Featherstone National Wildlife Refuge & Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail

The Potomac River on the eastern edge of Prince William County is a “two-fer” that combines nationally-significant cultural and natural resources.  The Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail was established in 2006 to mark the 1607-1609 voyages of Captain John Smith, when he ventured from Jamestown and charted the land/waterways of the Chesapeake Bay.

The National Park Service is now preparing a Comprehensive Management Plan.  Comments are due by November 7.  Here’s what I had to say:

Please work with the US Fish and Wildlife Service to open Featherstone National Wildlife Refuge to the public.  Public land acquired for conservation of cultural and natural resources along the shoreline of the Potomac River should be open to the public.

Wildlife-dependent recreation at the Featherstone National Wildlife Refuge is fully compatible with the intent of the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail.  Posting “Public Land – Keep Out” signs on a Federal wildlife refuge is *not* consistent with the intent.

The initial human residents and the European explorers have left us a rich history here.   Anglers, birdwatchers, and others who stand on the beach at the Featherstone National Wildlife Refuge can easily imagine the scene in 1608 when John Smith’s shallop moved upstream past this exact spot.

To see this scene today, nearly all people have to trespass on the land.  We are wasting a great opportunity to interpret how the Chesapeake Bay watershed has been altered in the last 400 years, and what modern residents can do on tributaries such as the Potomac River to “save the bay.”

However, people who live near the river’s edge – but are forced to view it from inside a car, or from a distance on the other side of the CSX railroad tracks – will have a very hard time appreciating the extraordinary history of the site, or understanding why we must revise stormwater management, protect vegetation on sides of streams, and make other changes to restore the natural landscape.

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