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Surry celebrates river recognition

Grays Creek is now part of Virginia’s Scenic Rivers Program thanks to grassroots community efforts.

Surry County and state leaders joined local residents on Aug. 11 at Grays Creek Marina and The Surry Seafood Co. restaurant for a brief outdoor ceremony to celebrate the recently bestowed honor, which became official July 1.

The Scenic Rivers Program is a recognition-based initiative that identifies and promotes waterways with scenic, recreational and historic significance. Members of the Surry Garden Club brought the idea for the designation to the Board of Supervisors; they voted to approve the initiative in December.

The measure was then introduced to the General Assembly by Delegate Emily Brewer, whose 64th District includes Surry County. Several officials expressed appreciation for the work of Kristi Hendricks with the Surry Garden Club for her firsthand involvement and support of the multi-faceted process to get state recognition for the waterway.

“Grays Creek has wonderful attributes — it has a lot of history, it’s remote, it has little development, it has really healthy ecology, it’s great fishing, it’s a wonderful recreational asset and all of these things combined to meet the criteria required for designation for scenic rivers,” said Lynn Crump, who is the scenic resources coordinator for the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, which oversees the program.

“This designation is so important for our communities. It helps show how we celebrate the assets that we have, it helps bring attention to those assets and helps to define the quality of life for each one of our communities,” Crump said.

County Administrator Melissa Rollins said Grays Creek is “a scenic waterfront amenity that will bring life, joy and simply, quite frankly, good times, to the citizens of Surry County and to those who visit the county.” She lauded the collaborative work of all the organizations, community members and officials past and present who worked to bring the recognition to fruition.

The six miles of Grays Creek from the James River to Southwark Road that are part of the program flow through mostly remote land along a meandering path that includes outcrops and freshwater tidal wetlands, according to the DCR.

“I firmly believe, living on this creek, there’s nothing more beautiful,” said Surry Supervisor Tim Calhoun, who represents the county’s Surry District. “Not only do I live on it, it runs through most of my district.”

A scenic river designation gives waterfront landowners and local governments added decision-making influence regarding state and federal projects that might affect the river. The intent is to give communities a platform to protect and promote its natural resources. Brewer said the most important aspect of the recognition “is that now others across our commonwealth are going to know the significance of Grays Creek and it’s really going to put Surry County on the map, especially for tourism, and it’s really going to allow Surry County to showcase the natural beauty of its shoreline.”

Virginia’s Scenic Rivers program is marking its 50th anniversary in 2020.