To the Editor:
What does "Godzilla," the latest Hollywood blockbuster movie, have in common with the town of West Point? Both involve a huge green monster rising from the sea and destroying their respective towns. We could name our movie, "The Phragmites that Destroyed West Point."
Once known for its scenic views of its three rivers, West Point has slowly but surely become engulfed by this non-native, invasive killer of marshlands and view sheds rising from the water. The infestation is all over town, but one of the saddest invasions is on Lee Street between Third and Fourth streets. Where one could drive or walk north on Lee enjoying beautiful views of the marsh leading out to the Mattaponi River and the bridge to King and Queen County, now there is nothing to see except a 9-foot wall of ugly green vegetation. The river views were once an attraction and made the town unique and picturesque. Most of these views have already been destroyed by this green monster. Soon, all of the views will be gone.
In addition to destroying scenic views, phragmites infestation also devastates a healthy marsh ecosystem, killing native wetland grasses and the fish and wildlife that are dependent upon them for their survival. Non-native phragmites were introduced to the East Coast by the early 1800s. It forms dense monocultures and is capable of dominating wetlands within a few years. This is evident in West Point where only 10 years ago, one would have had to look carefully to find a phragmites infestation.
Several years ago, the Town Council approved an experimental phragmites control program between Third and Fourth streets on the Kirby Street side of town. It was successful in abating the growth of the weed in the marsh. For some reason unknown to me — lack of will or lack of resources? — the council never followed up on the experiment and the phragmites have returned to destroy that healthy and beneficial marsh.
Not long ago, a former mayor expressed the view that if we did not work soon to destroy the then-newly started phragmites infestation, the town would be inundated by this menace in a short span. He was absolutely correct. I wish we had listened. Maybe it's not too late if we take action now.
William P. Cawley