- Last Updated on 03:56 PM 08/07/12
- BY Special to the Gazette
A study is under way to determine if a portion of the Banister River in Southside Virginia should be designated a state scenic river.
The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, in collaboration with the Virginia Tech Community Design and Assistance Center, is conducting the study on nearly 40 miles of the Banister that run through Pittsylvania and Halifax counties, and the town of Halifax.
Officials from the three localities formally requested the study.
In July, seven local residents — including government officials and riparian landowners — joined DCR and Tech staff for a two-day paddle along the river.
The trip was the first step in determining if it meets state scenic river criteria.
The intent of the Virginia Scenic Rivers program is to identify, recognize and provide a level of protection to rivers with significant scenic beauty, historic importance, recreational value and natural characteristics.
The program began in 1970 after the General Assembly passed the Virginia State Scenic River Act.
Since then, 28 river segments totaling 656 miles have been designated as state scenic rivers. To receive the designation, a river must undergo a months-long study and evaluation process. Each is evaluated on the same criteria, including: water quality, historic features, natural features, visual appeal, corridor development, quality of fisheries and opportunities for recreation and land conservation.
Local governing bodies must support scenic river designations in their communities. The final step in the designation process is the General Assembly’s passage of a bill — sponsored by local legislators — that designates a river as a state scenic river. State scenic river designation does not impose land-use controls or regulations. It does not affect a riparian landowner’s rights to use the river or its banks for grazing, irrigation, hunting or fishing.
The designation also does not give the general public the right to use privately owned riparian lands.
Recommendations in the 2007 Virginia Outdoors Plan, the state’s comprehensive planning document for outdoor recreation and land conservation, call for numerous rivers and streams to be evaluated for state scenic river designation, including the Banister.
For more information about the Virginia Scenic Rivers program, go to: http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/recreational_planning/srmain.shtml.