Madison County wants to move forward with a plan to reopen its gateway into Shenandoah National Park but now, a group near the proposed park entrance is pushing back.
Rapidan Camps is a family-owned cooperative campground based about half a mile from the locked gate on Rapidan Road. Group members say unlocking it will bring in economic and environmental issues that they will have to deal with.
The natural sounds and sights surrounding the proposed entrance into Shenandoah National Park is what Madison County officials want people to experience, but the road to reopen the gateway just got a little bit rockier.
Jim Hazzard, the secretary of the board of directors for Rapidan Camps said, "We are unequivocally opposed to the proposal to open the gate to basically unlimited access."
The proposal to unlock the barrier that separates Madison County from the Shenandoah National Park is rooted in a presidential promise. President Herbert Hoover often traveled up Rapidan Road to his retreat now known as Camp Hoover.
Madison County Administrator Ernie Hoch said, "In his speech, he talked about why it was so important to get away and have special places like that and it is a special place."
Hoover promised the people of Madison an entrance to the park in their county, but the gate on Rapidan Road has not been reopened since it closed in 1939. That's where the "A Promise to Keep" campaign, spearheaded by Hoch, got its name.
Rapidan Camps was established on private property in 1953 - right down the road from the locked gate. It rents out five cabins, which were built to accommodate cabinet officers who came up to visit Hoover.
The cooperative's representatives say opening the path on Rapidan Road to public access will lead to problems.
"There are a whole host of environmental and economic questions regarding the state's ability to pay for the road improvements that are required, the environmental questions that are going to be raised about the air and water quality from the traffic," Hazard stated.
He added, "Increased traffic of the type they're talking to is going to add tons of carbon dioxide and emissions to the air. It will increase erosion from a road that is already bad."
Hazzard also says the group's deed includes half the width of Rapidan Road, making property rights another issue in this debate.
"Our water line, which supplies the entire camp, runs under the road and our camp actually also owns a segment of the road, and yet we were not contacted at any point prior to the announcement of this resolution," he said.
Hoch says he understands the group's concerns, but intends to continue efforts to remove the roadblock. See below for Madison County's outline for the Rapidan Road entrance.
"It's still going to be traffic by their facility and it's going to be close to them and that will be an impact on them. But we really have to look at what's good for the county, for all of the citizens, the park, the environment," he stated.
Rapidan Camps says more research needs to be done for this to ever be a reality.
Hazzard said, "My advice would be do all your homework first, before you make an announcement like this that impacts not only private property holders but the state and the federal government and a very unique environmental heritage that we have here."
Both sides of this gateway battle say it comes down to a decision from the Shenandoah National Park. Hoch says he plans to meet with the park superintendent in the coming weeks.
Madison County defines what Rapidan Road Entrance would look like!
Delivered to Superintendent Northup Tuesday 5-7-13
We are pleased to present options that will provide access to Shenandoah National Park via Rapidan Road from Madison County. This outline establishes a framework in which we begin to discuss what steps are necessary to make this long overdue promise a reality.
The overall goal is to provide and preserve this historic entrance that 84 years ago our 31st President and Madison County used to make Shenandoah National Park a reality.
Madison, a county rich in rural and agriculture history, wishes to work with the Park Service to partner in this important project. We propose to establish an appropriate low impact entrance that will preserve this look back in time for future generations to visit and learn about our mutual history. This proposal will re-establish a road that has been in continual use for hundreds of years and will not require that a single tree be cut down.
Madison County has played an important role in the development of the Park. A County who's entire western boundary of 33,000 acres (50 square miles & 20% of the County) was donated, sold and in many cases taken from Madison residents.
Our goal is to claim Madison's long overdue place in the history of the Park. Rapidan Road was the centerpiece of the Park's creation and yet it was closed to the very people that worked to create it. Madison had been isolated from the Park's economic value to the region in spite of contributing Big Meadows, The Byrd Museum, Wayside on Skyline Drive, 16 miles of Skyline Drive, Old Rag, White Oak Falls, Dark Hollow Falls, miles of the Appalachian Trail, hundreds of miles of trails and much more that are all "Madison".
But, as the only county without an entrance, the promise of benefit to the county for our contributions has never been realized. We believe this entrance will benefit Madison, the Park, and all visitors to the Park for generations to come.
Plan highlights include:
Seasonal Use (subject to weather closures)
Daylight hours only
Access by reservation only with volume limits
Park entrance fees paid at Park rates (automated gate, no additional employees)
The road leading to the gate is a State issue that we will work with the State to improve
The road inside the park is already improved with existing Park tour vans utilizing if daily
Our plan as outlined could generate over $680,000 per year, of which 80% the Park keeps for park maintenance.
Click here for Proposed Rapidan Road Entrance Guidelines.
Click here for Proposed Rapidan Road Traffic-Admissions.
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