FRANKLIN, Va. (WAVY) — A magnificent new park in Franklin is a new place to enjoy nature in our area.
The Blackwater Park is 200 acres and will soon be growing by another 96 acres in donated land.
WAVY was the only media organization at Tuesday’s opening event, which included Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin.
There is a 300-yard boardwalk onto Turkey Island across the blackwater swamp.
No one worked harder to create the park than Jamie Craig,
“We want people to come out and interpret the signage, learn about [the trees] and their value ecologically … to learn about the species that live in the environment, and then to walk the 300 yards to Turkey Island.”
We walked with Craig to Turkey Island to meet grandpa.
“This is called “Grandpa Tree” because he is the oldest tree here … 215-year-old loblolly pines. This one is 155 feet tall; it has a circumference of 13 feet, and it is four feet across at breast height,” Craig added.
When Governor Youngkin helped cut the ribbon to the park, Craig was by his side, giving him a high five for this achievement.
“Everybody ready … now cut … awesome,” said Governor Youngkin with a childlike enthusiasm with the task at hand.
Youngkin then got on the boardwalk, and took in the beauty and to promise more natural parks like this in the future.
“Our administration’s primary interest is preserving and protecting the great gifts … from God … to the Commonwealth, our open spaces and our parks.”
Franklin Mayor Frank Rabil said: “It is a tremendous community asset for us. It allows us to focus in on our tourism, which provides an economic benefit.”
The park became reality with federal, state, local funds, and contributions from people like Brett Glymph with Virginia Outdoors Foundation.
“It is a nature refuge right in the middle of Franklin, so residents of Franklin have access to nearby nature, have access to this right in their own backyard.”
Brian Purcell contributed as well.
“My family is longtime residents of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and we have always been involved in the timber industry, and we believe in protecting Virginia’s natural resources,” Purcell said.
The Blackwater Park will be protector of sorts against flooding waters, like from Hurricane Floyd in 1999 when the Blackwater River flooded Franklin.
Craig added: “The park serves as a flood storage for the city and helps protect the vulnerable part of the town, and it provides habitat for two threatened species: the northern long eared bat and the barking tree frog.”
We were with the gathered guests and the governor when he took a stroll down the boardwalk.
You could tell Youngkin found the boardwalk through the swamp a peaceful tranquility. In an obvious hushed tone, the governor made his point of the beauty before us.
“When you step back, and you allow yourself to get quiet, and you take in all of God’s wonders. It should inspire us all to make sure we are taking care of them.”
The governor told those gathered he will announce on Thursday more funding directed towards conservation and creating and improving natural resources.
“Concerning these natural treasures, it is a core principle of our administration and of my family.”
The address of the new Blackwater Park is 1716 N. High Street.