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Furnace could boost facilities

Flush toilets, showers, may be on the way to popular campground

David Fleming draws water from the well pump
David Fleming, of Winchester, draws water from the well pump recently at Elizabeth Furnace Campground in Fort Valley. Rich Cooley/Daily

David Fleming
Rich Cooley/Daily

By Preston Knight -- pknight@nvdaily.com

FORT VALLEY -- Expectations can sometimes be hard to live up to, and the Elizabeth Furnace Campground apologizes for contributing to that.

For the last several years, water has been available only at a hand pump at the entrance of the campground because the Virginia Department of Health changed its monitoring regulations, said Stephanie Bushong, an interpretative specialist with the U.S. Forest Service's Lee Ranger District. The district simply did not have the personnel to oversee the spring-fed water system that had been at Elizabeth Furnace, she said, and the solution -- to drill a well -- to bring back water, as well as flush toilets and showers, has stalled because of funding and other issues.

"It's not something we've been ignoring," Bushong said.

The solution has begun to take shape, though, as the health department is now testing water from a recently drilled well to determine if quantity and quality are high enough. By next summer, water may be available to all 33 campsites, and flush toilets and showers will be back as well, engineer Barry Stata said.

"We know from drilling the well that we got enough water," he said. "We just don't know the chemistry of it yet."

The only real concern in the last few years has been with people's expectations, Bushong said. The people who have camped at the site for years come to expect there to be readily available water and flush toilets, she said, while others may just assume that the campground has them.

"If they know in advance," Bushong said, "it's not a problem. People are pretty cool. They understand. People's experiences and expectations are different. If they're not expecting [water], it's not a problem."

Dwight Byers, who serves as a volunteer host at the campground, said the hand-pumped water is good drinking water, and he hasn't heard too many complaints about the low availability.

However, there is one issue worth noting, he said.

"You get tired pumping after a while," Byers said.

The campground stays busy, particularly on weekends, he added. Built in the 1930s, it is open all year.

Bushong said "vault" toilets, which are concrete and under a roof and walled in, have worked well at the site since they were installed two years ago. But she expects with the return of water throughout the property will come increased customer satisfaction.

"It's one of those projects that is near and dear to our hearts," Bushong said. "We're just delighted [to get it done]."

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