As many of you know the Colonial Pipeline runs through Busch Gardens Williamsburg. For those who are unfamiliar with its purpose, according to the Colonial Pipeline Company’s website:

We safely and reliably transport refined petroleum products such as gasoline, diesel fuel, jet fuel, home heating oil and fuels for the U.S. military. Our pipeline system consists of more than 5,500 miles of underground pipe and above ground storage tanks and pump stations.

This maps shows the extent of the pipeline across 13 states.

So, why are we at BGWFans suddenly so interested in a fuel line that has crossed the park for years? This week we were sent pictures of on-going clearcutting at Busch Gardens Williamsburg that runs along the utility’s path from Festa Italia to the Wild Reserve. You can see the track here:

As the red area in the map above shows, a line traversing the center of the park has been entirely cleared of greenery. The pictures we have seen show not only comprehensive clearing of trees and shrubs, but also new sight lines throughout the park. Currently, from San Marco you can clearly view Loch Ness Monster over in Heatherdowns. Standing in the Wild Reserve, you can see the backside of Killarney through the remaining treeline. Views from Heatherdowns have naturally been greatly affected as well.

Before anyone becomes too concerned, we have been told that the landscaping department is already hard at work to fill the area where the trees used to be. We don’t know how the area will look when they are done, but given how lovely their gardens were last year—as exemplified by Matthew’s last shrubbery rotation update from 2015—we have high hopes for their efforts this time.

So, why have a swath of trees been removed from our beautiful park? The simple fact is that Busch Gardens Williamsburg has no choice, because it is a safety issue. The right-of-way around the pipeline is required be cleared to enable surveillance from the air:

Aerial inspection of the easements, however, can succeed only if the surface of the rights of way can be observed from the air. Trees and large shrubs, which obstruct the pilot’s vision, can prevent effective inspection of the rights of way. Tree roots also pose a danger to the coatings that protect pipelines from corrosion, and trees can hinder repair crew access to the pipelines. For these reasons, it is essential that Colonial regularly clear its rights of way corridors.

The Colonial Pipeline Company

These requirements have been imposed by the government for to ensure the infrastructure doesn’t threaten the areas around the easement. According to the Colonial Pipeline Company:

The safe operation of product pipelines is regulated by several federal and state agencies. Standards for safe operation are set by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Product pipelines also operate under rules and guidelines set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Coast Guard Regulations on Oil Spills, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Permit Program Regulations.

We are keeping track of the progress of the clearing and replanting along the Colonial Pipeline through Busch Gardens Williamsburg, so we will all know what to expect, when the park opens to pass members on March 19th. Hopefully, this safety requirement won’t do too much harm to the appearance of “the world’s most beautiful theme park.”

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