New ADA trail at Big Gem opens to public

SHEN_Big Gem ADA trail_05_06_23
A group of citizens and local officials take a hike along the new quarter-mile ADA trail in Big Gem Park on May 6.

By Randy Arrington

SHENANDOAH, May 6 — The Town of Shenandoah has taken a big “step” toward improving Big Gem Park, offering a unique outdoor experience, and adding a handicap accessible trail to its growing recreation offerings.

“We have a walking trail down by the river,” Councilman Russ Comer said on Saturday morning. “This one here, to me, is even better.”

Pettit Paving recently completed the new quarter-mile of grading, gravel and asphalt that makes up Big Gem Park’s new ADA trail through the serene 68-acre town park. Town and county officials gathered with local residents on Saturday to cut the ribbon on the new trail and take a walk through the woodland canopy.

“We’ve waited a long time,” said Councilman Comer, who also serves on the Town’s Recreation Committee. “This is probably the best thing to happen to Big Gem Park so far… and this was only possible through a grant … This is a real asset for the Town of Shenandoah.”

In total the Town received a $43,000 grant from the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. The bid from Pettit Paving came in at $37,190 for a path that was six feet wide with gravel and a four-foot-wide asphalt trail in the center.

“It’s a good place to take a walk,” Comer said.

The quarter-mile asphalt trail loops at the end and has two benches along the way. Two more benches will be added soon, according to Town Manager Juanita Roudabush, along with additional signage.

“We can’t thank DCR enough for the funding to be able to do it,” Town Manager Junaita Roudabush said on Saturday morning. “This is a huge asset to this park and our town for [Americans with Disabilities Act] accountability, which we try to incorporate in our parks…like our ADA playground equipment at Wigwam Village.”

At Big Gem, ADA parking has been created next to the restrooms there, as well as a pathway from the parking area to the picnic shelter.

From most of the 19th century into the early portion of the 20th century, Big Gem was the site of an iron smelting furnace, which sat where the pond now resides. A railroad used to run through the property from where the ore was mined to the furnace. The 68-acre Big Gem Park was first laid out more than two decades ago. The Clinton Lucas Trail is among several that weave throughout the park.

“For the Town of Shenandoah, this is a big step,” Comer said on Saturday. “I always think of what Luray has done with the greenway…and it’s wonderful…but this offers a different environment. This one is through woodland.”

Future plans for the 68-acre park include a new ballpark for the Shenandoah Indians.

“This really is a nice place for a park,” Comer said. “This really is a pot of gold if we are to develop it all…if we can get an entrance off [Route] 340 to access it…that’s the key to doing it.”

For more information about activities and events in the Town of Shenandoah,




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