BLUE BELL TRAIL IMPROVEMENT IS COMPLETE

By Friends President, Richard Fox

The Blue Bell Trail along the river just upstream of the Canoe Landing parking area has been upgraded. The trail has been rerouted a short distance up the hillside from the old trail, which closely followed the small stream coming off the river just above the Canoe Landing. The old trail regularly flooded during heavy rains and high river levels. The new trail will keep hikers high and dry! It’s amazing how much dirt and tree growth was moved while leaving the natural beauty of the area intact. The river bank is still accessible from the new trail, and the old trail now is blended into the wooded area.

Many thanks to Park Rangers Riese Painter and Travis Wyman, as well as the Youth Conservation Corps volunteers, for all their hard work. Come try out the new trail and enjoy one of everyone’s favorite scenic pathways in the Park!

Visitors Center Garden Rehab Off The Ground

Thanks to a new grant from the Garden Club of Virginia, the Park has embarked on a needed rehab of the native plant garden that welcomes visitors. The Park’s Friends group began work on the garden in 2011, shortly after the visitor’s center was opened. Over the years invasive plants have done as they will, additions were made somewhat haphazardly, and maintenance got put off to more pressing projects. By fall of 2018 it was obvious that a major overhaul would be beneficial to all.

Overgrown in 2018

The Garden Club of Warren County, pleased with the ongoing success of the Parks pollinator meadow project, suggested applying for a second grant from the Garden Club of Virginia to get the project moving. The application was filed and in January 2019 the project was approved. Work began almost immediately with pruning and weeding. In May path lighting was upgraded from often-not-working solar to low-voltage LED. In June the stepping stones (a nice natural pathway but more-often-than-not ignored resulting in muddy dirt paths) to the garden’s two Koi viewing benches were replaced with stone dust paths. Park staff has done most of the heavy lifting.

Drew finishes new path

Periodic weeding has continued and in late June an energetic group of young ladies from the Langley School (McLean, VA) kicked off replanting of native perennials and shrubs. More planting days will be scheduled when we see what thrives and what

Langley School helps plant

doesn’t. As funding allows, garden work will also be done at the Park entry station and around the restrooms in the day-use area.

Stay tuned to see the garden grow.

POLLINATOR MEADOW GROWING

Summer is here and it’s time for another update on the Park pollinator meadow project. As posted earlier, thanks to a grant from the Garden Club of Virginia, and the hard work of a lot of other people, the Park has installed a pollinator meadow on a 1.4 acre plot between the RV camping area and the Park cabins. This gentle hillside contains marginal soil, collected when the cabins were built, which is perfect for wildflowers.

In fall 2018 the meadow was cleared, the trails were rough graded, and a parking area built. Park rangers and volunteers seeded the area and by October seedlings were visible.

As an unexpected but very welcome addition to the project, in March 2019 students from Virginia State University and Wake Forest, as part of the alternative spring break program, spent time making benches and tables for the meadow.

In May the bee habitat was added. Solar powered electric fencing was constructed to keep out bears and two hives were installed. Our beekeeper, Kelly, reports that the bees are happy, healthy, and making honey. Flowers abound and its only the early birds. By fall – wow – come and see! Our upcoming Junior Ranger program will feature a day with the meadow and our pollinators. A pollinator is an animal that fertilizes plants by moving pollen from one flower to another. Insect pollinators include bees, wasps, ants, flies, mosquitoes, butterflies, moths, and beetles. Without pollinators many plants and foods would not exist. Pollinators are critical in the reproduction of many major food crops, including Virginia staples, apples and grapes. Other wildlife like rabbits, turkey, and deer can use the seeds and insects for food and can use the tall grasses for shelter.

The meadow, originally proposed by Park manager Tony Widmer, became possible when the Garden Club of Warren County proposed that the Park apply for a grant from the Garden Club of Virginia, which has accumulated a fund dedicated to projects in Virginia State Parks. With help from the Friends of Shenandoah River State Park, the Beekeepers of the Northern Shenandoah, and Park staff a plan was developed, submitted, and funding was approved.

Stay tuned for more news as the meadow grows.

HUGE GROUP OF HEALTHY HIKERS WELCOMES 2019

Over 200 two-legged, and dozens of four-legged, hikers joined to celebrate the New Year at Shenandoah River State Park on a warm January 1. Most of the largest ever 1st day group at Shenandoah hiked the shorter Cullers Overlook trail while a smaller group hiked several trails ending at Wildcat Ledge. All were treated to cider, hot chocolate, and other treats by the Park’s Friends group.

The Park has over 24 miles of trails available to you. Make that “be healthy” resolution for the whole year – and put January 1, 2020 on your calendars now.

NEW 2018 JUNIOR RANGERS

Wow – it was a very busy two weeks and Shenandoah River State Park has a a great new team of Junior Rangers. We kicked off with a visit from a Shenandoah National Park Ranger who gave us lots of cool, and useful, information about our Chesapeake Bay watershed and what we can do to make it better. With the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries we became friends with many of the fish that inhabit the South Fork of the Shenandoah, and what about that huge eel. That was amazing!

 

A highlight this year was a trip to nearby Skyline Caverns. Not only was the information about cavern growth and karst really great, but we enjoyed the spectacular scenery and the cool 54 degree temp. A welcome change from 85 outside.

We spent a day on the River observing what lives in it and nearby, and – you bet we managed some good fun.

The Park has its own waste treatment plant and our campers spent a morning learning how we are able to turn waste into pure water and return it to the River. The Park’s “Poop Lady” astounded us with microscopic views of little squiggly things that actually eat the waste – ugh.

Graduation is a fun time shared by campers, parents, and staff.

The Junior Ranger Day Camp is sponsored jointly by the Park and the Friends. We also have a self-guided program where pre-teens can become Junior Rangers. Just ask at the Park Visitor’s Center. We are already looking forward to next years camp and hope you will join us. Check back here in the spring for more information.

NEW FRIENDS ALWAYS NEEDED

Do you love the outdoors? Would you like to help preserve our natural environment while doing things you really enjoy?

The Friends of Shenandoah River State Park invites you to share our love of Andy Guest / Shenandoah River State Park.

Each year we spend time improving the park, helping with programs for visitors, and helping to improve the environment. We are always looking for new faces and fresh ideas.

The Park has many great opportunities to help – pick ones you would enjoy. Assist with the Junior Ranger program – conduct trail inspections – help with the annual river cleanup – assist with the Parks wild animal habitat – help develop a river interpretive trail – and many more! If fact, you can probably design your own way to volunteer. Check out opportunities on our Volunteer page. We hope to see you at the park!