Seven Bends Park clearing big hurdle

WOODSTOCK – A new bridge stands in the way of progress at Seven Bends State Park in Shenandoah County.

But the Virginia Department of Transportation expects its crews to complete the replacement of the Lupton Road Bridge next month, spokesman Ken Slack said Friday.

The single-lane, low-water bridge on Lupton Road heading into the park site west of Woodstock can no longer support the weight of construction vehicles the Department of Conservation and Recreation needs to use to complete improvements to the park. VDOT reduced the weight limit to three   tons – about the lowest the department can allow, Slack said. The new bridge, while still featuring a single lane, will have no weight limit, Slack added.

The Department of Conservation and Recreation says a new bridge with a higher weight limit would allow work on the first phase of the park’s master plan to move forward.

The state park consists of 1,066 acres in the Seven Bends area of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River. Woodstock donated almost 85 acres of what once served as the town’s reservoir. Dr. James R. Myers donated the largest parcel of nearly 674 acres adjacent to the reservoir site. The state bought 306 acres known as Camp Lupton from Massanutten Military Academy.

State Parks Director Craig A. Seaver provided an update on the long-awaited project to County Administrator Mary T. Price earlier this month.

“It has been a long and arduous journey to get to this point, but we have been working steadily to allow the limited opening of the park as a recreation area in the near future,” Seaver stated in a letter to Price.

The Virginia General Assembly provided funding to the Department of Conservation and Recreation earlier this year that became available this month. The money allows the department to buy some equipment and materials to start and operate the park, Seaver stated. The funds also allow  the department to provide limited staffing for the park, including wage maintenance workers and a chief ranger to serve as law enforcement at the facility. Staff helps move the park development forward, deter unwanted activities and builds relationships with the community, Seaver stated. The department plans to put workers in place by this fall, he added.

VDOT’s reduction of the weight limit on the Lupton Road Bridge temporarily delayed the demolition and construction planned at the park site, Seaver noted in his report.

New facilities include limited development at the southern entrance to the park and the Lupton Road entrance. The department anticipates completion in 2018. Construction includes demolition of the existing structure on the north side of the park.

Initial improvements at the park site consist of the installation of vault toilets on Lupton Road and South Hollingsworth Road; river access points, parking areas and picnic tables on both roads; a small maintenance shed off South Hollingsworth Road; and a partial access route on South Hollingsworth Road into the park interior.

The Department of Conservation and Recreation renewed the park’s master plan in 2014. The department determined that proposed changes warrant an update. Possible changes for the 2017 master plan include the re-evaluation of proposed overnight facilities; removing or relocating a road connecting the north and south sides of the park; relocating the visitors center; defining the environmental education facility and moving the maintenance building.