ANNUAL MEETING: CBES, Shorekeeper Pledge to ‘Protect and Defend What We Love’

Spencer Murray received the Suzanne Wescoat award in recognition of outstanding achievements in stewardship of the shore. CBES Executive Director Donna Bozza (right) , recalled Wescoat’s words that “economic success and environmental stewardship are connected.”

Cape Charles Wave

May 4, 2015

The Eastern Shore of Virginia is considered one of the last pristine coastal wilderness zones left on the east coast. For many, the last few years have seemed like a battle to preserve the quality and well-being of these delicate coastal waters. Maintaining a constant drumbeat, and providing solid boots on the ground in this effort to preserve and enhance the overall quality of life on the shore have been the sister organizations Citizens for a Better Eastern Shore and Eastern ShoreKeeper. Last Tuesday (April 28) these groups met at Little Italy in Nassasaddox for their annual meeting.

“Our waters now have a voice. We are an advocate for our water quality,” said Shorekeeper Executive Director Jay Ford. “Clean water is an economic driver, has economic importance — we have met with legislators, and have brought political scrutiny.”

Ford noted that through grass roots efforts of CBES and Shorekeeper members, they have been able to influence some parts of Northampton County’s proposed zoning changes, such as maintaining Chesapeake Bay Act protections on the seaside and pushing back on shoreline widths. “Also, there will be no chicken-growing in Northampton,” said Ford. “Our waters are too fragile; they cannot handle the influx of that many nutrients. Still, even with our successes, the work is not done,” he stressed.


Ford said that Shorekeeper has made progress in Richmond, including headway in getting funding for farmers that use low impact, sustainable techniques, and he is optimistic that the Turtle Excluder Device law will finally pass next year. “We are pushing state level decisions in areas such as offshore drilling, the bay, ocean acidification, and the effects of climate change like sea level rise. The Eastern Shore is the canary in the coal mine for many of these issues — effects will show up here first,” Ford warned. “Members are our power,” he continued — “When we go before legislatures, we can say it is not just me, but all of these people also feel the same way”.

CBES Executive Director Donna Bozza pledged that CBES “will protect and defend what we love, and we love the Eastern Shore.” She noted that CBES’ mission has always been consistent, promoting sustainable development, yet also economic success –environmental preservation and social responsibilities are inter-related. “CBES is dedicated to balanced growth while preserving our natural resources.  We actively promote open government and citizen participation to help shape our own development. But this requires that we remain engaged, for our children and grandchildren,” she stressed.

“There is still much to do,” Bozza said, “to build a foundation. Like Suzanne Wescoat would say, economic success and environmental stewardship are connected.” She urged citizens to become engaged and to become members of CBES and Shorekeeper. “Like Jay said, membership is our strength — there is strength in numbers,” she said.

Bozza announced that CBES has a new, more user-friendly website, and will continue to leverage online channels and social media including the CBES newsletter Shoreline, in its 28th year of publication, to continue the work of government watchdog, preservation advocacy, and to champion and protect the shore’s cultural and natural heritage.

The guest speaker for the event was Bobbie Walker of the Virginia Tourism Corporation. The theme of the presentation was “Green is the New Gold: Ecotourism on the Shore, Protecting and Priming our Economic Engine.”

“I love this place,” exclaimed Walker. “It is so special; to promote this gem and its environmental beauty — it will never be Disney, never Las Vegas. Tourism, it takes work. It takes organization.” Walker promoted the idea that to work, it would take a community effort, “ Help us do the right thing, the right way,” she stressed.

Walker noted that everyone may want to promote a product, but you have to be sure that it is ready first. “Tourism is about authenticity. It serves as a commitment to the ideals of the people that live there,” she said. For those on the shore, sustainable tourism is about creating and developing an environmentally, historically, and culturally appealing product that will attract folks to come here. The important thing is to do it “the right way” that will be low impact and not have a negative impact on the environment. “Nature has been good to you — given you a brilliant palette to paint welcome, and bring people here,” she said.

Walker also noted that tourism has an economic multiplier. For every job created in tourism, jobs are also created in other sectors such as plumbing, carpentry, security, hospitality, etc. “But it works both ways — tourism could not be successful without the help of these other industries,” she pointed out.

“What’s the great thing about tourists?” asked Walker. “They come, they enjoy, then they leave,” she joked. But seriously, she said, “tourism provides jobs at the entry level, but the industry is mostly made up of entrepreneurs, those that had a dream to open a restaurant, or bed and breakfast.”

In terms of revitalization, such as has occurred in Cape Charles, “Tourism will work to enhance the visual appeal of the community, and improve the quality of life. Not just for tourists, but for residents also,” Walker said.

Walker said that building a tourism project is similar to designing a house. “Be a good architect — see it through their eyes. Make sure, before you move, it is deliverable. It has to have a sense of arrival, a sense of place. Like a well-constructed house, it must have a good entryway,” she said, adding that “of course, no one has better entry way then you do; when you cross the CBBT, and you reach the shore, it’s like you say to yourself, ‘ I can breathe now’.”

Even as there needs to be adequate facilities to eat, relax, and sleep, Walker emphasized, it must not be forgotten that tourists are buying a product — not a material product, but “an experience. If it goes well, they will come again. Pay attention to the details,” she urged, and provide a rich experience.

Walker also stressed the importance of a partnership between state, local, and regional programs and entities. “We do need gatekeepers — policy should be strong, and infrastructure — you need good roads, good signage, and of course, fine customer service.  Present a face that cannot be forgotten. This is such a special place, it deserves your protection — do it mindfully, do it carefully,” she counseled.

The recipient of the Suzanne Wescoat award, presented by CBES President Arthur Upshur, was Spencer Murray. The award is in recognition of outstanding achievements in stewardship of the shore, especially in work that balances the economy with protecting the cultural, historical and environment elements.  Of special note was Murray’s ongoing efforts to address emergency medical services, especially in light of Riverside Shore Memorial Hospital’s impending relocation to Accomack County.

“It is an honor to have my name mentioned in the same sentence with Suzanne’s,” Murray responded. “It was always her vision of the CBES, that it must be inclusive, a better Eastern Shore for all citizens. We need a ‘Pro’ agenda — we need to stop looking for an outside force to come and save us; self-help is the most effective way. But there is hard work. We are a poor county, but we don’t have to look like a poor county [referencing initiatives to address dilapidated properties],” Murray said.

CBES President Upshur also recognized former Executive Director Denard Spady for many years of work and contributions to the organization. In turn, Spady thanked all the other members for their own contributions during his tenure, and noted that he felt the future of the CBES was bright and full of renewed promise.

Eastern Shorekeeper —, Jay Ford, 757-971-2600

Citizens for a Better Eastern Shore: , 757-678-7157 or [email protected]



2 Responses to “ANNUAL MEETING: CBES, Shorekeeper Pledge to ‘Protect and Defend What We Love’”

  1. Roberta Kellam on May 5th, 2015 7:27 pm

    Ms. Walker also noted that tourists need bathrooms. Northampton County should install a restroom facility at the Oyster boat ramp using a composting toilet system. The current facilities are not presentable for tourists. The Oyster boat ramp is used by many birders and other ecotourists and it does not give visitors a very good impression.

  2. Sue Telfer on May 5th, 2015 10:00 pm

    May I just say, speaking about good impressions, how about the roads (ditch banks) and the garbage that the birders have to ride on before they get to the boat ramp? We can’t seem to keep our roads clean, let alone toilets for tourists. Who will get that job? Just a thought.