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Controversy surrounds dam removal in Lexington

Removal process now handed over to VDGIF

LEXINGTON, Va – The decision to demolish a local landmark is moving forward. The city of Lexington is handing over the Jordan's Point Dam to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, and that's not sitting well with some in the community.

The future of Jordan's Point Dam comes down to tradition versus practicality. Lexington Mayor Frank Friedman says the Department of Conservation and Recreation found the bridge to be unsafe. 

"It's not in good condition. It either needs to be improved or removed," Friedman said.


Friedman said the decision to remove the structure, which is more than 100 years old, is about safety for the public and the responsibility that puts on the city.

"It's about liability. And right now the dam is a liability, should it fail or destruction that it could cause,” Friedman said.


          
The conversation surrounding the structure and what to do with it started after a drowning near the then-forgotten dam.

"If we own something, we need to be mindful of maintaining it,” Friedman said. “The dam has had no maintenance on it. Until the unfortunate drowning in 2007, no one even knew who owned the dam."

It was later discovered the city owns the dam. Friedman said he personally feels it is in the city's best interest to have it removed. 

Improvement could cost upwards of three million dollars.Freidman says the VDGIF proposed to remove it for less than $200,000 dollars, which is a fraction of that cost and is the wiser choice.

But, for Virginia Military Institute cadets who use the waterway as a training ground, the loss is substantial. Col. Stewart MacInnis said it's a tradition that is invaluable.

"All cadets go through these water obstacles and it's an important part of our training process. So we are concerned that may change." MacInnis said.
     
He said the council's decision based on cost effectiveness wasn't balanced by the benefit the area provides to the community. He said every cadet undergoes necessary training in that area.

"The flat water is an important community asset to Lexington. VMI uses it, but also it's a draw for tourism and local residents use it as a recreational area,” MacInnis said.

The process still requires more state permits, especially since the landmark has a historical significance to the community.
     
If the permitting goes as planned, removal is expected to happen in October.
 


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