Valley Recreation Big, Could Be Bigger

Virginia Releases Blueprint To Expand Opportunities For Tourism, Land Conservation

Posted: April 12, 2014

Mountain bikers flock to Massanutten Resort’s western slope trails Friday for a Shenandoah Bicycle Co. event. The Harrisonburg company is but one of many enterprises in the Shenandoah Valley benefitting from the region’s abundant outdoor recreation opportunities. The latest Virginia Outdoors Plan, updated every five years by the Department of Conservation and Recreation, spells out numerous ways to enhance outdoor recreation — already worth $8 billion a year to the state’s economy. (Photos by Nikki Fox)
Area mountain bikers ride on Massanutten Resort’s western slope trails on Friday afternoon in an event hosted by Shenandoah Bicycle Co., a demo day where people can test-ride bikes before purchasing.
Thomas Jenkins, co-owner of the Shenandoah Bicycle Co. in Harrisonburg, customizes a bicycle during a bike event in Massanutten Resort on Friday.

HARRISONBURG — A newly revised official state guide recommends several projects to protect and enhance natural resources and outdoor recreational assets in the central Valley, with everything from hiking to biking and fishing to boating.

The theme of the new Virginia Outdoors Plan, updated every five years by the Department of Conservation and Recreation, is “Virginia is for Outdoor Lovers,” and recommendations focus heavily on expanding tourism opportunities and the economy through outdoor recreation and land conservation.

One highlight is a proposal to implement the remaining phases of the Linville Creek Greenway plan in Broadway. The greenway, located along Linville Creek in Rockingham County, offers fishing and boating opportunities and provides a pedestrian link to commercial, residential and public places.

The Linville Creek Greenway is considered a “featured project,” meaning that it has been recognized as worthwhile for the region, although no funding is guaranteed for it, said Gary Waugh, public relations manager with DCR.

Lynn Cameron, an avid hiker who lives near Grottoes, said greenways can be more beneficial to the community because they are generally closer to home, making them available to a wider range of participants.

Cameron, who is a member of the Southern Shenandoah Valley chapter of the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club, pointed out many hikes in the Shenandoah National Park are eight to 10 miles, which requires a big commitment.

“If you go to hike in the national park or national forest, you are pretty much spending the whole day. But if you have a greenway in your community, you can hike there in the evening or in the afternoon or in the morning,” she said.

The document also calls on regional and local organizations to provide additional water access on the South Fork of the Shenandoah River, and develop and implement a trail and water path, known as a “blueway,” to connect Broadway, Timberville and New Market along the North Fork.

Among other projects cited in the plan are the creation of trails connecting George Washington and Jefferson National forests, Shenandoah National Park and the Appalachian Trail to their neighboring communities, including Elkton, Grottoes, Waynesboro and Buena Vista.

The plan also says Shenandoah National Park should explore the use of the historic road through Brown’s Gap as a bicycle-pedestrian trail to link the Shenandoah Valley with the Rivanna River Valley. And, it says, local and regional agencies should continue development, adoption and implementation of a bicycle plan for Harrisonburg, Staunton, Rockingham County and other localities.

Thomas Jenkins, co-owner of Shenandoah Bicycle Co. in Harrisonburg and former president of Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition, said people are always looking for new places to go for a ride.

“The George Washington and Jefferson National forests are huge,” he said, “and there are some trails there, but there could be many more trail opportunities. There is so much open land space that could be recreational opportunities.”

Jenkins added trails also be could expand along smaller rivers and streams in “beautiful areas” in the Shenandoah Valley for hiking, fishing and equestrian purposes.

“I firmly believe that when done right, there’s a great payback economically,” he said. “The tourism draw is amazing.”

Outdoor recreationists spend more than $8 billion within the state annually, making recreation a highly significant factor in attracting travelers to the commonwealth, according to a 2011 study by Aaron Paul of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

This is the 10th plan to be produced since the first comprehensive study of Virginia’s outdoor recreation facilities and resources was published in 1965.

It’s the first plan, however, to be completely paperless, and its publication marks the debut of a user-friendly online tool for mapping outdoor recreation resources and conserved lands. The plan can be viewed at www.dcr.virginia.gov/vop.

Contact Jonathon Shacat at 574-6286 or jshacat@dnronline.com



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