The driftwood portal at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Brock Environmental Center was a beautiful work of art and an iconic welcome to Pleasure House Point, a natural paradise in Virginia Beach. The wooden arch was a first stop for visitors from all over the community, country, and world as they set out to visit Pleasure House Point to scout birds, go for a walk with their families and furry friends, and visit the Brock Center. Young visitors were delighted by the wooden and metal Bay critters hidden within the portal’s design, including horseshoe crabs, turtles, fish, and more.
Built out of local driftwood from the James River and designed by CBF Staff and design firm Gropen, Inc., the arch was a gathering space to introduce CBF’s Brock Environmental Center and its sustainable design. Not only did it set the scene for visitors, but it was the first teachable moment for students as they headed out on education programs led by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and Lynnhaven River NOW. Students would gather around the arch with educators to start their day of environmental education, discussing topics such as natural environmental filters and methods to reduce runoff into the Bay.
Shockingly, the portal was destroyed by fire in the early morning hours of Friday, Sept. 20. Fire and police investigators have yet to determine the cause of the fire. We are grateful to the Virginia Beach Fire Department for its fast response, which prevented the spread of the fire to the nearby maritime forest.
While we’re devastated by the loss of this memorable piece of Brock Center history, the outpouring of community support since the fire has been heartwarming. Because the portal was a popular photo stop, soon after the fire our social media feeds filled with dozens of shots of smiling families, friends, and pets under the arch (see gallery below). In the following days, locals spontaneously formed a makeshift tribute alongside the ashes, decorated with shells, driftwood, colorful stones, and positive messages.
We set out six years ago to create an inspiring piece of art rooted in the waters and marshes of Hampton Roads. After the fire, we realized the arch took on a life of its own, putting a smile on the face of countless visitors.
CBF will rebuild. We look forward to working with the community to create something just as iconic in its place.
Erica Park, CBF Brock Environmental Center Coordinator