Together we'll get Jolly Pond road reopened

It was déjà vu for the residents of Jolly Pond Road when it was closed recently with no advance notice.

The effects are significant: For residents, the addition of 15 miles to everyday travel and the related increase in cost and time to reach a destination; no alternative ingress or egress should a power line or tree or accident block the road; physical and financial hardship for local businesses and agriculture; and an end to the public and economic benefits of ecotourism — birding, biking and events such as the Ironman Challenge.

Because of the closing, Mr. Abbott of Greenswamp Farm on Centerville Road must spend more than an hour traversing dangerous road conditions on his tractor to work on the land he farms along Jolly Pond Road.

Mr. Brown, who owns Bush Neck Farm, will experience the negative economic impact when the public finds it inconvenient to add extra mileage to drive to his pick-your-own farm.

And then there is Sweethaven Lavender Farm, a new venture that is owned by the Messer family. Located at the corner of Jolly Pond and Bush Neck Roads, the farm had its grand opening and anticipated more than 3,000 visitors on a Saturday in June. With only one means of access on Jolly Pond, the potential of huge traffic problems is a given, and the closure will have a predictable negative effect on the farm's vision of serving the public. The owners, like everyone else, were never told about the closure in advance, and they remain in shock over the situation. This farm, beautifully planted in a haze of purple flowers, if not successful could easily be another community of homes. We need to maintain convenient access to the farm to support its economic viability.

The problem with the dam and bridge on Jolly Pond Road is not new. After a closure in 2011, and abandonment by the Virginia Department of Transportation for maintenance, the James City County Board of Supervisors stepped up and agreed to maintain the road which resulted in its re-opening in 2013.

Most would like to see the dam repaired, but it's a complicated situation. The 6 inches of asphalt on top of the road are owned by the county, but the actual dam is situated on private property. This presents challenges for permitting and cost allocation.

Residents packed a meeting room at a nearby Church on June 4 and agreed to work on a solution to re-open the road. Following that meeting, Supervisor Michael Hipple and several residents met with the county administration. The meeting concluded with consensus around the concept that the county, the residents and the landowner should try to work together to find a mutually acceptable outcome.

Our region is a showcase of America's history and beautiful greenspace. That's why people live, work or simply visit our area, and why our tax revenues in James City County have increased and tourism continues to thrive. The dam has been on Jolly Pond Road since the 1700s. The road is one of the most visually attractive in the county, and provides a scenic landscape — and a fun-scape — for our area's residents and visitors.

The list of people and services affected by this closure is abundant, and has a negative effect beyond just the Powhatan District. Bikers, birders, parents of children attending Blayton Elementary or Hornsby Middle School, as well as residents, farmers, businesses, county emergency services (fire, life safety and police), tourists, and more are all negatively impacted by the closure.

We are grateful for the partnership — private citizens, JCC leadership and staff — working together to get Jolly Pond Road re-opened. It's the right thing to do. And after all, future generations are counting on us.

Stephanie Allen, Nettles Creek Farm

Kerry Messer, Sweethaven Lavender Farm

Bruce Abbott, Greenswamp Farm

David Brown, Bush Neck Farm

Mary Lou Clark, Riverfront Retreat

Hunter Vermillion, Shields Point

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