The water remains an important asset

Published 4:21 am Tuesday, January 23, 2007

By Staff
Today’s Americans have a love affair with roads.
They will be the topic of two public hearings this week in Beaufort County. One deals with the U.S. 17 bypass around Washington, a $192 million project that will be the largest N.C. Department of Transportation effort in the state. The other deals with a bridge-replacement project in Chocowinity.
Roads, especially the four-lane versions, have become vital to the movement of people and products in our society. It didn’t used to be that way.
And Plymouth remembers.
The Roanoke River Maritime Museum just completed a new exhibition gallery to remind us of the past, our present and even our future.
That remains true to this day. The waterways fed us, protected us and gave us freedom of movement.
Doward Jones, another museum board member, credits Plymouth’s economic success in the early 1800s to a close relationship with the Roanoke River. The Great Dismal Swamp Canal, dug in the 18th century under the supervision of George Washington, allowed the port city to trade directly with Boston. From the Roanoke to the Alligator River, through the canal to the Chesapeake Bay, Plymouth shipped its fish, its crops and its lumber, according to Jones.
The link between the water and commerce may never be what it was 200 years ago, but it will also never go away. The water still plays a part in our lives.
Today’s visitors to Plymouth will likely arrive by car, but the water still attracts them. Some come to visit. More are coming to stay. It is well and good that Plymouth has the maritime museum to remind us of our past. In the newly completed exhibition gallery, educational displays made to look like hoisted sails narrate the history of the area and its relationship to the water. Maritime artifacts from the collection of Clarence Dail, a late co-founder of the museum, will be displayed in a glass case along one wall. Two aquariums house fish native to the river, and a children’s area features a hands-on sailing experience.
A collection of 15 boats showcases the history of the town’s commercial and recreational relationship with its rivers and lakes. The museum has also partnered with the Museum of Underwater Archaeology at East Carolina University, which excavates and restores maritime artifacts and will maintain a workshop in a neighboring building.
The N.C. Estuarium plays a similar role in Washington. It reminds us of our link with the water, our past and our future. Both projects play an important role today.