Press Conference, Cypress Swamps, Virginia Indians, and Colonial History
On Tuesday, July 1, 2014, Governor Terry McAuliffe hosted a press conference at First Landing State Park to sign an executive order reconvening the state's Climate Change and Resiliency Commission. We've hosted other press conferences and other VIPs before, but this one was different.
Governor McAuliffe prepares to sign the Executive Order
Usually the dignitaries' schedules are so tight that they are pressed for time to complete a short tour and pose with a smile for a few media cameras. But Governor McAuliffe, not only spent the whole afternoon at First Landing State Park, he was genuinely interested in the natural and cultural history of First Landing and the Virginia State Park system. He toured multiple areas of the park, he met with volunteers, community partners, park staff, and park visitors, and he presented special commendations to park rangers on our law enforcement staff. He did all of this with a smile on his face and a spring in his step. It is obvious that Governor McAuliffe truly enjoys the outdoors!
Environmental groups showed their support for the Governor at the Trail Center
After lunch with the board members of Friends of First Landing State Park and the Princess Anne Garden Club, Governor McAuliffe presented special awards to Park Rangers Perry DeMay and Isaac Smelser. Afterwards, he headed over to the Trail Center for the press conference where he was greeted by supporters from a variety of environmental groups, including the Sierra Club. I was particularly thrilled that my delegate for the Kempsville/Chesapeake area, Ron Villanueva, was in attendance.
Delegate Ron Villanueva and Secretary of Natural Resources Molly Ward
at the press conference
Governor McAuliffe toured the new First Landing Trail Center museum exhibits with the members of the Princess Anne Garden Club who were instrumental in raising funds for the exhibits. After viewing the exhibits, Governor McAuliffe wanted to learn more about Virginia Indian history and toured the park's Virginia Indian burial ground. This is a sacred area in the park where the remains of 64 Virginia Indians were re-interred after being repatriated from the Smithsonian Institution in 1997. Education Specialist Jennifer Huggins explained about the Powhatan federation and how the coastal area was prime hunting and fishing grounds for the tribes.
Governor McAuliffe pays his respects at the Virginia Indian burial ground
Foregoing his air conditioned SUV, the governor then went on a golf cart tour of the cabin and campground area stopping now and then to talk with park guests. He finished off his tour of the park with a quick stop into the Chesapeake Bay Center to tour the First Landing museum featuring the Virginia Company's landing and the founding of Jamestown.
Governor McAuliffe stops for a photo with members of the Princess Anne Garden Club who are big supporters of First Landing State Park
At the end of his tour, Governor McAuliffe assured DCR Director Clyde Cristman and Deputy Director of Operations Joe Elton that it was his ambition to visit every single Virginia State Park during his administration. You might think that this is frivolous when serious state business is at hand, but Virginia State Parks are serious business. Virginia State Parks are the protectors of our natural, cultural, and historical stories, artifacts, and land. The state parks belong to all Virginia citizens and are economic engines, anchors if you will, for many of our state's small communities and big cities. Our state parks provide jobs, tourism dollars, educational programs, and most importantly, provide a respite for your mind, body, and spirit to relax a bit, away from the hustle and bustle of modern life.
Lt. Governor Ralph Northam also joined part of the tour and
showed his support for Virginia State Parks
Pictured here with Friends of First Landing Vice-President Helen Carter
Each state park is like a small city that needs constant attention with residential housing, rental cabins, campground with electrical and water lines, large public bathhouses, museums, gift shops, snack bars, visitor centers, wildlife, plants, and visitors that require monitoring and management. During his visit, Governor McAuliffe was amazed at the number of people that visit First Landing State Park each year; nearly 2 million out of the total 8 million visitors for all Virginia State Parks.
Ranger Smelser (right) and Ranger DeMay (left)
were presented commendations from the Governor;
Park Manager Bruce Widener also received a commendation
There were a lot of different activities going on during his visit: cabin and campground check-ins, day school field trips, children's activities, chicken turtle monitoring in the swamps, jogging groups on the trails, and so much more. Plan your trip for a week or just for the day. Click here for a schedule of self-guided and ranger-guided programs at First Landing and other Virginia State Parks.
Governor McAuliffe hiked part of the popular Bald Cypress Trail. There are several scheduled guided hikes of this trail every week in the summer.
First Landing State Park is located off Route 60 in Virginia Beach. The park has a 20 cabin and 210 campsites that can be reserved by calling the Virginia State Parks Customer Service Center at 1-800-933-PARK. Day use parking fees are only $4 weekdays and $5 weekend.