By TED SHOCKLEY, Eastern Shore Post
My New Year’s predictions for the Eastern Shore never come true. Last year, not a single one came to fruition. But that won’t stop me from making more.
This year will be amazing on the Eastern Shore because of these initiatives that nobody saw coming:
Surf fishing will be allowed on Fisherman Island. It won’t be easy, but the federal government and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel Commission will partner on an initiative to allow surf fishing and beach access on Fisherman Island.
For an extra $10 on top of the bridge-tunnel toll, the traveling public will be able to enjoy a stop at the beautiful, unspoiled island beach for fishing or sunbathing. The Washington Post will write a story calling it “an eco-tourism opportunity of a lifetime” and “a victory for common-sense use of public grounds.”
Northampton and Accomack public school systems will merge. With only 1,300 students and several key central-office vacancies, Northampton’s school board will decide to merge with Accomack’s.
Eliminating duplicate positions — there will be no more need for two local superintendents, financial directors, and the like — and reaping other savings by merging services will save enough money to boost teacher salaries to competitive levels.
Accomack, which has 11 schools, will easily accept Northampton’s schools. Finally, all Eastern Shore students will be on the same schedule with the same curriculum.
The New York Times writes a story about the consolidation, calling it a “profoundly forward-thinking pooling of resources.”
Belle Haven will get more sidewalks. By my count, the quiet, tree-lined town of Belle Haven has one sidewalk that is 1,000 feet long, and no more.
It is a splendid town but it is not conducive to walking. The roads have no shoulders. The ditches are close to the road. People who walk for recreation or exercise must walk in the road. Traffic is always slowing down for them.
It all seems dangerous — and during a time when walkability is a community asset, it seems outdated.
But someone applies for a grant. Someone else holds a fundraiser. A big donation is received.
The “CBS Evening News” drops into town for a television story about the new sidewalks, calling Belle Haven’s effort “a quintessential example of Americana.”
Onancock’s performance pavilion is built in front of Riverside Shore Memorial Hospital.
The hospital’s parent company owns land that borders Market Street behind Four Corner Plaza.
Onancock, Onley, and Accomack County jointly purchase some of that land at a bargain price. A concert facility is built and new parking lots are created.
The new stage and seating area are close to restaurants. There is plenty of parking for vehicles, with overflow parking at the plaza. There are no residential areas around, so nobody will be sore when the Van Halen cover band plays loudly and late.
Concert traffic won’t need to funnel through a neighborhood, like with the current plan.
The concept reminds concertgoers of the Virginia Beach ampitheater’s close proximity to Sentara Princess Anne Hospital.
NBC’s “Today” show is on hand for the first concert and interviews several community leaders who came together, took a controversial idea, and created a community jewel.
Accomack County builds housing in its Wallops Research Park. With even more jobs coming to the area around the NASA Wallops Flight Facility, Accomack’s leaders decide to create housing within its county-owned research park.
Some of the research park acreage is set aside for condos and single-family homes that the county itself develops and builds.
Instead of searching for hard-to-find housing or going to Maryland to live, residents from all of Wallops businesses, contractors, and civil servants are drawn to the county’s brand-new neighborhood.
It becomes a trendy neighborhood featuring short commutes, a public pool, and other amenities. Teachers new to the area also are given a first priority to rent or buy in the Wallops Research Park.
Moreover, the Eastern Shore’s new consolidated public school system builds a hands-on technology-based charter school in the new neighborhood.
People who launch rockets to the International Space Station teach in the new charter school — an amazing opportunity for students.
It all makes international news — the BBC comes across the Atlantic Ocean to report on the new neighborhood.
If you’re going to dream, dream big.
The writer is editor and general manager of the Eastern Shore Post. Reach him at [email protected].