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Petersen introduces bill to improve access to waterways

chap-petersen-headerState Sen. Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax) announced on Friday that he has introduced legislation to protect recreational access to river, streams, and creeks across the Commonwealth.

Petersen’s bill, SB 737, will allow the public unfettered access to water recreation using nonmotorized vessels during the hours of daylight, whether or not the waters are deemed to be navigable by state authorities.

Currently, some bodies of water in Virginia are not open to the public due to their status as nonnavigable. Property owners can complain to authorities when nonmotorized vessels such as canoes and kayaks use these waterways.

American Whitewater, a recreation organization, has complained that “Virginia law is unkind to recreational boating.” The reason, they say, is because of the strict definition of navigable and nonnavigable streams.

Speaking to Virginia’s status as a recreation and outdoors tourism destination, Petersen said: “Virginia should be open for recreation.  Richmond has recently been named the #1 river town in the United States by Outside Magazine, and lots of smaller creeks and streams should be able to be enjoyed by paddlers without fear of trespassing.

“This bill clarifies that Virginians can enjoy the streams, rivers and creeks which traditionally are considered state waters.  As such, it’s a pro-recreation, pro-tourism measure,” said Petersen.

SB 737 is copatroned by Del. Greg Habeeb (R-Salem):

“Our Commonwealth is a truly beautiful place and we should continue to look for ways to encourage outdoor recreation and tourism throughout the state,” said Habeeb.  “Virginia’s streams and rivers should be open and accessible. This is a common-sense measure that will encourage access to the freshwaters of Virginia, promoting recreation and boosting tourism. I am proud to be the chief co-patron of this legislation.”

The bill will be heard by the Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources.

Augusta Health Augusta Free Press Kris McMackin CPA
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