Save the dam for recreation

I enjoyed reading the letter by Dan Sebring concerning the Woolen Mills Dam [April 6: "Cry me a river"], and I agree with him.

Dan's points concerning the ecology are all true. Why destroy a habitat that has existed for 150 years to replace it with something unknown? Even if the dam is destroyed, the shad aren't going to make it past the reservoir dam on the south fork or the dam near the Camelot subdivision. Though I haven't paddled it in a long time, I remember some other obstructions between Rt. 29 and the confluence of the north and south forks.

Destroying the dam will also reduce the quality of the Greenbelt Trail. The handicapped fishing area will become useless, and the trail will be much further from the water.

In a letter the same day, William Stevenson also makes an excellent point about the historical value of the dam ["Shad v. drinking water"]. In an area where people pride themselves on historic preservation, it seems odd that they're planning to destroy a structure that predates the Civil War.

However, I have a selfish reason for not wanting the dam destroyed. The water backed up behind the dam is an outstanding though under-used recreational asset. I live near the river. From the spring through the fall, I can go down to the river after work and launch my kayak for some flat water paddling. Not only is it good exercise, it's peaceful and beautiful.

Currently I am one of the few people who use this resource because the access is so poor. With decent access and the proper fisheries management, this stretch of the river could be a wonderful recreational area for paddling, rowing, and fishing. I think this would be especially true for people who cannot go to lakes out of town, including young people from the less affluent areas of our city.

I have dropped my membership to the Rivanna Conservation Society. Though they do some good things, I can't support their myopic, misguided advocacy of destroying the dam which is spearheaded by one obsessed individual.

Downing L. Smith III


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