Eastham Park project on road to completion

First phase should be done by spring; planning for second and third under way

By Kim Walter — kwalter@nvdaily.com

FRONT ROYAL — While phase one of the Eastham Park project should be completed this spring, planning for two other phases of work is still under way.

Eastham Park, as a whole, is planned to have a trail stretching from the public parking lot off Luray Avenue to two possible ending points, at either the Shenandoah National Park or Criser Road.

Brandy Rosser, grants and special projects coordinator for the county, reported on the park’s progress at Tuesday’s meeting of the Board of Supervisors. She said that construction of the phase one trail, which extends about one-half mile along the Shenandoah River, should be finished in time for a dedication ceremony this spring. The construction began in September.

The trail is located on an old road bed, or “River Road.”

“The River Road was heavily used between the 1750s and the Civil War because it was the only major connecting road between Front Royal and points south,” Rosser said.

This part of the trail will end at an “interpretive site” by the river, complete with benches and signs. The signs will help to educate visitors about commerce along the river, the Battle of Front Royal and the history of the Shenandoah River, Rosser said.

Construction is expected to begin this year on a dog park and multi-use practice fields as part of the phase, she added.

VDOT’s Transportation Enhancement Program provided $118,000 in grant money for phase one.

Phase two will also have a trail, starting at the “interpretive site” and ending at Skyline Vista Drive. Also part of the phase is an outdoor classroom and informational kiosks to educate trail users about local geology and presence of the endangered Madison Cave isopod.

A portion of plans for phase two have been submitted to VDOT, the Department of Parks and Recreation and building inspection, according to Rosser. Each organization will conduct several reviews before any plans are finalized.

Rosser said that while the phase is undergoing environmental review, “the county anticipates putting it out to bid in the spring of this year.”

The county has received a grant for $206,000 from the above-mentioned VDOT program.

An application has been submitted to VDOT for $166,669 to go toward sidewalks and crosswalks for phase three of the park.

All three phases of Eastham Park are part of a plan to build the Royal Shenandoah Greenway, a project started in September 2008. The greenway is designed with six different zones which “join to result in a complete looped trail system which has unique qualities and experiences along its entirety,” according to the conceptual master plan developed in 2009.

If the greenway is completed, “it will connect downtown Front Royal, the visitors center, Samuels Public Library, public parks, a boat landing, elementary and high schools and Shenandoah National Park,” Rosser said.

She added that the three phases of Eastham Park “will form a key segment in the Royal Shenandoah Greenway.”