Hampton Roads Planning District CommissionHRPDCVA


Water Access Planning

Kayaks on a dock waiting to be launched.

Providing public access to water has long been a priority for local, state, and federal government because of the multiple benefits these sites provide. The ability of residents and tourists to access the water is important for overall quality of life, the regional economy, and protecting natural resources.

The HRPDC developed the Regional Strategic Plan for Public Access to Waterways, the first regional plan addressing public access in Hampton Roads. The plan evaluates the current state of public access in the region through analysis of the demand for water access, an inventory of existing public access locations, and a gap analysis of the existing network of sites to identify potential opportunities. The plan also includes a summary of potential funding opportunities to assist local governments with establishing new access sites. The plan was partially funded by an FY 2016 grant from the Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program (CZM).

Some of the findings in the report are:

  • Visiting the beach is the top water-related activity in Hampton Roads.
  • Hampton Roads has the highest number of registered boats and fishing license purchases in the state.
  • There were 192 public access sites identified in the inventory (as of December 2017).
  • 98% of residents live within a 30-minute drive of a public access site.
  • Identified gaps in the regional network include watersheds that lack any public access sites, watersheds with a higher demand for access that do not have enough sites, and rivers with large gaps between boat ramps or kayak launches limiting connectivity.

FishSwimPlay.com Logo

Another component of the plan includes public outreach in the form of an interactive map which gives visitors tools to search and explore public access sites in Hampton Roads. The map, which is available at FishSwimPlay.com, allows visitors to view details about each site, including the type of access available (boating/kayaking, fishing, swimming, or viewing sites). It also provides several methods to search or filter the sites by name, location, or type of access.

Screen Capture from FishSwimPlay.com; a map depicting water access points in Hampton Roads

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