Madison Hopes to Open Entrance to Shenandoah After 74 Years
Tuesday, Madison County is pushing a plan to unlock its gate into Shenandoah National Park. The county is the only one bordering the park without an open road for drivers to reach the park's natural scenery and Skyline Drive.
There is a road leading into Shenandoah National Park, but drivers can only go so far before they hit a roadblock that separates the county from the park, rooted in a presidential promise to Madison.
"The only thing that's separating Madison County and Big Meadows is a gate," said Ernie Hoch, county administrator.
Unlocking this post could open Madison County's gateway to national park tourism. "It's a gem. We recognize how important it is to Madison, to Virginia, to the United States and the world," said Hoch.
President Herbert Hoover built his Washington retreat nine miles from Criglersville, up Rapidan Road. "It was a place where he recognized he needed some time to clear his head, make important decisions. He really became part of this community for many years," said Hoch.
The president promised the people of Madison an entrance to the 33,000 acres of national parkland in their county, but that never happened, and the gate closed on Rapidan Road in 1939.
"It's a promise that was made by the President of the United States almost 74 years ago. And it's a promise that hasn't been kept, up until now," said Hoch.
Madison supervisors are unanimously supporting plans to re-open the gate. Although the road is rocky and pockmarked in spots, the county says it won't take many improvements. "The road is already there. Trees don't need to be taken down or new roads built into the mountains," said Hoch.
"It doesn't have to be a perfect road. We're in Madison, a little adventure makes it exciting," said Tracey Gardner, Madison Chamber of Commerce tourism coordinator.
Gardner believes opening the gate will unlock new opportunities to promote Madison as a destination.
"I have a great love for the park, and I think it would be wonderful, not only for our citizens, but for tourists coming in," said Gardner.
"This road will work. This road can work. A presidential promise is nothing to take lightly," said Hoch.
Now that supervisors have supported a resolution to open Madison's entrance to the park, the county will form a committee to come up with a plan to fulfill President Hoover's promise.
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