James River endangered

Chesapeake Conservancy joins National Trust for Historic Preservation in its designation of the James River as one of America’s Most Endangered Historic Places.

The Chesapeake Conservancy today joined the National Trust for Historic Preservation in declaring the James River – James City County, Va. one of America’s Most Endangered Historic Places.

The National Trust each year names the nation’s most endangered places. Among the places listed this year are the Houston Astrodome, the Worldport Terminal at JFK Airport, and a 16th century church in Puerto Rico.

The James River is the only landscape on the list. The endangered listing is based on Dominion Virginia Power company’s proposal to string a 500 kilovolt power transmission line across the river south of Jamestown. The line would be suspended on a series of towers, some about 300 feet tall that would be visible from Jamestown Island, America’s first permanent English settlement.

The Conservancy, in joining the National Trust in declaring the river endangered, noted that the James River is considered by many to be our nation’s founding river and is the anchor to the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail.

Established by Congress in 2006, the Capt. John Smith Trail is the nation’s first historic water trail. It is more than 3,000 miles in length and commemorates Capt. John Smith’s exploration of the Chesapeake in 1607 through 1609 and includes all of the bay and her great rivers. The trail provides recreational experiences on land and water, while interpreting the exploratory voyages of Smith, 17th century Indian societies and culture, and the natural history of the Chesapeake Bay.

Joanna Ogburn, Program Director for the Chesapeake Conservancy,  noted that the lower James River segment is one of the most important and integral components of this trail.

“This is where all of Smith’s explorations began, Ogburn said, adding, “ While the landscape of the lower James has changed over time, it still retains an appearance evocative of Smith’s time, allowing visitors to experience what life was like in the 17th century, appreciate an important part of our collective heritage, and revere the special places along this historic river.”

She noted that the landscape draws more than 670,000 annual visitors to the lower James’ historic sites, including Historic Jamestowne and Jamestown Settlement.

As the primary partner with the National Park Service in implementing the Capt. John Smith Trail, the Chesapeake Conservancy hopes that the inclusion of the James River on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s 2013 Most Endangered Historic Places list will encourage the consideration of this unique historic, cultural, economic, and natural asset when determining alternatives for delivering power.

Other organizations supporting the endangered designation were the James River Association,  Preservation Virginia, Colonial Williamsburg, and the College of William and Mary.