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Virginia CZM Program 2005 Coastal Grant Project Description and Final Summary

Project Task:

FY2005 Task 9.20


Department of Game & Inland Fisheries

Project Title:

Seaside Ecotourism Site Improvement: Willis Wharf

Project Description as Proposed:

This project has two main objectives, to develop an observation platform overlooking the tidal wetlands adjacent to the Willis Wharf marina and to develop a kiosk and interpretive displays explaining the barrier island-lagoon ecosystem and the wildlife that exist there. Construction will occur on County-owned property at the marina. These two projects address the Seaside Heritage Program goals of developing ecotourism infrastructure and improved enforcement capabilities through public education efforts. With the increasing interest in outdoor recreation and wildlife viewing, these projects come at a time when the Eastern Shore experiencing positive, increasing economic impacts from wildlife watchers. This carries with it the potential for long-term adverse effects from increased numbers of visitors, making appropriate public education about ways to protect resources critical. This project provides opportunities to serve the public’s interest in wildlife viewing, while also educating them about the impacts to the important and unique natural resources of the Seaside.

This project will build a wildlife viewing platform and kiosk at Willis Wharf, on the northeast corner of Northampton County. The viewing platform would be an 8-12 foot high platform with a handicap accessible ramp. The surface would be approximately 10 feet wide by 25 feet long with railing. Parts of the observation deck may be covered for shade or inclement weather viewing. This observation platform would provide an excellent venue for watching shorebirds feeding on the mudflats and aquatic vegetation around the Willis Wharf marina. This area has consistently provided feeding and resting habitat for a variety of unique shorebirds such as, godwits, skimmers, and a variety of sandpipers. Interpretive signage about mudflats, tidal wetlands, barrier islands and the various wildlife species of the seaside would be included on the observation platform as well as at the kiosk located nearby. The kiosk would be a large, roofed structured that would provide information on the local area and the Seaside Heritage Program, the Seaside Water Trail, and the Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail and other important resources for visitors. Willis Wharf is a stop on both the Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail and the Seaside Water Trail and these improvements will enhance both of these existing projects. The information kiosk and signage will be designed in conformity with those constructed under Seaside Heritage Program Task 11.10 of FY 2004.

Federal Funding:


Project Contact:

Jeffery Trollinger, 804.376.8747;

Project Status:

Grant Closed

Final Product Received:

Final report (with images of Willis Wharf Observation Platform) PDF

Project Summary Provided by Grantee:

This project developed an observation platform overlooking the tidal wetlands adjacent to the Willis Wharf Marina in Northampton County, VA.  The viewing platform is 4 feet high with a handicap accessible ramp. The surface is 24 feet wide by 64 feet long with railings.  The decking surface was constructed with recycled plastic lumber to increase the durability of the platform and reduce maintenance.  The property is owned by the County of Northampton and is open to the public.  This will provide opportunities to view a variety of shorebirds and improve the ecotourism infrastructure of the area.  This project complements FY 2003 Task 12.11, which constructed a floating dock at Willis Wharf Marina, for use by paddlers using the Seaside Water Trail.  In addition Willis Wharf is a site on the Virginia Birding & Wildlife Trail.  This wildlife viewing platform acts to enhance all aspects of this site's sustainable ecotourism infrastructure. The platform overlooks extensive mudflats and wetlands of the Parting Creek.  This area has consistently provided feeding and resting habitat for a variety of unique shorebirds such as: marbled godwits, willet, whimbrel, black skimmers, and a variety of sandpipers, terns and long-legged waders. 

In consultation with a variety of partners (Northampton County, Willis Wharf Village Committee, Virginia CZM and Northampton-Accomack PDC), initial design parameters were defined.  These included accessibility, and synthesizing the structure with the surrounding working waterfront. With guidance from DGIF Watchable Wildlife Staff, DGIF Capital Programs staff created detailed plans for the platform.  These plans were forwarded to all partners for review and comment.  The plans were modified to incorporate changes agreed upon by the project partners.  The revised plans were approved by the Northampton County Board of Supervisors.  Northampton County put the project to public bid and received three bids in Dec. 2007.  The construction contract was awarded to Eastern Shore Homecrafters.  DGIF entered into a cooperative agreement that delineates the responsibilities of the primary partners (DGIF and Northampton County) regarding construction and maintenance of the viewing platform.  These documents were approved by the Northampton County Board of Supervisors at their October meeting.  Signage acknowledging the contributions of NOAA, CZM and all other partners has been installed on site.  A mounted set of 10x Binoculars provided by the Accomack-Northampton PDC through FY 2004 CZM Grant, Task 11.1, has been installed in the northeastern corner of the deck.  This non-coin operated set of optics will provide additional viewing access for casual wildlife watchers.

Disclaimer: This project summary provides the federal dollars initially awarded to the grantee. Due to underexpenditure or reprogramming of grant funds, this figure may change. For more information on the allocation of coastal grant funds, please contact Laura McKay, Virginia Coastal Program Manager, at 804.698.4323 or email:

A more detailed Scope of Work for this project is available. Please direct your request for a copy to

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Virginia Department of
Environmental Quality
P.O. Box 1105
Richmond, VA 23218
(804) 698-4000

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