Canoe ramp nears completion

By Alex Bridges

Boaters should soon find it easier to put canoes and kayaks in the water in part of Warren County.

Work on the new Simpson’s Landing off Downing Farm Road should reach completion in early October, County Administrator Douglas Stanley said Monday. The landing allows access to the South Fork of the Shenandoah River.

Workers with the county Department of Parks and Recreation built a new, wood-and-concrete launch facility for canoes, kayaks and other human-powered watercraft. Construction began Aug. 4. Workers also improved the parking area and installed a new guardrail and privacy fence. Crews plan to plant evergreen trees before the county unveils the new launch site.

For years, boaters accessed the water by taking their boats down a steep slope, dodging rocks and large tree roots along the way. Stanley called the landing a “pig path.”

“It wasn’t user friendly,” Stanley said.

A resident and boater contacted Fork District Supervisor Archie Fox and asked if the county could improve the boat launch area. Warren County then obtained an easement on property adjacent to the launch area.

The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries maintained Simpson’s Landing for years on a property easement. The state agency recently gave the easement for the landing area back to the county.

The state awarded a $10,000 grant to the county to help cover some of the costs of the landing improvements. The project may cost close to $25,000, Stanley said. The total amount spent on the project has not yet been calculated.

J.G. “Skip” Sims, who lives next to the boat landing and whose property includes the easement for the facility, said Monday he’s enjoyed working with the county staff involved in the project.

“I just think it’s a great facility that we’re going to have available to the river-using public here in the county,” Sims said. “It’s going to be a good asset.”

Early in the planning process, Sims let the Board of Supervisors know at a work session that some unwanted activities were taking place at the existing landing site. Stanley said Warren County Sheriff Daniel McEathron also plans to increase patrols there.

While the county and Front Royal have been dubbed the “canoe capital of Virginia,” boaters could use more places to put their watercraft in the river, Stanley said.

“Public access [to the river] is something we need to work on,” Stanley said, adding that the county has identified that issue in its parks and recreation master plan.

The county also has received a $50,000 grant from the state agency to build a new boat landing off Farms Riverview Road in the Shenandoah Farms subdivision at the main stem of the river. Construction of the new landing could begin in the winter or spring, Stanley said. Warren County will maintain the Farms Riverview Road landing.

The state agency maintains six public access ramps and landings in Warren County. Most facilities offer shoreline access only. The landing in the Riverton area has a concrete ramp with access to the North Fork of the Shenandoah River. The landing planned on Farms Riverview Road would add a seventh facility for boaters.

Visit http://tiny.cc/tew8lx for information about boat landings and other access facilities in Warren County.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com