Fee-free weekend kicks off National Park Week

By Josette Keelor

A week of free programs at Virginia state parks and Shenandoah National Park will honor Earth Day on Tuesday, National Park Week, which ends April 29, and the spring Stewardship Virginia program.

This weekend, entrance fees to the national park will be waived, allowing visitors free entrance today and Sunday, said Lisa Taglauer, superintendent to the park secretary.

Also starting today, “We have our national Junior Ranger Day,” she said.

Scheduled for different days around the country, National Junior Ranger Day invites young visitors to explore parks and learn how to protect them while being sworn in as junior rangers.

Facilities at Shenandoah National Park officially opened for the season in late March, but Taglauer pointed out, “We’re always open.”

Activities this weekend will begin at 9:30 a.m. today at the Dickey Ridge Visitor Center at mile 4.6 on Skyline Drive and at 10 a.m. at the Harry F. Byrd Visitor Center at mile 51.

Children will enjoy the touch table at Dickey Ridge, indoor scavenger hunt, a short talk on animals called “The Wild Side,” demonstrations by law enforcement rangers, a uniform try-on station for children and firefighters’ vehicles to explore at both visitors centers, and a visit with a live eastern screech owl from 1 to 1:30 p.m. at the Byrd center.

For the full list and times, visit http://tiny.cc/ln4iex

At Virginia state parks, special events will include self-guided and ranger-led programs as well as trail cleanups, according to the website www.dcr.virginia.com.

All 36 of the state parks are planning events, said Gary Waugh, DCR public relations manager. Locally, events will be on April 26 and include emphasis on the spring Stewardship Virginia Campaign that runs through May 31 and challenges Virginians to contribute to improving natural and cultural resources. The program, which also has a fall campaign, is in its 12th year.

At Sky Meadows State Park, 11012 Edmonds Lane, Delaplane, a full day of events on April 26 will celebrate Earth Day, he said, beginning with a program from 10 a.m. to noon as part of Earth Day and Stewardship Virginia.

Other events throughout the day also will carry an Earth Day theme, include the “Not Your Nana’s Knitting” craft from 1 to 2:45 p.m., a story hike from 3 to 4 p.m. and Astronomy for Everyone from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. For more information, call 540-592-3556 or email skymeadows@dcr.virginia.gov.

Raymond R. “Andy” Guest Jr. Shenandoah River State Park, at 350 Daughters of the Stars Drive in Bentonville, will hold a planting and stewardship spring project from 10 to 11:45 a.m. April 26 at the visitor center where participants will plant native flowers and shrubs, landscape the back portion of the center and extend the existing garden. Participants will learn what kinds of plants attract wildlife and how to build good wildlife habitats.

For more information, call 540-622-6840. For more information on Stewardship Virginia, call 877-429-2837 or visit www.dcr.virginia.gov/stewardship.

Contact Community Engagement Editor Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or jkeelor@nvdaily.com