By Ryan Cornell
FRONT ROYAL -- Back near the end of his term, Tim Kaine had a decision to make.
As the governor of Virginia, he had to pick a national park to represent the commonwealth on the back of the quarter.
It's like choosing a favorite child, an official state song or, as U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine told a packed high school auditorium Friday, deciding to root for the University of Virginia or Virginia Tech.
Out of a slew of choices, including national parks in Jamestown, Yorktown and Appomattox, he picked Shenandoah.
"It's just an absolutely beautiful place, and so the choice was easy but there was one more thing about Shenandoah [National] Park that made it easy," he said. "Is there any other park in Virginia or in the United States that has such a beautiful song? That will make you think of the park every time you hear it, the song, 'Oh Shenandoah.'"
Kaine was among a flock of U.S. Mint, National Park Service and local government officials at Skyline High School on Friday morning to launch the Shenandoah National Park quarter. The quarter, the "tails side" of which depicts a hiker standing atop the summit of Little Stony Man, is the 22nd quarter issued in the U.S. Mint America the Beautiful Quarters Program. The program includes 56 quarters from all 50 states, five U.S. territories and Washington, D.C. Five new quarters will be released each year, in order of when they were established, until 2020, with the final quarter being released in 2021.
Kaine, an avid hiker and camper -- the Bible and a guide to the national parks sit on his nightstand -- shared stories about trekking on the park's trails during spring breaks, election days and on his oldest son's 21st birthday.
"In a state that's filled with beautiful places, Shenandoah National Park does stand at the very pinnacle, just like that hiker is standing at the pinnacle at Little Stony Man on the back of the quarter," Kaine said.
People will pull quarters out of their pockets and see how beautiful the park is, he said, and people who haven't been to the park yet will want to visit.
Shenandoah National Park was established in 1935, amasses about 200,000 acres and attracts 1.2 million visitors each year, according to Park Superintendent Jim Northup
"I like to think that this hiker, while gazing out over the Blue Ridge Mountains and park wilderness, is thinking about the past, the present and the future of Shenandoah National Park," he said.
Kaine urged the students and children in the audience to use the park, develop a passion for the outdoors and learn to be good stewards for the environment.
"They'll make sure the park always is maintained and taken care of, they'll tell Congress, 'Don't do a government shutdown and shut down the park in the middle of October, the leaf season, one of the most beautiful times of the year,'" he said.
Distinguished guests at the event included Kaine, Northup, Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources Molly Ward, U.S. Mint Deputy Director Richard Peterson and Warren County Administrator Doug Stanley, all of whom officially "launched" the national park quarter by pouring the coins down a mock waterfall.
Following the presentation, people could purchase up to 10 $10 rolls of the quarters from the Department of the Interior Federal Credit Union, which had brought $25,000 worth of coins to the school.
The public can order the quarters by calling 1-800-USA-MINT or online at usmint.gov/catalog.
Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or firstname.lastname@example.org