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Posted July 8, 2012 | comments 24 Comments

No swimming allowed at Chapman's Landing

By Joe Beck - jbeck@nvdaily.com

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."

24 Comments | Leave a comment

    "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.'

    Canoes and kayaks are the only boats suitable to launch in the shallow water at Chapman's Landing. Neither require title and registration. (But, I understand money was probably taken from boat registration fees to establish launches that can never be used by other than hand-carried boats.)

    As far as swimming in nearby state parks, does anybody remember Seven Bends State Park? Where is the 1600 acre riverside park just downstream from Chapman's Landing?

    I guess you should have an inner-tube close by when you're swimming. And, when questioned by authorities tell 'em you're tubing. Many outfitters on the South Fork rent and offer tubing as a recreational activity.

    With one less thing for young people to do, they'll just commit more crimes, abuse more drugs and do more things they shouldn't be doing. Sheriff Carter, you should instruct your deputies to proactively police the area and only enforce laws that threaten public safety or decency at Chapman's Landing, let Ranger Joe write the summonses for trespassing upon the governor's land.

    Using that line of BS from DGIF, bicyclists shouldn't be allowed to use the roads because they do not pay gasoline tax.

    What is wrong with you people! It says no swimmers! – It is a big place – Swimmers go somewhere else. I get so frustrated with some folks – the law is what it is. Same goes for NO ATVs on the roads – Folks just go ahead and do that too! The site is posted with signs spelling out the ban on swimming and other activities. Perhaps some folks can’t read?

      Just because there is a law does not mean that it makes sense or should be enforced. There are a lot of laws on the books that are just plain silly and this is one of them. Keep shooing away those kids, and then complain about all the trouble they are getting into because they don't have anything better to do. For goodness sake, what harm are they really causing....this law is stupid.

    I agree with Rusty. We all pay taxes and therefore we she be allowed to swim. The suggestion of go to a park or campground is just plain stupid. Maybe we don't have the money to pay to get into a park or campground. Our government took away free access to parks many years ago and today there are so many people unemployed or should I say underemployed thanks to the outsourcing of good paying jobs that money for recreation is just not available.

      Maybe if you dont have the money to pay the park entrance you should dedicate more time to job seeking and spend less time getting in the way of us affluent boaters and fishermen.
      Once you have found a job you will be able to go back to the park and swim.
      In the mean time, if you want to earn $20 you can come scrub my canoe.

    The issue is that Shenandoah county does not want people to have a good time. I've lived in cities with less rules about what people can and can't do then Shenandoah.

    As to the whole who's paid for the use. How does the sheriff know that those swimming haven't paid for valid fishing licenses. I have one, but don't always go fishing.

    Also, in light of the recent heat wave it would seem that for some of the people swimming is was a break from the dangerous heat. Poverty is rampant in the county and not everyone has the luxury of air conditioners.

    I do believe that Mr. Beck clearly pointed out that the boat landing is not payed for and maintained with funding from general tax dollars.

    With regard to the argument that "having a fishing license" should therefore entitle someone to use the launch site for clearly prohibited and unintended purposes, I'm baffled!

    I took my family of five to Shenandoah River State Park just recently to escape to heat. My wife and I relaxed in lawnchairs in the shade while our kids swam in the river for hours. I got to help one of my son's catch his first fish. He went on to catch 5 more without my help. It cost us a whopping total of $8!

    Personally, I commend all law enforcement involved for the efforts they are putting forth to police the use of Chapman's Landing. Fishermen and boaters deserve to have a launch site where they can feel confident that they can fish or launch a boat without having to push their way through a family barbecue, get verbally acosted by a bunch of drunks, struggle to not run over a bunch of swimmers while putting in a canoe/kayak, remove a piece of broken beer bottle from a child's foot during a day of fishing.......

    Not sure which is worse, bad laws or bad behavior.

    I disagree with limiting a public access point to our river system for a single purpose no matter where that public access point is.

    As a fisherman I want to be able to use the boat ramp without having to wait for someone not boating to move. I don't mind if they are swimming in the area, I just want to be able to launch and retrieve my boat.

    Folks really need to learn to put themselves in the other mans shoes. It may be the fishermans boat ramp but it's everyones river. Conversly using a boat launch site as a party spot for a large party is just ignorant. A bit of mutual respect goes a long way.

    As for the trash: I HATE that. However I've seen plenty of empty beer cans and bait containers left behind by fishermen too so they don't get to claim a moral high ground. Trash is everyones responsibility, pack it out!

    Swimming in local rivers is limited to a couple months a year. Boating and fishing can be done year-round. People go swimming and tubing at other hand-carried boat launches with no hassle from law-enforcement.

    The Andy Guest Shenandoah River State Park is on the other side of Massanutten Mountain, near Front Royal. I was looking forward to the Seven Bends State Park being established near Woodstock, on our side of the mountain, and very comparable to the Andy Guest park. With over a thousand acres being donated by private citizens for the park, where is it?


    Okay for all of the ignorant people that have caused this whole mess. Its funny okay. If it is that big of deal due to you wanting to " Launch your boat" as you so call. If you really have to " Launch your boat" Your boat's not going anywhere besides around the area it's not like you can get in it and go down the river. The water is not deep enough to go north down the river from chapman's landing the river splits and has rapids on the left side the water isn't even a foot deep, on the river side it comes up to about your knees with huge rocks sticking up. So please tell me where your intending to go? This is stupid. Okay so this the police officer is saying no swimming at the boat landing why is there people getting tickets up at the next to the bridge and people getting tickets? People are so stupid. I mean who would want to go to the woodstock pool with the teenagers acting like idiots? Then the officers around here wonder why these kids and young adults do drugs and drink party and carry on. There's no place for anyone to go anymore.

    The last time I looked at Chapman's Landing it a pretty wide area. You don't need any more than 6 - 8 or maybe even 10 feet width to launch boats or canoes. so why don't they just fence off an area for boat launching and leave the rest for the swimmers. Sounds like a no brainer to me. Or can anyone tell me where the other state river parks are in Shenandoah County

    Most swimming occurs near the low-water bridge, which I believe is upriver from the actual boat launch area. Most bridges on state roads have a right-of-way on each side of the bridge where people can access the river to fish, launch small hand-carried boats, and enter the water for swimming or tubing. Are local law enforcement and state officials saying the bridge right-of-way cannot be used by swimmers to access the river? Is the public parking area only available to boaters and fishermen, sightseers and picnickers, but not swimmers?


    I believe everyone is entitle to this land. It is niether private property nor is it managed by one specific person and require a pass. As for the police monitoring the champman boat landing. they should continue doing so, but only to control potential criminal activities. if theres a issue there, they should respond promptly, just like domestic violence, just like disorder and all other things police can never predict. if putting a sign up to keep swimmers from swimming locally you are wrong. there are to many laws, to many licensing, to many fines, too many hours spent unobtunobtainingly for police officers to drive down to chapman. Maybe its the diversity of race the police dont agree with but if they really want too worry about one specific location, go for it. leaves room for criminal activity to happen in other large parking lots," the large collection ofwalmart gangs" harrasing passing trafficers. it shouldnt be up to the law or some political board to discuss. its land for the people. with the price of living still rising and scale pay barely above minimum wage, its to difficult to spend money unwisely or travel outside of a local location. bottom line is to change the scale of pay from local counties and then people can make an attempt to better themselves first and do bad and unlawfull activities. swimming being niether of those. let it be up to a potition signing?

    Southpaw probably is one of the neo military hair cut deputies that like to assert their authority like the state police and Woodstock town cops. Swimming is not illegal and let the possum police take it to court. The first person that appeals it, the law will be changed very quickly with a jury siding with the swimmer.

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