A short article I wrote was published in our neighborhood newsletter this month. There are many things I appreciate about my neighborhood – easy water access with groomed walkways, historic homes, economic diversity and family friendliness. One highlight of Colonial Place and its sister neighborhood of Riverview is that they are quiet urban enclaves, free from most industrial noisemaking that permeates this city. I posted the article below and included the relevant graphic, which was unable to be published in the hard copy newsletter.*
Last summer I stood in the shade of tall pine trees, gently pushing my daughter in the swing, the heat nearly bearable in the enclave of quiet solitude. I glanced at the homes across the street, stately manors with seemingly more character than my own home. Neighborhood envy began to set in. Why didn’t we look for a house in this neighborhood? Before my thought was complete, an aircraft from Chambers Field at Norfolk Naval Base cruised over our heads. Oh, good thing we didn’t buy a house in this neighborhood!
All the neighborhoods in Norfolk hold a unique charm and allure. I don’t begrudge any resident of this city for choosing to live where they live. But I have truly come to appreciate Colonial Place for its historic character and quietness. When visiting friends around town I notice train horns loud enough to wake a napping baby. I’ve been told of ship horns that wake up some Ghent residents in the early hours of the morning. I only hear these sounds, off in the distance, during my waking hours. They are a comfort, signs of the presence of humanity, a bustling economy, progress, urban life – all things I find attractive and would expect in the city. But also things I don’t want to keep me up at night or to interrupt my spring nap on the grass in the backyard.
Trains, planes, automobiles, (and ships) – noisemakers absolutely essential to our coveted way of life. I also add semi-trucks to that list, which we don’t hear in our neighborhood but are staples in areas along local transit routes like Hampton Boulevard. Drawing upon my personal experience, anecdotal information from friends who hear these noises in their neighborhoods, and the Air Installations Compatible Zones Use Study for Norfolk Naval Base (2009), I overlaid noise zones from trucks, trains, ships and aircraft and confirmed my hypothesis – Colonial Place is one of the few enclaves of solitude in a bustling city.
Aside from noise, residents are also concerned about schools, crime and environmental degradation. We have the power to change and influence those things, as the recent announcement about the improved quality of the river has shown. But the waterways, railroad tracks and major boulevards of the city won’t move any time soon. Fortunately, the noise they facilitate isn’t something we have to worry about in our pacific peninsula.
- Orange – aircraft noise
- Blue – ship noise/horns
- Gray – train noise/horns
- Green – large truck noise, heavy traffic
* I do not claim this chart stands up to rigorous academic scrutiny. But I did enjoy doing the research, overlaying maps and coloring, while my kids worked right beside me on their own map projects.