designated river, would require all state agencies to consider visual, natural and recreational values of Grays Creek and would give riparian — or waterside — landowners, local citizens and Surry County government a greater voice in the planning and implementation of federal and state projects that might affect the waterway, according to the report. 

A Scenic River designation would also require the General Assembly to authorize any construction, operation and/or maintenance of any structure — like a dam — that would impede the natural flow of Grays Creek, according to the report.   

The Blackwater River, which runs along the western edge of Isle of Wight County, is also a designated as a Virginia Scenic River.