Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Your summer float could land you in hot water

South Fork Shenandoah River
There isn't much better than a river float on a hot summer day. Maybe you get your fishing line wet. Perhaps you sit on a rock in the middle of a rapids enjoying the cool bubbling water, birds, and quiet. You are thrilled by successfully running a tricky Class 3.

Our navigable waters - streams, creeks, rivers, and bays - are supposed to be open for all Virginians. They are conserved for the people as places for fishing, swimming, boating, and solitude. All sportsmen thought that access to our public waters was assured but recently some landowners have accused boaters and others of trespass even though they never set foot on dry land.

It appears that simply posting signs and threatening to sue is enough to "privatize" a river or steam. When you show up in court the landowner has the upper hand as he/she often won't have to prove ownership of the riverbed and our "commonwealth" won't lend a hand or a paddle to defend your rights to public access. More info on the background and legalities at the Virginia Conservation Network.

This loophole in the law needs to be plugged and only the General Assembly can do it. Contact your delegate and senator and tell them to act during the 2014 session. Tell them to keep our navigable rivers in the public domain for the use of everyone in the commonwealth.


Anonymous said...

it was my understanding that the right of access applied to waterways that have traditionally been navigable for commercial purposes, with the local example being the South Fork of the Shen. becoming navigable at Port Republic. Is this the case and are you asking for this access to be upheld or for a broadening of access further upstream? I am not opposed, if the rights of landowners to control the banks are protected and for fair compensation if clear title back to the King's Grants is established.

Belle Rose said...

Lots of people canoe the South, Middle, and North rivers well above Port Republic. Nobody is talking about taking away landowners' control of the banks but the river itself and the river bottom should be in the public domain.

Anonymous said...

like I said, make specific provisions for protecting the land owners and for compensating those meeting certain criteria for establishing title back to the Royal Grants and you will find many folks willing to support or at least not contest you. Taking an obstinate stance by not taking questions or concerns seriously will only make your efforts harder.