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 Paradise Creek Nature Park~ An Environmental Success Story

Virginia Beach Paradise Creek Nature Park

Portsmouth Improves the Quality of Life for its residents !!!

A success on many fronts

An Environmental Success Story

Wetland restoration site, covering 11 acres. 

It had been buried for decades in muck and mud dredged from the bottom of the Elizabeth River and dumped here in the 1890s.

Invited guests got a view of Paradise Creek Nature Park from a 200-foot wooden bridge over the restored wetland on Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012. The park, off of Victory Boulevard in Portsmouth, is scheduled to open in December. <span class='credit'>(Steve Earley | The Virginian-Pilot)</span>

Portsmouth park seen as environmental victory

A short hike up the Earthworks Mound reveals a stunning view that organizers of the new Paradise Creek Nature Park have spent a decade and millions of dollars waiting for.

Local dignitaries and invited guests got to make the climb Wednesday and see the view for the first time, as organizers held a "sneak peek" of their 40-acre creation - part urban renewal, part industrial art, part environmental education center - which is nearly finished and will open to the public in December.

In the foreground, the view from the top of the mound shows a circular trail network and a handsome wooden bridge wrapping around a sunken maze of tidal wetlands dotted with sprouting green reeds and grasses.

In the background is a giant white orb used by an industrial neighbor, the gleaming tops of Navy ships awaiting repair at the nearby Norfolk Naval Shipyard, the long white arc of the new Jordan Bridge, and docks and heavy machinery just visible through a screen of vine-tangled trees and urban forest.

The scene resembles a newly planted rice paddy emerging from some busy Chinese port.

"We're excited about this project and what it brings to Portsmouth," said Mayor Kenny Wright, who looked out upon the landscape through a bright morning sun and smiled.

Wright praised how the park will become a science lab for public school students, who will come here and learn outdoors about restoring wetlands, raising native plants and oysters, and see first-hand how nature and industry can live side by side.

"The whole idea is to link the relationship between industry, a working waterfront and nature," said Joe Rieger, senior scientist for the Elizabeth River Project, an environmental group that spearheaded the nature park. "You won't see another park like this."

The advocacy group has been laboring for the past 10 years to acquire the land from an iron works company, plan its renewal, raise money for the work, and finally construct it. There are grander plans still, including two educational classrooms, an entry building, a boat launch for canoes and kayaks, and a composting toilet.

Those amenities are not expected to be installed until 2015.

The site, at 1141 Victory Blvd., across from the Cradock neighborhood, was such a mess and so tangled at the beginning that organizers had trouble even walking onto the property.

The centerpiece of the park is the wetland restoration site, covering 11 acres. It had been buried for decades in muck and mud dredged from the bottom of the Elizabeth River and dumped here in the 1890s.

The Virginia Port Authority spent about $5 million re-creating the wetlands as environmental compensation for its proposed expansion of Craney Island for a new cargo terminal there. The muck and mud were removed in truckload after truckload over months, parts of which became the Earthworks Mound in the middle of the park.

Scores of companies, agencies, schools and neighborhoods have donated time and money to assist in the park's development, which will become a Portsmouth city park in 2015, when ownership is turned over to City Hall.

For now, the park remains closed to the public, though Rieger said he saw a neighboring resident and his dog out walking on the trails and resting on the wooden bridge earlier in the week.

"You can't hardly blame him," Rieger said. "It's a great spot for that."


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