By Joe Beck - firstname.lastname@example.org
Chapman's Landing has been one of summer's idyllic pleasures for years in Shenandoah County, a place for swimming and sometimes rowdy gatherings along the river's north fork.
Girls, boys and older people too just want to have fun, but law enforcement officers say there's a problem: the landing is reserved strictly for fishing and boating. All other activities are banned.
The regulations at the state-owned site leave Ian Ostlund, a Virginia Conservation Officer, with the task of shooing away swimmers and keeping the site clear for boat owners and fishermen.
As soaring temperatures give people one more reason to seek relief at Chapman's Landing, Ostlund and the Shenandoah County Sheriff's Office are trying to crack down on uses of the landing that are popular but prohibited.
"I have received numerous complaints from fishermen and others intending to use the boat landing for its intended purposes," Ostlund said.
The combination of swimmers and boat traffic sometimes leads to friction on busy days, Ostlund said.
"We have lots of people who want to come down and put in (boats), and lots of people who want to swim," he added.
The site is posted with signs spelling out the ban on swimming and other activities, but people either ignore them or somehow manage to miss them. Ostlund said he rarely gives out citations, preferring instead to use what he calls officer discretion to warn violators that they can't stay in the area.
"The signs are clearly visible," Ostlund said. "I will tell people they are not allowed to swim in there, and they are within feet of a 'no swimming' sign."
Lt. Darcy Dellinger of the Shenandoah County Sheriff's Office describes violations at Chapman's Landing in slightly harsher terms. Banned activities at the site have kept deputies busy over the years answering complaints and issuing summons, he said.
"We get called out there for noise violations, we get called out there for assaults, people drinking and large gatherings blocking the road," Dellinger said.
Dellinger said the Sheriff's Office has issued at least three trespassing citations and arrested one person for assault so far this year at the landing.
"We get called down there every summer," he added.
He said the site has attracted gatherings as large as 50 to 70 people in past years, but no more than 15 to 20 this summer.
"I'd say it's probably getting better," Dellinger said of the problems associated with the landing. "Five or six years ago, there were drugs and alcohol. There was a lot of that down there. People don't seem to be congregating as much down there because of awareness that's been made about it."
Ostlund describes most of the people he encounters as "very receptive and understanding" when he asks them to move on, but others soon follow those who have left.
"We're still getting a lot of people there," Ostlund said. "I'll come in at 5 p.m., you run 20 swimmers out of the landing and you com back by 6 p.m., and there are 20 more. That's been my experience in the last month."
Ostlund said fisherman and boaters have earned the right to exclusive use for the boat landings because it is maintained by the sale of fishing licenses, and boat title and registration fees.
Chapman's Landing is far from the only place swimmers have to congregate," Ostlund said.
"I guess the real matter is there are other areas that would better suited for those kinds of activities," he said. "A state park or private campgrounds would be better."