Thursday, February 29, 2024

Could James City County’s new metal detecting ordinance change? Possibly

(WYDaily file/Courtesy of Pixabay)
(WYDaily file/Courtesy of Pixabay)

After just a few months, a new ordinance allowing metal detecting at Jamestown Beach Event Park is once again being discussed.

The James City County Board of Supervisors passed a new ordinance in January that allowed people to use metal detectors on Jamestown Beach Event Park. The county’s code previously did not allow for the use of metal detectors at county parks.

But after doing research and surveying residents, John Carnifax, director of parks and recreation, said James City County was a minority by not allowing metal detectors and many surrounding localities had some sort of regulations to allow them in county parks.

Soon after the ordinance was passed, residents expressed concern for how the metal detectors would impact the archaeological preservation in the area.

While the area is a man-made beach, many residents want to make sure the ordinance’s guidelines prevent the potential for activity in historical areas. Carnifax said some of that concern is because the ordinance is broad and allows the director of parks and recreation to choose locations for metal detecting at his discretion.

“Some are concerned the director would allow them to go to historical sites, but there were some that didn’t even want them at the beach,” he said. “So there are a variety of opinions.”

During a public input meeting in February, 32 of the 33 who attended completed a survey about their feelings regarding metal detecting at Jamestown Beach. Of those, 22 said they did not want to allow metal detecting within any county park while seven said they could support metal detecting in non-sensitive areas of other county parks when there is a formal review and approval process before a permit is issued.

Most of the individuals engaged with the topic are historians and archaeologists, Carnifax said. He added that the general population doesn’t seem to have an opinion on the ordinance.

Since the public input meeting, Carnifax said the ordinance hasn’t been changed and there haven’t been opportunities to discuss the ordinance with the board because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

In the meantime, the ordinance has allowed metal detecting on Jamestown Beach for the first time between the months of October and April. In the past few months, Carnifax said there haven’t been many individuals metal detecting on the beach. Usually there are fewer than five in one week and are finding metal objects in the sand.

But even with those low numbers, there is still concern from residents about how metal detecting will impact the local historical area. 

During a meeting of the James City County Historical Commission on Jan. 23, various members stated concern the ordinance violated the integrity of Jamestown Beach, which could still have archaeological value even after the various beach replenishments, according to meeting documents.

There was also a concern for the enforcement of the rules.

Alain Outlaw, a member of the commission, said he was sending a letter with his concerns and suggestions to the Board of Supervisors and to Carnifax.

Outlaw did not immediately respond for comment.

Carnifax said supervisors received a letter but he has not heard of any additional letters, nor received a letter. He is planning to discuss the topic with the Board of Supervisors in the next few months once more information is available.

The next meeting of the James City County Historical Commission will be Thursday at 7 p.m. Information to access the meeting via Zoom can be found online.


Alexa Doiron
Alexa Doiron
Alexa Doiron is a multimedia reporter for WYDaily. She graduated from Roanoke College and is currently working on a master’s degree in English at Virginia Commonwealth University. Alexa was born and raised in Williamsburg and enjoys writing stories about local flair. She began her career in journalism at the Warhill High School newspaper and, eight years later, still loves it. After working as a news editor in Blacksburg, Va., Alexa missed Williamsburg and decided to come back home. In her free time, she enjoys reading Jane Austen and playing with her puppy, Poe. Alexa can be reached at

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