The confluence of the Hazel and Thornton Rivers has historically been a gathering place for swimmers, canoeists, anglers—and even occasional baptisms by one local church. Then, in September 2005, Gary Close, Culpeper County’s former attorney, decided to close off the river to public use, igniting a firestorm of protest.Close based his decision on the riparian landowners’ claims of a pre-Revolutionary grant to the river. King’s (or Crown) grants were issued by monarchs to reward loyal subjects with colonial property. At one time, nearly all of Culpeper County was part of such a grant. In 1802, however, the Virginia General Assembly passed a law stipulating that all land under water that was not previously conveyed would henceforth be held by the Commonwealth of Virginia in trust for the public.The landowners along the Hazel had argued to Close that because their land was conveyed before 1802, the law didn’t apply to their property. Now, the Virginia Attorney General’s Office contends that a Crown grant is not recognized until it has been adjudicated by a Virginia court. No such case has ever been litigated on the Hazel River.Close determined that it was illegal to tread on the river bottom—and to float and swim in the area, despite state and federal law to the contrary. On the basis of Close’s actions, landowners routinely summoned law enforcement hundreds of times to expel citizens from the river.After a great deal of public pressure, Close agreed to review his original position and found that he had been wrong to recognize the Crown grant in the absence of judicial review. The public can now use the river near the low-water bridge, although walking on the privately owned riverbanks is still forbidden by law.Locals have harshly criticized the riparian landowners’ actions in the imbroglio, but the truth is that they have some legitimate concerns. Culpeper County court records document dozens of criminal trespassing convictions—and convictions for everything from littering to illicit drug use—along the riverbanks. There is evidence of illegally harvested deer carcasses, their remains unceremoniously dumped on Butler Store Road not far from the river. One riparian landowner claims that a stranger walked right into his home to ask where he could fish. Swimming and fishing in the river is legal; trespassing and littering are not.Old news, you say? Think again. In a new wrinkle to the never-ending Hazel River drama, landowner Ben Grace is objecting to the removal of the defunct Monumental Mills Dam, which originally supported a gristmill but hasn’t operated for decades. Jean Scott, the dam owner and a riparian landowner from the other side of the river, contacted Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) officials to see if she could have the dam removed. Scott argues that the dam serves no useful purpose today, is an eyesore and a health hazard, and blocks multiple species of migrating fish, including river herring and shad.Paddlers in particular are adversely affected by the dam: They cannot portage on Mrs. Scott’s side of the river because of a sheer drop-off of about 20 feet. Meanwhile, the other side of the dam, which still houses part of the old gristmill, is clearly labeled “no trespassing” and references a King’s grant. The state has secured funds to have the dam removed at no cost to either landowner, but Mr. Grace has strenuously objected to state workers coming on his side of the river to remove the dam. Indeed, he has served numerous state employees with “stay-away notices” informing them that he may press charges against them for trespassing should they return.Freedom of Information Act requests reveal that the state has engaged a title company to research the King’s grant claims at $75 per hour. At this writing, the agency has spent $11,653 looking into the matter. The project, however, appears to be at a standstill. Other FOIA requests indicate that state employees feel unsafe and intimidated while working in the area and have even requested that armed Conservation Police Officers accompany them for further work. The Culpeper County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to support the removal of the dam, and at least one riparian landowner downstream of the dam has offered to donate property to establish a canoe launch area when the dam is finally removed.The Hazel River may be a hotly contested river bottom—but it isn’t the only one. Anglers across the Old Dominion are incensed by state officials who advertise local waters as public property and merrily sell fishing licenses—and then refuse to defend anglers in court when they are sued by riparian landowners who claim to hold an exclusive grant to the river bottom. The Crown grant issue cries out for clarity, but thus far only State Delegate Scott Lingamfelter (R-31) and State Senator Creigh Deeds (D-25) have made any attempt to address it. In the last legislative session, Del. Lingamfelter proposed a bill that would have required landowners to notify state agencies of pending river bottom claims and to post publically where such claims originated; that bill died in committee. This step would have at least provided some clarity for river users.Will Mark Herring, the Old Dominion’s new Attorney General, defend the rights of canoeists, anglers, and swimmers to traverse Virginia’s public waterways? Only time will tell.
Residents of China’s Xianning city eager to travel after a two-month lockdown faced an unexpected hurdle only hours after the borders were opened — they needed to pass a new rapid detection test to show they didn’t have the coronavirus.Dozens rushed to the city’s largest hospital but were told the hospital was no longer doing the nucleic acid tests and were advised to try hospitals in nearby villages or towns.The test uses genetic material from throat swabs and normally takes a few hours for a result. “If we can’t get the nucleic acid test how can we leave? I can’t get on the train, I’ve bought my ticket but I can’t leave,” Shen Jianning, 51, said on Thursday morning.Shen, who wants to return to his job on a metro construction project in Shanghai, rushed to Xianning Central Hospital at around 4 a.m. on Thursday in hopes of getting a nucleic acid test, but was told by doctors there that they no longer were doing the tests and he had to find an alternative.Signs pasted on glass doors of the hospital, the city’s largest, said people should go to village or town hospitals to get the tests done.Xianning announced the test requirement on its official WeChat account on Wednesday, the day Hubei province, epicenter of China’s coronavirus outbreak and home to 60 million people, removed much of its lockdown transport measures. Topics : The lifting of the Hubei lockdown is a major milestone in the fight against the coronavirus in China. More than 80% of COVID-19 cases and 96% of deaths in mainland China have been in Hubei.The provincial capital Wuhan, where the virus first appeared late last year and which has had 54% of cases, remains under lockdown until April 8.The order to use the rapid-detection test came after news that a man who had travelled from the city last week had later tested positive when he returned to work in Guangdong province.The lifting of the lockdown has been accompanied by both relief and worry, with several people in Xianning telling Reuters they were unnerved by the case of the man who had travelled to Guangdong.”My Shanghai boss has called me a few times asking me to get out as soon as possible. He even prepared the proof of work resumption for me. He told me what processes you need to do we will help you, just think of a way to get out,” Shen said.Shen, from the eastern province of Jiangsu, had been trapped in Xianning after travelling to the city to see a house he had bought there.Stuck, inside or out Millions of people were caught in Hubei or stuck outside it as China imposed draconian measures to curb the spread of coronavirus, an approach that has proven effective, with reported new domestically transmitted cases falling to zero on most recent days, even as imported cases persist.On Thursday morning, about 30 people queued outside Xianning Central Hospital, all of them required to complete a form declaring whether they had recently come back from overseas or been in any high risk areas.Some in the queue said they were lining up for a nucleic test, but were unclear where they could get it done. A number were trying to get back to Guangdong province to work.”I saw on Douyin that a few hundred people came here yesterday, there were lots of people,” said He Ting, referring to the Chinese version of TikTok.She has been stuck in Xianning since Lunar New Year in January and was trying to get back to her job in the southwestern city of Chengdu, in Sichuan province, and was also unable to get the test at the hospital “I’m trying to figure out another way,” she said.At the Xianning Yongan Health Service Centre, a community health centre, more than a hundred people milled in and outside its gates. A long queue snaked with people clutching paper slips with numbers on them. Some said they were told that results would take a day or two.”I came here to queue but they told me I needed to register and then wait for a call on when it’s my turn,” said a man as he got on his electric scooter to leave.”I need to get back to my job in Dongguan. But now I don’t know when I can leave.”
Image Courtesy: TUIUK-based Marella Cruises has launched its newest cruise ship, Marella Explorer, following the vessel’s refurbishment process. The launching ceremony was held in Palma, Majorca, on May 17.Speaking on the occasion, Chris Hackney, Managing Director of Marella Cruises, said: “The launch of Marella Explorer marks an exciting time for us as she is the first ship to officially launch under the Marella Cruises name.”The 76,998-ton Marella Explorer, previously known as Mein Schiff 1, underwent a four-week refurbishment in Cadiz, Spain.At 265.5 meters long and 32.2 meters wide, Marella Explorer is the biggest ship welcomed so far into the Marella Cruises fleet. The 1,924 capacity ship (double occupancy) boasts 962 cabins and spans 13 decks.The cruise vessel set sail on its maiden customer voyage on May 19 to visit a variety of ports in the Mediterranean such as Villefranche, Barcelona and Naples.Marella Cruises, part of TUI UK and Ireland and TUI Group/World of TUI, is the third largest cruise line in the UK. Following the recent addition, its fleet now comprises six ships — Marella Explorer, Marella Discovery, Marella Discovery 2, Marella Dream, Marella Celebration, and Marella Spirit.
Oprah Winfrey is to hold a special auction to raise funds for the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy Foundation College Fund.Offering antiques, contemporary furnishings, and fine art from Ms. Winfrey’s residences in Indiana, Hawaii, Chicago, and Santa Barbara, as well as items from the “La Quinta” estate and from various properties of Bob Greene. Proceeds from the sale of all lots belonging to Oprah Winfrey will benefit the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy Foundation College Fund. The fund is dedicated to helping graduates of The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls — South Africa attend colleges and universities around the world.Among the auction lots are items from the film The Color Purple, as well as electric bikes, dolls, furniture and much more.The Auction takes place on Saturday, November 2nd, 10AM Pacific Time at the Santa Barbara Polo and Racquet Club, 3300 Via Real, Carpinteria, CA 93013For more information call 978-522-5522, or click here.