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Some seek access to bridge

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Residents believe safety gates hinder boaters, fishers, dippers

By M.K. Luther - mkluther@nvdaily.com

FRONT ROYAL -- Residents are asking for access to gates at the low-water bridge on Morgan Ford Road to allow for recreational activities on the Shenandoah River.

Richard Morris, of 137 W. 14th St., told the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday that the safety gates were restricting entrance to both the Shenandoah River and the public boat landing located next to Morgan Ford Road.

"I am a lifelong resident of Warren County and I have dipped [for fish] at Morgan Ford for more than 55 years," Morris said.

Morris said an estimated close to 25 residents still practice the "dying art" of dipping -- using a net to fish in the river. Morris also said the gates hinder boaters and fishers and other residents trying to use the river for sport.

"It is not only dippers, there are quite a few people who fish down there also when the water is high," Morris said.

Morris asked about the possibility of issuing keys for those who wanted to use the river at high water times until a new bridge is installed.

The current 321-foot-long single lane, low-water bridge was originally built in 1925. The Virginia Department of Transportation plans to replace the bridge by 2014 with a 600-foot-long, two-lane bridge that will accommodate increased traffic flow of 1,100 vehicle a day.

Last year, a Stephens City woman died after her vehicle was swept off the low-water bridge into the Shenandoah River.

In response, the county installed gates at both sides of Morgan Ford Road to be used when water levels were high and the low-water bridge was closed to vehicular traffic.

"We only dip when the water is up and muddy," Morris said. "So any time we want to get there, the gates are going to be up."

County Administrator Douglas P. Stanley said that VDOT had both installed the gates and was responsible for maintenance. The board could ask the department about the possibility of issuing keys to residents who wanted access, Stanley said.

Shenandoah District Supervisor Richard Traczyk, who had been instrumental in bringing the gates to the road, said he would ensure all options were investigated.

"I was responsible for gates at Morgan Ford bridge and having them installed by VDOT," Traczyk said. "I will look at what can be done to maintain the tradition of dippers."


Obviously what is needed is a pedestrian gate so these dip(per)s can bypass the car gate.

What, they can already walk around the car gates? Well, geez, when the car gates are closed couldn't the county provide a shuttle service so the dip(per)s don't have to walk down to the river? The Sheriff could use his T3 Motion three-wheeler he never uses anyway? Or maybe get some of those Wal-Mart style shopper scooters for use by the dip(per)s? Yeah, scooters, that's the ticket. Cheaper than replacing lost keys, hack-sawed locks, and buying earache medicine for Supervisor Traczyk.

I am trying to understand how a few fish compare to the safety of people. People who have never been on that road before should not be able to drive into the river when it is flooded. The road is angled in such a way that the headlights do not reflect off the water. Therefore, people get into the river unbeknowst to them. I would certainly like to think the safety of strangers to that area would be so much more important that entertainment. But who am I, you may ask. I am the mother of that 21 year old woman that died in your beloved dipping area. I am grateful the gates were installed. I am also glad to hear they are being used properly. If my daughter's death and these terrible gates save someone else's life..Thank God

Accidental deaths are always hurtful to the loved ones especially. However, this is no excuse to bar anyone & everyone that uses the areas in and around "low water bridge" from continuing safe, legal, and free use of Virginia's waterways. Try looking at this article as a whole, rather than from a very one-sided view. They are not demanding the gates stay open, only that they still have access to the river. Also, if the person interviewed has "dipped there for 55 years", it is safe to assume that they are a senior citizen (possibly disabled), and you are demanding that they be denied thier legal rights & protections because your daughter did not head warning signs, nor look where she was going?? This is ridiculous. I 100% support access being given to anyone & everyone who wants to legally access the river, not those who choose & chose to cross the river when it floods the bridge.

I think it's a great idea. People just want to have access to the river, not open up the gates and let people get hurt. If you read the article that is what it says. There is a lot of equipment involved with dipping and you would want to get a truck close. Remember, folks have been doing this long before many of you moved here. Agian we don't want the gates open all the time, just long enough to get the equipment down and set up. a minute to get in and a minute to get out. No one wants anyone to get hurt. Read the article.

Let me start of by saying im sorry for your loss. But I would like to think its common knowledge not to cross a bridge with water on it. If you do your taking a great risk!! The gates seem like a huge liability to the state in my opinion. But big brother has our back. How refreshing!

I hope these people "dip" and release. I couldn't imagine anyone eating anything out of this river.

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