Virginia Announces New Bridge Access Program
Late last week, the Commonwealth of Virginia took a great step forward in enhancing public access to rivers and streams. Governor Terry McAuliffe signed a memorandum of understanding that solidifies Virginia’s commitment to enhancing recreational water access throughout the Commonwealth.
The MOU directs three state agencies to work together to identify new potential public-access projects, particularly at bridge crossings and roads.
“Expanding public access to state waters is a concrete step we can take to help Virginians and visitors enjoy outdoor recreation here in our great Commonwealth,” said Governor McAuliffe. “Water-based recreation encourages physical activity and appreciation for Virginia’s natural resources and it is an important driver of our tourism sector and with it, the new Virginia economy.”
The three agencies mentioned in the MOU are the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, and the Virginia Department of Transportation. The MOU formalizes the process by which the agencies will work together on new access projects.
Specifically, the MOU states:
- DCR, DGIF and VDOT representatives will meet at least annually to review bridge, road or ferry project sites for the potential to offer public access to state waters.
- DCR or DGIF will seek comments from adjacent property owners, local governments and other stakeholders for proposed access projects.
- VDOT will stabilize or leave in place any access roads or staging areas within its right of way that could be useful for the development of access projects.
New or enhanced access points for public recreational use can qualify as VirginiaTreasures through the governor’s new initiative. The goal is to designate 1,000 treasures during the McAuliffe administration.
Other states have made stream access at bridges a priority, including North Carolina, Montana and California. As paddlers know, bridge construction projects can impact river access if recreation is not considered and valued in the design. American Whitewater applauds the efforts of Governor McAuliffe to keep Virginia residents and visitors alike connected to the Commonwealth's outstanding rivers. We look forward to helping paddlers highlight and review potential projects.