EASTVILLE -- Officials believe Savage Neck would be an ideal location for the Eastern Shore's first state park, but one of the owners of the property says she intends to keep it.
"I am not opposed to a state park, I just don't think they have the right to take land that my family has cherished for more than 350 years," said Nancy Garrett. "I intend to die here and pass this place on to my children and their children."
Gary Waugh, spokesman for the Virginia Division of Parks and Recreation, says the site is "a very special place that would be a unique addition to our network of state parks."
"It has a beautiful beach on the Chesapeake Bay, good access by land and water and a variety of wildlife habitats including dunes and marshes."
The division has asked for $5 million to acquire the site, the only new park in the agency's $60 million budget request for 1988-89.
The idea of a state park on the Eastern Shore has been around for at least two years, Del. Robert S. Bloxom (R-Accomack) said.
"Right now the only public beach in the area is at the Assateague Island National Seashore, and that is . . . near the Maryland line," he said. " . . . The land between Kiptopeke and Cape Charles is fast being lost to development. If we don't do something quickly, the opportunity may disappear."
J.T. Holland, chairman of the Northampton County Board of Supervisors, said the park would provide recreation and stimulate the economy.
A recreational master plan for the Eastern Shore prepared this year by local, state and federal officials and conservationists lists the park as its highest priority. Four sites were studied, and the first choice was Savage Neck, a small peninsula between the bay and Cherrystone Inlet.
A conceptual drawing of the park shows a swimming beach on the northern end of the peninsula, with a nature trail to the south. On the creek side, a cultural center would showcase Eastern Shore ways of life. Visitors could arrive by car or by boat for an overnight stay in cabins or campsites, and could purchase seafood from local watermen at a commercial pier.
The park could be open within a year and could attract 200,000 visitors annually, Waugh said.
"Unfortunately, they made all those plans before they consulted the landowners," Garrett said.
Savage Neck is divided into two farms. Orchard Point, about 150 acres on the southern tip, is owned by real estate agent John Norling. He declined to comment but has said he is willing to sell.
Cherry Grove, about 340 acres, is owned by four cousins, two of whom say they are willing to sell. But the other two -- Garrett and John W. Wescoat -- object to any sale.
"I don't see how they are going to get it without resorting to condemnation," Wescoat said. "The property was my father's and his father's before him. Our family traces ownership back to 1619."
Garrett suggested that Savage Neck is not suited for use as a park. The two-lane access road is narrow and crooked, she said, and improvements would require the cooperation of more landowners and a larger-than-anticipated investment.
But Bloxom said the Savage Neck park is a worthwhile project.
"Now it is up to the governor and the General Assembly to provide the funding," he said. "We would prefer to deal with willing sellers, but I believe this park is definitely in the public interest."