By Alex Bridges
Boaters using the Shenandoah River may soon find it easier to launch and land in Warren County.
The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries awarded two grants totaling $60,000 to the county to improve boating access, according to a release issued by Gov. Bob McDonnell's office Monday.
The funding likely could benefit the owners of hundreds of boats registered in the county.
Brandy Rosser, grants and special projects coordinator for the county, said Monday that
many of the studies they have done -- "from parks and rec master plan to some of the studies we've done on our other parks -- besides walking and biking trails," access to the river is always one of their No. 1 requested items.
Warren County received a $50,000 grant in the medium powerboat category toward the construction of a hardened boat ramp and parking area on county-owned property at the end of Farms Riverview Road. The site lies in the Shenandoah Farms Sanitary District on the east side of the river approximately five miles north of Morgan Ford Bridge.
The parking area would include at least 10 spaces made to fit vehicles with attached boat trailers, as well as regular spots, Rosser said.
Under the grant program, the county must provide a 25 percent match but can do so through in-kind services. The Parks and Recreation Department plans to perform much of the work on the boat landing improvements, including clearing the site and construction work, according to Rosser. A consultant performs the engineering and construction documentation, Rosser said. The grants coordinator noted she would handle permits, authorizations and inspections.
"Really, staff time is what makes up that 25 percent," Rosser said. "There will be a cost to develop the plan."
The state agency requires all project plans to go through the standard environmental review, Rosser explained. The grant program also requires the county keep the landings open to the public. The county may need to close the landing near Shenandoah Farms at night because it is in a residential neighborhood, Rosser said.
The county also received a $10,000 grant to construct a ramp to hand-launch boats at an existing landing at Stoney Bottom on the South Fork of the Shenandoah River. Stoney Bottom, also known as Simpsons Landing, is on the west side of the river at the end of Downing Farm Road. The grant also allows for the construction of five or more parking spaces. Any funds remaining would go toward the purchase of other amenities such as garbage cans, Rosser said.
The department has managed and operated Simpsons Landing under a lease agreement, but the county now has expressed a desire to take over those responsibilities, according to Steve Kesler, a boating access specialist for the state agency.
The county likely will begin work on Stoney Bottom landing first because it is less labor intensive, Rosser said. However, she said that work may not begin for some time because Parks and Recreation Department staff currently are working on phase II of the Eastham Park trail project.
"So it's not something that's going to happen immediately," Rosser said.
The county had 1,009 boats registered at the end of 2011, according to Kesler. That number likely did not change much in 2012, Kesler stated.
Interim Commissioner of the Revenue Sherry Sours said the county has 342 taxable boats. The county does not tax watercraft operated with oars, trolling motors or those devices that use less than 5 horsepower, Sours explained. Nor does the county tax canoes and kayaks unless classified as business equipment. The state department does require registration for all craft, including canoes and boats with trolling motors, Sours said.
The department awarded 15 grants totaling $440,900 statewide for improved boating access -- a need identified in Virginia's Outdoors Plan, according to the press release from Gov. McDonnell's office. The grants go to help pay for projects benefiting both motorized and non-motorized boats.
More than 100 local governments helped the department find suitable locations for new boating access points, according to the release.
Funding for the grant program comes from the department's Boat Fund generated from titling and registration fees as well as levies collected from the transfer of watercraft sales and use. The federal Sport Fish Restoration Fund, based mainly on the number of fishing licenses sold, also contributes to the department's grant program.
Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or firstname.lastname@example.org