A 'crown jewel'

April 30, 2014

By BEN R. WILLIAMS - Bulletin Staff Writer 

Philpott Marina is a shining example of teamwork and collaboration, according to officials who spoke Tuesday at the marina’s grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony. 

Speakers included Henry County Parks and Recreation Director Roger Adams; Henry County Board of Supervisors Chairman H.G. Vaughn; Henry County Administrator Tim Hall; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Operations Project Manager Craig “Rocky” Rockwell; and Army Corps of Engineers Wilmington District Commander Col. Steven Baker.

Vaughn told the crowd that at the Feb. 23 open house at the marina, “a man and woman stopped at the top of the gangway. The woman turned to a county staff person, and with a smile on her face and excitement in her voice, asked, ‘Will you take our picture? This is one of the nicest things we’ve ever seen in Henry County.’ The county staffer responded and snapped a picture of that couple with this pristine new facility behind them and tremendous possibilities ahead of them. The moment captured not just two happy visitors; it captured two folks who were proud of where they were.” 

Although the marina has been open for only a few weeks, Vaughn said, it already has proven to be a source of community pride and a tourist destination. During prom season, he said, social media sites were filled with prom photos taken at the marina, linked with the hashtag “#philpottmarina.”

The marina, he said, also has become a showcase for the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp. (EDC), which shows the site to prospective clients looking to locate in the area. 

“Henry County has had its share of adversity over the years,” Vaughn said, “but we are resilient, we are determined and we are proud of what we have been able to accomplish. ... The Philpott Marina is another quality-of-life amenity that makes Henry County a great place to live, work, learn and raise a family.”

Baker said there are five lakes and dams under his jurisdiction with the Corps of Engineers. 

“I’m not supposed to have a favorite, because that would be wrong,” Baker said. “But I’ll tell you — if you don’t tell anybody — this is my favorite.”

Baker described Philpott Marina as one of Henry County’s “crown jewels.” 

“This is a beautiful example of what can happen when we think outside the box and we partner to make something beautiful happen,” Baker said. “You made it happen, and we were happy and proud to be a part of the partnership that made it happen.”

Since the marina had its soft opening in February, Adams said, all 40 of the boat slips at the marina’s dock have been rented, and about a dozen people have joined a waiting list to rent slips should they become available. 

Also, Adams said, the marina store has seen many customers, and new items are being added on a weekly basis. On Friday, he said, a selection of fishing supplies will be added.

Hall and Rockwell spoke of two important figures who helped create the marina: the late Jeff Turton, who was project engineer for the county Public Service Authority, and the late county administrator Benny Summerlin. 

“This was Jeff’s project,” Hall said. “It was his. And he managed it like it was his. If it was going to cost a nickel and Jeff could get it to 3 cents, Jeff got it to 3 cents. This was his baby.”

Turton was diagnosed with cancer in November and died March 10, Hall said. 

“I’m glad we’re here today. ... This is a moment to celebrate. But it’s also a moment of sadness for those of us on the staff who really wish Jeff were here. It’s kind of unfair that he’s not. But if you believe like I believe — and I know Jeff believed — he is here, and he’s hoping that none of y’all mess up any of this stuff,” Hall said, prompting laughter from the audience.

Rockwell said that from the beginning of the marina project, he brainstormed frequently with Summerlin, who died Aug. 15, 2012. 

“Benny and I shared a vision of a marina built and operated by the public, for the public,” Rockwell said, “just big enough to meet the needs of the lake’s boaters, and not so large as to overdevelop this beautiful and highly cherished lake. On several occasions, Benny and I shared personal thoughts about public service. Benny had a public service heart. We shared how we both saw this marina as our swan song, one last gift to the community before we both retired from public service. This marina will help us remember many good things he did for our community.”

Both Turton and Summerlin were honored with moments of silence at the event. 

Vaughn said that during the earliest stages of the marina’s development, the project was perhaps too large, and it was scaled back appropriately. The desire, he said, was to build a marina large enough to serve the lake’s visitors but not so large as to overdevelop it.

“I think everybody envisions what has happened at Smith Mountain (Lake),” Vaughn said. “Smith Mountain’s a beautiful lake, (it has) beautiful homes, but the traffic and congestion are just terrible during the summertime, and they did not want to see that happen at this lake. I have to agree with them 100 percent. To keep the pristine nature of the lake ... we did the right scale, and we did it up first class.” 

Vaughn said Philpott has long been a major part of his life. He has been an avid bass fisherman for 28 years, he said, and hopes to fish on Philpott Lake for many years to come.

“I think people are going to enjoy the marina,” he said. “There are going to be a lot of wonderful memories made up here.” 

The marina cost $1,354,109. That included $785,971 from the county; $418,138 from the Harvest Foundation and $150,000 from the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp. (EDC). The county’s funds include $110,971 that was saved in a water line project at Commonwealth Crossing Business Centre, Deputy County Administrator Dale Wagoner has said. 


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