- The Washington Times - Monday, August 6, 2007

CHESAPEAKE, Va. — A popular gathering place for recreational boaters on the Southern Branch of the Elizabeth River is now off-limits.

The shaded inlet known as “the Cove” has been a weekend attraction for years, even though it is privately owned. The crowds were often so large that they could be seen by motorists traveling eastbound over the Interstate 64 bridge.

But last weekend, officers with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries started to crack down on boaters who trespass on the private waters and land.

“Although it’s a popular area, it is within the landowner’s property rights,” said Julia Dixon, a spokeswoman for Game and Inland Fisheries.

Stanley G. Bryan Sr. also owns the land under the water, which makes it a violation to be on the waters in and around the cove, Miss Dixon said.

Mr. Bryan said he asked authorities to step up trespassing enforcement because of vandalism and littering taking place at the cove. A dump truck was needed to haul away garbage from the site during a cleanup effort, he said.

“It kind of ticked me off,” Mr. Bryan said. “I’ve traveled the waterways from here to Key West, and there’s nothing like the cove anywhere. It’s just a shame. I’m sorry to have to do that.”

He also had concerns about liability.

For years, boaters have flocked to the inlet, where they had set up two grills and a rope swing. They relaxed in lawn chairs and played horseshoes along the sandy shoreline. Boaters set anchor and camped overnight there.

“We’ve been bringing our kids out there for two years,” Karen Doleman said. “Everybody got along and everybody played together. It seemed to be a safe place because police were always patrolling through there.”

Royce Wright, a boater from Portsmouth, said he and a few others would often clean up at the cove when there on weekends. There were a few people who would leave trash, but others would often clean up behind them, Mr. Wright said.

“It was just a really nice place for a boating community,” he said. “We really do miss it.”

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