Letter: Recognize the Hazel River

I feel very strongly that the Hazel River should be designated a Scenic River. I worked for many years with landowners and county environmental groups to have the Hazel made a Tier III river. That would mean there would be no new sewage treatment plants, ever, on the river. The Culpeper County supervisors sent a letter of support to the Department of Environmental Quality for the part of the Hazel through their county. It was gaining momentum due to the great work of people like Bev and Hal Hunter and Rappahannock environmental groups. Alas, there are some folks who are so wary of government that they cannot see the benefits of good legislation.

Tier III would have been, and still might be, a great boon to both Culpeper and Rappahannock counties. Scenic River designation is basically a way to honor the river and affords it some small protections. It increases our awareness of the river with a sign or two and it is good for our souls to recognize the biodiversity of our environment.

Let me tell you a little about the low-water bridge in Culpeper where the Thornton and Hazel meet. For a few hundred years this spot has been a refuge for folks on a hot summer day. I took my grandchildren there to swim and it was never crowded. I never felt threatened there. It is true that a young group of fellows gathered to talk in the evenings after work and some left trash. Historically, the site was used for baptisms.

Then there was a change. Beside the river where yellow butterflies landed,, there appeared yellow no trespassing signs. This was on the other side of the river from the public access spot. Soon the effort to keep local people away extended to calling the police on people walking their dogs or pausing on the bridge to look at the water. Now shots are sometimes fired when kayakers are drifting down the river. The place seems to be watched by someone with binoculars, and photos are taken of people in the area. Something is really wrong here and it is not the local folks’ use of the spot.

Now I see the militant attitude has extended to Rappahannock County. Hopefully, sanity is not in short supply there.

Sally Mello

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