Boat ramp lease expired

Published 11:37 am Wednesday, April 4, 2018

The lease for Charlotte County’s only boat ramp into the Staunton River has expired, according to VDOT’s Preservation Program Manager Antony Opperman.

During discussion of the removal of the Clarkton Bridge at a March meeting of the Charlotte County board of supervisors, Opperman said the temporary easement would be for construction purposes only. However, Cullen/ Red House Supervisor Dr. Nancy Carwile said the easement for the road is different from the easement for the boat ramp. “It’s our only boat ramp into the river,” she said.

Opperman said, “the county lease for the boat ramp has expired.”

He said the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) agreed to construct and maintain a boat ramp on county owned or controlled property.

“So therefore, since that lease has expired, the only public access legally to the river is contained within our 30 foot existing right of way,” Opperman said.

Phenix/Red House Supervisor Donna Fore said DGIF sent a letter to the county recently requesting to get the agreement resolved.

The March 9 letter said an agreement to continue to provide public boat access to the Staunton River at the Clarkton Bridge boat access is contingent on a lease Charlotte County had with the landowner.

“Until the county has a current lease with the landowner, the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries cannot maintain a presence at the Clarkton Bridge Boat Access,” said the letter. “Once the lease has been completed, we would like to move ahead with updating and renewing our cooperative agreement with Charlotte County.”

Currently, all signs on Clarkton Bridge Road for the boat ramp have been removed.

According to information from stakeholders, “in 1996, Charlotte County leased an area 200 feet x 700 feet for a boat landing. (The) property owner agreed to a lease term of 20 years.”

The lease expired in 2016.

The information said, “in 1997, Charlotte County entered into a 20 year agreement with Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries to establish boat landing in area leased from (the) landowner.”

Additionally, the lease space was developed to include a parking area, turn around and concrete ramp at the river edge.

Stakeholder information said in 2013, a new owner purchased 2,400 acres, including the 3.21 acres under lease for boat ramp.

“Agreement with DGIF included automatic year to year renewal, but terminates without valid license between (the) county and landowner.”

Fore introduced a resolution to the board of supervisors, which would ensure State Route 620, also known as Clarkton Bridge Road, to remain open and provide access to the river.

“We’ve never publicly, as a county, ensured that road would stay retained as a county road to allow our citizens access to the river, which is the only access they have to that river in the entire county,” Fore said.

“I think that before we pass a resolution that says that we have the only boat ramp on the river, we better guarantee that we have access to that boat ramp on the river,” said Red House/Cullen Supervisor Nancy Carwile.

Fore said there still needs to be certainly that there is a road individuals can use to access the river, whether they are using the boat ramp or not.

“I think when we say ‘yes, we’re going to keep the road open because there’s a boat ramp,’ we need to first get that lease approved by the landowner, because if that lease is not approved, then we’re gonna have to go to condemnation proceedings or something like that in order to get access to the river . . .,” Carwile said.

Fore said citizens have a right to get to the river.

“The river is open to the public, it’s not owned by anybody . . .,” Fore said. “We need to ensure access to it on a public road. All I’m doing is ensuring what’s already going on, whether or not the boat ramp stays or goes away or has some issue in the future.”

Chairman of the board of supervisors Gary Walker said until someone requests for the road to be closed, “why would we act on it? . . .”

Fore said it’s just the right thing to do. The motion passed 7-1.