Area resident wants to use metal detector to troll for artifacts on historic property
By Alex Bridges
A local relic hunter's desire to search the historic McKay Springs property for artifacts is awaiting approval from Front Royal Town Council.
The town recently received a request by area resident Kent Coons to troll for relics on the site using a metal detector, according to town documents. Now Town Council plans to address the request and possible future inquiries from relic hunters. But as one councilman suggested, the town should consult with the county, which co-owns the property, before allowing people to search it.
Councilman N. Shae Parker commented on the recent request at Town Council's meeting on Tuesday.
"Given the inquiry that the town received regarding a private individual metal detecting on the McKay Springs property or former McKay homestead, I would like to ... request of the county that they consent to finding someone interested in archaeology, either through an educational institution or elsewhere who can go and preserve some of the artifacts and be sure they are secure," Parker said.
"We're talking about the oldest homestead in all of Warren County and, for that matter, one of the oldest in the valley," Parker said. "...we owe it to the community to help preserve what's there."
Town Attorney Douglas W. Napier suggested in a Sept. 24 memorandum to Town Manager Steven M. Burke that any decision on the matter should come from council. The attorney also advised the town should not allow one person to search and not give that opportunity to other relic hunters.
Napier said the town could enlist someone to search the property first for artifacts on behalf of Front Royal. He said the town would want to open such a venture up to interested parties through a bidding system.
But Napier said there may be further complications if a person finds artifacts of value - the town would need to have the artifacts appraised and then likely sold.
Parker said he would like council to further discuss the matter and then approach the county for its consent. Burke said Wednesday that council plans to bring up the issue at a work session later this month.
County Administrator Douglas P. Stanley, in an email Wednesday, said he has not seen a formal request to search the McKay site, but that as co-owner of the site, "if the town is not interested in letting someone on the site we will respect their wishes."
Stanley added, "Due to the fact that [it] is a historic site, that is probably a prudent decision at this juncture."
Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or firstname.lastname@example.org