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Colonial Beach Community Center to hold summer outdoor movie nights

The Colonial Beach Community Center will host the first of a series of summer outdoor movie nights S...

George Washington's Birthplace joins celebration of NPS 100th anniversary

President Woodrow Wilson and Congress created the National Park Service in 1916 to preserve and prot...

Historic St. Elizabeth's has new altar and new stained glass window

A new altar and a new stained glass window were consecrated Friday by the members of St. Elizabeth's...

Colonial Beach Town Council postpones sale of Eleanor Park property

The Colonial Beach Town Council agreed to postpone the sale of the Eleanor Park property pending inv...

Colonial Beach resident one of nation's first female national park rangers

Colonial Beach's Pocahontas Schuck, 76, was honored last weekend to work as a volunteer at the Natio...

Colonial Beach hosts 37th Rod Run to the Beach

Cars, cars and more cars.  

Colonial Beach hosted the 37th Annual Rod Run to the Beach last we...

 

 20160323cctower

 

Bids withdrawn for sale of Eleanor Park

The long-simmering tensions involving the sale of the Eleanor Park property in Colonial Beach has caused the two bidders seeking to purchase the block, located on Irving Avenue on the Potomac River, to withdraw their bids.

“Candidly, we have been surprised and taken aback by the number of communications that we have received from town citizens that expressed anger, disappointment and/or subtle threats concerning any plans we might have for the property,” developer Randy Hirsch, who had submitted a $900,000 bid for the property, said in a Sept. 15 email.

On the same day that Hirsch withdrew his bid, Colonial Beach’s attorney, Andrea Erard, also received a communication from the other developer bidding for the property, Roger Matherly.  “Because of the changing nature of the value of the property and the various restrictions which may prevent from being subdivided into 12 lots, please withdraw Mr. Matherly’s bid to purchase the property,” the email communication said.

The withdrawal of the two bids was announced at Thursday’s meeting of the Colonial Beach Town Council which has been debating the controversial sale of Eleanor Park for more than five years. “For the first time as mayor, I am ashamed of the town of Colonial Beach,” said Mayor Mike Ham.

The town council and the citizens of Colonial Beach have been torn over whether to sell the property, which is a former trailer park, to obtain badly needed revenue for the town or whether to turn the property into a riverside park or an environmental easement.

“I wonder if other purchasers won’t be feeling the same way,” said Councilman Mike Looney.  “If the town is not going to be able to sell the property, possible purchasers are going to be scared off.”  

“I am sure they will be,” said Ham.

The town council will now meet this Thursday with the Virginia Outdoors Foundation which has indicated an interest in purchasing a conservation easement on the Potomac River property.  Several members indicated at Thursday’s meeting, that they did not expect an actual offer from the outdoors foundation this week.

Richard Leggitt

Colonial Beach’s Guadalupe Free Clinic serves area’s poor

When the Guadalupe Free Clinic opened on the grounds of St. Elizabeth Catholic Church in Colonial Beach almost a dozen years ago, organizers of the new facility did not know whether to expect a few patients or many.

“We had five patients,” said Greg Dilick, who was a volunteer at the new clinic in 2005, but today serves as its executive director. “But one of those first patients was suffering from breast cancer. We immediately got her into Mary Washington Hospital where she had successful surgery and treatment and today she is recovered and volunteers at the clinic.”

Volunteers are the backbone of the clinic, where as many as 16 people, including doctors and nurses who unselfishly donate their time, serve those in need. The clinic helps patients with nonemergency medical problems that are not covered by health insurance and have incomes that are 200 percent below federal poverty guidelines.

The free clinic was the dream of the Rev. Jerome Magat, who is a former vicar at St. Elizabeth and continues today to serve on the clinic’s board of directors. Magat was concerned about the number of people, including Latinos, who were unable to afford needed medical care. The clinic was established with bilingual volunteers and today about 40 percent of its patients are Latino.

Magat recruited financial support from St. Elizabeth, the Catholic Diocese of Arlington, the Knights of Columbus, Mary Washington Hospital and dozens of other corporate and dindividual donors to help turn an 80-year-old house into a clinic. Magat also obtained donated medical equipment from free health clinics in Lynchburg and Fredericksburg to help with the clinic’s start up.  

Over the years, St. Elizabeth has contributed more than $1 million to the free facility. The clinic also holds several fundraising events each year including a gala and a a golf tournament.  “And, we can’t speak too highly of Mary Washington Hospital,” said Dilick.  “They help with lab services, radiology and grants.”

“Most of the illnesses we treat are chronic like diabetes and hypertension,” Dilick said. “Every once in awhile, we will get a patient that doesn’t realize how sick they are and we get them to Mary Washington Hospital.”

“Our charter is to serve the poor, those who don’t have other means or healthcare,” Dilick said.  “For all of us it is a labor of love.  Nobody who works here is worried about a paycheck or a promotion.  Our mission is to serve those who are less fortunate.”

“The clinic is powerful evidence of the Catholic Church’s understanding that when we serve those in need we are honoring Christ himself, said the Rev. Francis de Rosa of St. Elizabeth. “Binding up our neighbor’s wounds is one of the traditional Christian works of mercy.  We must see the face of Jesus in those of the poor.”

The free clinic is open on Saturdays from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. and in times of demand also on Wednesdays.  The clinic phone number is 804-224-0571.  Patients are accepted by appointment and also walk-ins are accepted on a first come first served basis.

Richard Leggitt

Outdoor showing of Mamma Mia a big hit in Colonial Beach

It was so cool.  

Cheering, clapping and singing to music of the Swedish pop band Abba while watching an outdoor showing of the movie “Mamma Mia” was a hit with hundreds of Colonial Beach residents Saturday night.

The setting was the first of a monthly series of free outdoor movie nights called Cinema on the Green at the Colonial Beach Community Center at 717 Marshall Ave. "It was great to see so many people enjoying themselves," said Karen Grisevich of Colonial Beach Outfitters, which helped organize the event.

People attending the outdoor movie showing joyfully sat in row upon row of golf carts and on blankets, lawn chairs and benches to view the showing of the musical featuring Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan.

"We are definitely going to do it again," said Grisevich.

There was no admission charged to attend the outdoor showing. The event was organized to support the Colonial Beach Foundation, which is working to turn the old Lion's Club building at the site into the Colonial Beach Community Center, so donations to the foundation were accepted.

"It was the beginning of a long term effort at having something where neighbors can come and meet neighbors," said Eric Nelson of Coldwell Banker Elite, who is a member of the foundation and was one of the sponsors of the event.

There were popcorn and soft drinks available for movie goers, and a breezy night, as well as fogging, helped reduce mosquito problems.The crowd was well-behaved and enthusiastic, so much so that plans a have already begun for the next outdoor movie night.

"It was a wonderful community event," said Grisevich. "We are definitely doing it again, hopefully the first Saturday of the month, including in October and November. It was a perfect night."

By Richard Leggitt

Delayed Boardwalk Arts and Crafts Festival attracts thousands

Tropical Storm Hermine blew through the Northern Neck Saturday with high wind gusts that blew away the first day of the 50th Annual Boardwalk Arts & Crafts Festival at Colonial Beach.

Organizers of the popular event cancelled Saturday's activities and added Labor Day to get in the full two-day event.  

"I came Saturday, but I only stayed about five minutes” said vendor G.G. Belfield of Warsaw.

"The wind was so bad, my umbrella was turning inside out," said Belfield, who operates G.G.'s Dog House selling Nathan's hot dogs. "Business was good Sunday and Monday, very steady. I can't complain."

After the weather delay Saturday, Belfield and the dozens of other vendors spread in booths along the beachfront Boardwalk, offering food, arts and crafts, were delighted with the crowds. Thousands showed up Sunday and Monday to walk, shop and enjoy the beautiful weather that followed Saturday's storm.

Artists and craftsmen participating in the festival lined the Boardwalk with tents and competed for customers and prizes in what has become one of the longest running events in Colonial Beach.  

On display were items including paintings, pottery, jewelry, jams and quilts.  "It was good once the weather passed," said Jimmy Willett of Waldorf, who operated Pat's Ceramics with his wife, Pat. "Saturday was way too windy. It was good that we all agreed to close."

By Richard Leggitt

Colonial Beach Community Center to hold summer outdoor movie nights

The Colonial Beach Community Center will host the first of a series of summer outdoor movie nights Sept. 3 at 8 p.m. The hit musical “Mama Mia” will be shown on a big outdoor screen on the grounds at 717 Marshall Ave.

"Bring your family and friends, golf cart, chairs, blankets and snacks," said Karen Ahearn, a spokeswoman for the Colonial Beach Foundation. "Come join in the dancing and singing to your favorite Abba music."  

Admission is free, but donations to the foundation will be accepted.

Ahearn said food vendors will be on site and fogging for mosquitoes will take place prior to event. Sponsors of the movie nights include Eric Nelson of Coldwell Banker Elite and the Colonial Beach Outfitters. The Colonial Beach Foundation is a nonpolitical organization of volunteers whose mission is to enhance the quality of life in the  beach town.

"We  are currently turning the old Lion's Club building into Colonial Beach's first community center," said Ahearn.  "We also send children to summer camp, and work with the Give a Day, Save the Bay clean up day.  Our website is at www.colonialbeachfoundation.org."

George Washington's Birthplace joins celebration of NPS 100th anniversary

President Woodrow Wilson and Congress created the National Park Service in 1916 to preserve and protect America's most beloved places. Last weekend, more than 130 current and former employees of George Washington's Birthplace National Monument Park gathered to honor the 100th anniversary of the park service's founding.

"It is so nice to see so many people here," Park Superintendent Melissa Cobern said at the park's anniversary reunion picnic. "The employees at the sites are really the heart of the park service."

From Glacier National Park in Montana to Everglades National Park in Florida, Big Bend National Park in Texas and Acadia National Park in Maine, the nation's citizens have fallen in love with America's national parks and embraced their mission of safeguarding the country's natural and environmental heritage.

More than 300 million people a year visit the National Park Service's 413 sites which encompass more than 84 million acres.

"I doubt that in 1916, President Wilson could have imagined what the park service would become," said Dr. Dwight Storke, who served as the George Washington Birthplace superintendent from 1989 to 1994.

Storke said the Washington Birthplace Park is one of the park service's premier historical locations. "It has had the highest rating of all of these parks and it is the national park that had the first natural trail."

The highly regarded former superintendent regaled the reunion attendees with tales of humorous and moving happenings during his time at George Washington's Birthplace.mFrom the time an employee's cat had a litter of kittens on the bed in the Memorial House to the day a breathless park employee reported, "There is a naked woman in the herb garden."

Storke told of a casual meeting with a visitor touring the park and Storke's mention to the man that the park's natural trail was beginning to need repair. Three days later, Storke received a call from the visitor, who turned out to be the president of S.C. Johnson, the maker of Windex and other well known products, saying he was sending a check for $80,000 to pay for the trail repairs.

"Our visitors are our main resource," Storke said. He said the George Washington Birthplace was one of the first parks to honor black history and Indian history, and reminded the gathered current and former employees of George Washington's love for nature and animals.

"This site influenced George Washington as a little boy, developing his interest in the land and its labor. As a little fellow at what was then Pope's Creek Plantation, George Washington understood that this was a special place," Storke said.

By Richard Leggitt

Historic St. Elizabeth's has new altar and new stained glass window

A new altar and a new stained glass window were consecrated Friday by the members of St. Elizabeth's Church in Colonial Beach, one of the oldest Roman Catholic churches in the Northern Neck.

The new wooden altar with a marble top and the new stained glass window, which took two years to plan and complete, will be important symbols for those worshiping at St. Elizabeth's, which has been located along the beachfront in Colonial Beach for 110 years.

The new window features an image of Mary that was taken from a stained glass window saved from the first St. Elizabeth's church building built in 1906.

"Mary is the heart of the church," said Father Francis de Rosa, who has been guiding the St. Elizabeth's parish for almost eight years.

"We had an old altar from the 60s made of stone with a wooden top," said de Rosa. "The altar is the centerpiece of the church , it is a very important of our worship."  

In addition to the stunning image of Mary, the new stained glass window contains images of four Old Testament prophets and nine canonized popes, and honors the Holy Trinity.

"We had quite a team of all Catholic firms working on this project," de Rosa said. They included the general contractor, Trinity Builders of Colonial Beach; other firms working on the project included Rappahannock Millwork of Calio, Pugo Stone of Lorton, Eastside Glass of Colonial Beach and the Conrad Schmidt firm of Milwaukee, WI.

 By Richard Leggitt

Colonial Beach Town Council postpones sale of Eleanor Park property

The Colonial Beach Town Council agreed to postpone the sale of the Eleanor Park property pending investigation of a possible conservation easement purchase by the Virginia Outdoor Foundation.

In remarks before the council, town resident Erik Nelson asked council members to consider a preliminary proposal from the foundation to purchase a conservation easement on the 1.89-acre property for up to 80 percent of the appraised price. An appraisal performed for the council in 2014 put the value of the property at $1.2 million. The council put the property up for sale in 2014.

A representative of the foundation met with town staff, interested residents and some council members Aug. 24, the day before the council meeting. According to Town Attorney Andrea Erard, a foundation representative said at the Wednesday meeting that the foundation board would be able to consider beginning the process to purchase a conservation easement in March 2017, after which foundation staff would determine the conservation value of the property, and arrive at a sum to be paid to the town for the easement.

Council members expressed reservations about the lengthy process, and about the uncertainty of the sum that eventually could be paid to the town. In the end, however, the council voted unanimously to bring a foundation representative to meet with the council as soon as possible, preferably within the first two weeks of September.

To date, the town has received two offers to buy the property from developers seeking to build single-family homes on the plot, which is across Irving Avenue from the Potomac River waterfront. Randy Hirsch made a $900,000 offer, and Robert Matherly offered $950,000.

Five of the seven council members stood ready to vote in favor of selling the property. Council members Tommy Edwards, Burkett Lyburn, and Mike Looney, Vice Mayor Eddie Blunt and Mayor Mike Ham all said they were in favor of selling the property.

Ham summed up the arguments in favor of the sale, noting that the town’s infrastructure is badly in need of upgrades, including water lines that had been constructed of plywood decades ago. He said that the town spent $150,000 last year, and is scheduled to spend a further $150,000 this year on paving roads in Riverside Meadows. Other improvements include a new water tower to improve water pressure to homes in the town, water line replacements and sewer line improvements.

Blunt said that citizen opposition to the sale only arose after Hirsch’s initial offer, saying the property has been for sale for two years, but no citizens opposed a sale until an offer had been made.

Lyburn said his decision to support the sale was made on the basis of the greatest good for the greatest number of the town’s 3,500 residents. He said citizens opposing the sale touted the property as a valuable park, but “I’ve only seen one person walking through the park. Maybe you were sitting there when I wasn’t going by.”

Lyburn said the prospect of property taxes going to the town from homes built on the park property would be a long-term source of income for the town, in addition to the proceeds from the sale.

Council members Wayne DiRosario and Wanda Goforth spoke against selling the property. DiRosario cited his contact with many citizens of the town. “Not one person has been in favor” of the sale.

Goforth said the property is more valuable to the town as an attraction for visitors than a source of one-time cash.

Several town residents spoke against the sale. Terry Gaasterland brought the history of the parcel to the council’s attention, noting that it had originally been deeded to a trust “for the benefit and enjoyment” of town residents in the 1890s. She urged the council to “pursue the alternative” of the possible conservation easement.

Planning commission chairwoman Robin Schick noted that the commission had cited several options besides selling the parcel, including  development as a park with more amenities and a public-private partnership.

By Joel Davis

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