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Aquia Landing Named Best Restored Beach

STAFFORD COUNTY, Va. — Jamie Henshaw was looking for a place to exchange vows with her beau, Donnie Kelly, in front of family and friends.

A Stafford County resident, she thought about parks in Fredericksburg like the City Dock or Old Mill Park. But when she came to Aquia Landing on the Potomac River, things changed.

“I never even had thought about it before, I just thought it was some park in Stafford,” said Henshaw. “As soon as I came around the corner, it was wall-to-wall water.”

The county park is the site where the Potomac River meets Aquia Creek. Rich in history, the site is listed as a stop on the Underground Railroad that helped slaves escape to their freedom in the 19th century.

Today, Aquia Landing has been honored as one of the four best restored beaches in the U.S. by the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association. The association looked at how localities have worked to restore beaches to stop erosion from storms, improved natural wildlife habitats, and attract beachgoers back to their shores.

Here’s what the association had to say about Aquia Landing:

The park location and adjacent bluff is an important heritage area to the Patawomack Native American Tribe (famous as the tribe visited by Captain John Smith and home clan of Pocahontas). It also is one of the earliest beach projects in the United States to use near shore breakwaters and the “headland beach” approach to protect eroding lands and to create a recreational resource.

Most significantly, the Aquia Landing restored beach has served the citizens of Stafford County and Northern Virginia for 27 years while weathering hurricanes and storms, with minimal need for maintenance, while amply fulfilling its intended purpose. Aquia Landing exemplifies how a small, “sheltered-shores” restored beach can be an important and vital part of the community it serves.

“We chose Aquia because this project combined two important aspects of beach nourishment: They combined off shore breakwaters with beach nourishment to enhance and protect a barrier beach while at the same time providing an enhanced recreation beach that is heavily used,” said Lee Weishar, Ph.D., chair of the Best Restored Beach Committee.

North Topsail Beach, N.C., Cocoa Beach, Fla., and Iroquois Point Beach in Oahu, HI were also chosen as top restored beaches. Quince Altman just moved back to the east coast after living on Oahi Island and was visiting Aquia Landing on Saturday.

“I wouldn’t say its as nice as the beaches in Hawaii. The sand here is a bit dirty, it doesn’t have the water clarity that Hawaii has, and there is debris in the water,” he said.

Aquia Beach is located 15 miles east of Stafford Courthouse at the end of Brooke Road. In addition to its quarter mile of beach, the park offers picnic pavilions and recreational areas. Alcohol is not allowed inside the park.

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