A picturesque view disturbed, horrifically

Published 5:12 pm Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Isle of Wight’s bicycle trail is intended to extend from the Carrollton Nike Park to Windsor Castle Park. Someday it may.

At present, the trail ends at the Royal Farms convenience store at Church Street and Battery Park Road. To extend it from there to Windsor Castle will take several million town tax dollars. Members of the Town Council have said they plan to build something, but so far haven’t finally committed the dollars, a decision that will be accompanied by considerable taxpayer wrath.

Pending further action by the town, the bike trail action currently centers on Jones Creek, where arguably one of the ugliest structures ever built in Isle of Wight — certainly, with tax dollars — is slowly inching its way across the creek.

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It was inevitable that, if the trail were to be built, there would have to be some accommodation to get bicyclists across the Fulgham’s Bridge crossing on Jones Creek. But did it have to be as ugly as that structure?

The section of bridge across the actual creek had to be as high as the existing bridge in order to accommodate boat traffic. But what’s the purpose of building the whole thing two stories tall? Were the designers trying to keep cyclists from having to go up and down hills? That was good exercise.

As it has evolved, the structure reminds one of a water sluice cobbled together to flush a stream past an 19th gold mine operation in California or Alaska. Strictly utilitarian, beauty be damned.

Jones Creek is a beautiful waterway, and the view upstream from Fulgham’s Bridge was one of Isle of Wight County’s most picturesque — something to be cherished and protected. That view has been permanently destroyed by this structure, and whether you’re a fan or critic of the bike trail, you should be very sorry for that loss.

Getting wetter

Extreme rain events have increasingly become a way of life here as elsewhere.

Beginning with Hurricane Floyd in 1999, when Hwy. 10 was cut at both the Surry and Suffolk lines, and Hwy. 258 was washed out south of the courthouse, Isle of Wight began to see the effects of heavy rains on a growing community.

Seven years later, an unexpectedly wet nor’easter dumped a foot and a half of rainwater on northern Isle of Wight in just a few hours. The Isle of Wight Museum basement was flooded, damaging hundreds of historic documents stored there. Downtown business, including The Twins and The Smithfield Times, were flooded, as were numerous homes in low-lying areas.

And this year, there have been several periods of rain totaling close to a foot of water, closing roads and flooding fields. The most recent heavy rain flooded the repeatedly wet stretch of Great Spring Road. It washed out a section of Hwy. 10 in Surry and damaged road shoulders in numerous places.

Meanwhile, rising sea level and the subsidence of land in Southeast Virginia are causing a loss of valuable marshlands, while nor’easters, to say nothing of tropical storms, are causing increasingly frequent tidal flooding.

Climate change is at least part of the cause of increased flooding from both rain and tides, but the cause is less important locally than our reaction to it. We will have to build smarter, avoiding areas prone to flooding, either from tides or rainwater. Development that is subject to flood damage eventually becomes a public cost, and we know enough today to avoid allowing it.

John Edwards is publisher emeritus of The Smithfield Times. His email address is j.branchedwards@gmail.com.