This Thanksgiving break, I regretedly returned to my homeown of Virginia Beach, Virginia, to spend time with family and friends. Returning to a place less concerned with sustainable building and eco-friendly constructs was quite the change. Upon returning home, my sense of place in regards to my town was noticibly diminished. Switching from such a natural, beautiful area, which I had grown accustomed to, back to an environment I have grown all too tired of was unpleasant. Socially, I enjoy the laid back, ‘we’ll get to it later’, attitude of my hometown. I feel that this attitude I have grown up with my life has truly played a significant part in who I am today. However, that aspect of this place is one that is a double edged sword. The laid back, uncaring attitude that many of the residents have is one that also harms the natural areas nearby to the city. Street litter is an extremely big issue in my town due to this, and it affects my sense of place negatively. Even in areas that should be overwhelmingly natural and untouched, it is not difficult to find litter somehwere within 500 feet of yourself. This, in combination with the general disregard for the beauty surrounding the area, has diminished my sense of place compared to prior I was able to get away to Vermont
However, it is not all bad. There are three local regions in Virginia Beach which grasps what is left of the positive sense of place I have towards Virginia Beach. They are: Pungo, Sandbridge, and Back Bay Wildlife Refuge. All three of these areas share one characteristic in common–that is, that they are all almost all completely untouched, beautiful, expansive natural areas. The seemingly endless amount of wild outcroppings you can reach by driving for 30 minutes throughout the Pungo countryside taking random roads tethered me to reality over the past few years. To have a strong sense of place for any location, access to isolated natural areas is a large factor in that. Sandbridge and Back Bay are two areas where I can easily get a satisfying dose of wildlife a relatively short distance away (~10min). Back Bay is a park built with the local marsh and coastal ecosystems in mind. Various bits of architecture such as raised wood paths to avoid trampling grasses make me appraciate the location tenfold. It’s where I am able to find all sorts of critters to observe and explore my passion for bird photography. My sense of place towards Virginia Beach should be almost soley dedicated to these three areas–where the sun never ends and the waves don’t part. Given a few more years, Vermont may firmly take the position of where I truly can find my personal sense of place.