By Randy Arrington
ALMA, Oct. 22 — On Friday, Page County officials gathered along the Shenandoah River just south of Stanley to celebrate the completion of the Alma Boat Landing River Park project. The clean-up and improvements at the site were made possible through a $54,000 grant from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.
The popular boat landing along the South Fork received a complete makeover — including a larger parking area, picnic area, new ramp, and road improvements (at the landing) — to create an overall cleaner and more inviting site. The picnic area sits apart from the parking area and boat landing, and includes five picnic tables and benches sitting on concrete slabs alongside mounted grills.
“I didn’t expect to see such a facility,” Page County Board of Supervisors Chairman Morgan Phenix said at Tuesday’s event. “It’s a really great venue to enjoy this part of the county.”
The picnic area was previously a thicket, with a small trail along the riverbank. Much of the edges of the parking area were also overgrown, and often a popular site for illegal dumping. The ramp had eroded over time and was in great need of repair or replacement, and the road leading to it was often washed out with deep ruts.
“It’s really amazing how professional a job they have done,” Phenix said. “It really looks different.”
The funding of the VDGIF grant was supported by the DuPont settlement, which sets among its criteria “land protection, property acquisition, and recreational and wildlife enhancements – riparian habitat along the South River or South Fork Shenandoah River.”
The Page County Tree Board plans to plant about 55 trees in the county by this winter through a $3,000 grant from the Virginia Department of Forestry. The bulk of those trees will be planted at the new river park in Alma and Luray High School. Others will be planted at Page County High School and the county’s two middle schools.
The Alma Boat Landing River Park has been in the works for several years, but was delayed by the grant process and then the complications of the COVID-19 pandemic. The county initially applied for more money in the VDGIF grant to cover the costs of constructing a pavilion and restrooms. However, the state agency approved the lesser amount and crossed those items off the list.
Page County plans to apply for additional grants in the future to make more improvements at the site in phases — such as walking trails, a pavilion, restrooms, camping sites and potentially a canoe/tube rental service.
The grant was awarded over a year ago, but the pandemic brought the project’s progress to a halt. One of the first job’s of then-newly hired Economic Development and Tourism Director Nina Fox was to get the boat landing project moving. From late April to early July, the majority of the work was completed, although the signage was on back order and only installed last week. Landfill staff poured the concrete slabs and installed the picnic tables and grills. Mulch was brought in from “green waste” at the Battle Creek Landfill to use along the trails, and large rocks were brought out to line the parking lot and road. The project also involved the Recreation Department in the layout of the park and other county staff in making it all come together.
“It really was the result of teamwork and really a labor of love for those involved in it,” County Administrator Amity Moiler said. “They are all so proud of how it turned out and hope the public will use it.”
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