Lafayette swamp route needs new path

The Virginia Gazette

 

My husband and I have put three children through public high school in three different states (all graduated here in Virginia), but I have never seen anything like the "tromp through the swamp" at Lafayette High School that we wrote about in Wednesday's Gazette.

It is shameful to accept that the conditions that created this behavior is how we do things here at WJCC's premier school division.

A few facts: the Lafayette school campus does not have adequate facilities for all the sports teams to practice there. Neither does Jamestown. Teams from both schools travel to the Warhill Sports Complex on Longhill Road after school to get in their field time. At Jamestown, they get on the activity bus, they drive or they miss practice. Lafayette students have two additional options: they can walk/jog down the sidewalk on Longhill or they can "tromp through the swamp" behind the school.

Don't be fooled, "tromp through the swamp" is no clever wordplay; it is an accurate description of the space between the back of the track and the fields at the sports complex.

There is no walkway. First, students go down a ravine to get to the swamp; they cross running and standing water by walking across boards or fallen tree trunks or taking a leap. It is not a school-sanctioned route to practice, but kids will frequently find the shortest – and most interesting -- distance between two points.

But what is quick or interesting isn't always the best or safest option.

WJCC schools have asked the county for $1.17 million to build an ADA-compliant walkway through the swamp so all students can travel safely on this alternate route to the fields. The schools and the Board of Supervisors will hash this out as they work on budgets in the coming weeks; we'll see what happens. But for all sorts of good reasons, this project landed at the bottom of the Planning Commission's list of 15 recommended capital projects, so it should be an interesting discussion.

If it stays at the bottom, might there be enough money for a fence?

Sunshine Week begins Sunday — it's a reminder that we all need to make sure the sun also shines on government, school and police agencies and the business they conduct in our names, with our tax money.

The General Assembly entertained several bills this session that sought to further restrict access to currently public information and so far, we have some good news about bad bills that didn't pass.

One, by state Sen. John Cosgrove, would have exempted records of names of all police offices from release. The other, by state Sen. Richard Stuart (co-chair of the FOIA Council) would have exempted salary information about public employees making less than $30,000 a year from release (current exemption is $10,000). That bill also would have barred publication of public databases of state employee names and salaries. The House General Laws Committee's FOIA subcommittee killed both of those unnecessary bills.

But the big, good news about a bill that passed is the Surovell/Lemunyon-Yancey bill that fixes that Va. Supreme Court ruling in Department of Corrections v. Surovell covering redactions. The court ruled that an entire record could be withheld if any part of it was eligible for exclusion. The bill restored the practice of redaction — removing the exempt part of the file and releasing the remainder. Gov. Terry McAuliffe had threatened to veto — or heavily amend — this measure but has since backed down.

One of the duties of a free press is to act as a watchdog of the powerful. We take that role seriously; it guides our decision-making on which stories to pursue, what questions to ask. We ask those questions for all of us, so if there is one you feel needs asking, you know where to reach me.

Bellows is editor of the Virginia Gazette. Reach her at pbellows@vagazette.com or 757-345-2347.

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