Group seeks volunteers for Seven Bends project

WOODSTOCK — Friends of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River is looking for volunteers to help make way for the planned Seven Bends State Park project in Woodstock.

The Woodstock-based non-profit group has scheduled an informational meeting for June 18 at 7 p.m. for interested residents to meet and learn more about the project.

Friends Executive Director John Eckman said, “We don’t want to limit it to the traditional stuff that we always think of, like trail work and river cleanups.”

Eckman added that their hope is “to tap the creativity of whoever to show up and get engaged in this.”

In addition, Eckman said they will also be looking to take note of creatures in the local landscape and logging the natural and cultural history of the 1,200 acres that make up the park.

Recently, Friends was designated as a “community support organization” through the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation.

These organizations — which include Friends of Shenandoah River State Park in Bentonville — help provide parks with additional funding and volunteers for day-to-day operations.

Eckman said that they knew the department was looking for funding for the project and reached out in order to offer up their service for the park project.

“Most of these groups get formed a couple of years after the park gets established, and they have to go through all of the rigmarole of establishing a nonprofit,” Eckman said.

Since Friends of the North Fork has been an established nonprofit for decades, Eckman added that he thought it made sense for them to reach out park officials.

“We have a lot of members who live on the river, we have a lot members who care deeply about that section of the river,” Eckman noted.

Craig Seaver, director of Virginia State Parks, said, “It’s a very positive relationship and we’re really looking forward to working with them in the development of Seven Bends State Park.”

On July 1, the department is set to receive $2.2 million in start-up funds from the Virginia General Assembly’s 2016 Capital Budget.

With this money in place, the department will be looking at identifying and performing abatement for asbestos within some of the older structures on the property.

According to Eckman, Friends will be working with members of the Youth Conservation Corps this summer on maintenance of some of the property’s older trails.

Seaver said, “I think a lot of [the work] is going to be brush dragging, some clearing and maybe the installation of some water bars and water diversion.”

Seaver added that he believes that, with the new partnership with Friends, they will be able to accomplish quite a bit along the park’s trail system.

Seven Bends State Park is now closed to the public, and is expected to officially open until next summer.

The Friends of the North Fork meeting on June 18 is free, open to the public and will be held at the Friends office in Woodstock.

More on Friends of the North Fork can be found at: http://www.fnfsr.org.

Contact staff writer Kevin Green at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kgreen@nvdaily.com