Park road worries voiced: Safety of one-lane road leading to park a concern

Ester Nizer, left, of Elkton, and Ray and Ellen Flugel, who live on Lupton Road, look over the revised master plan for the new Seven Bends State Park during a public hearing Thursday in Woodstock.

WOODSTOCK –  Residents in the area of Seven Bends State Park want to know if people driving into the new park will be safe when it opens.

Ray and Ellen Flugel, who live on Lupton Road – the planned main entrance to the park – said during a public hearing Thursday that they support the development of Seven Bends State Park and ultimately it’s opening to the public. However, they said they have a serious concern about safety.

“We have said over and over again our concern is about safety on that road,” Ellen Flugel said during the hearing held by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation about long-range planning for the park.

“Before you start construction, we have to work with VDOT (Virginia Department of Transportation). Someone is going to die on that road,” she said.

Lupton Road is a single lane road with a steep drop off on sections of the road. It has no guard rail.

There are only two areas on that road leading to the park where someone can pull over to allow someone to pass, the Flugels said. Otherwise, when two smaller cars meet, they have to slow down and try to carefully pass each other. Larger vehicles have a more difficult time; one driver has to put his car into reverse and back down the road to a spot where the vehicles can pass each other, Ray Flugel said.

Another road that had also been considered for an entrance is Hollingsworth Road.

“That is not any better,” Ellen Flugal said.

Lynn Crump, of the state Department of Conservation and Recreation, said they are in communication with VDOT about the road. She said the road does not meet the agency’s criteria for funding the project through its Smart Scale program.

Others in the crowd of about 50 people attending the hearing expressed support for the park or noted various concerns, including Yvonne Knapp. She said she bought her retirement home on Lupton Road because of the unspoiled natural views and now fears developing the park will give her a view of parking, a bathroom and launch, which could decrease her property value.

Also at the hearing was Esther Nizer, who lives in Elkton.

Before the meeting, she looked over revisions to the master plan for Seven Bends State Park. She said she loves that the park will open up the outdoors, hiking and kayaking to people and likes the fact that it will be the closest state park to her.

“I am excited. This is special to have a state park,” Nizer said. “I am loving what I am hearing.”

Crump documented the comments and said they would be considered by department staff.

When asked how people would know of resolutions to their comments,  Crump urged those at the meeting to either attend upcoming meetings of the Board of Conservation and Recreation or look at meeting notes posted online to keep up with developments.

Since 2015, Virginia has been working on obtaining funding for improvements to the park, which is 1,066 acres and is located on the North Fork of the Shenandoah River. The first phase has been budgeted at $2.2 million, with the entire plan budgeted at $43 million.

The proposed Seven Bends development plan will take place in three phases, with the first phase, known as 1A, to begin soon and be completed with the park opening to the public next year.

No vehicles, ATVs, motorcycles will be allowed into the park.

The first phase includes:

  • Demolish 14 buildings on the Camp Lupton site, which is to begin soon.
  • Stabilize a barn on the site to be used by park staff.
  • Construct on the Hollingsworth Road side of the park: parking for 44 vehicles, a hand-carry boat launch, a vault toilet, a maintenance complex, and lay underground electric.
  • Construct on the Lupton Road side of the park: parking for 46 vehicles, another hand-carry boat launch, a vault toilet, underground electric, small picnic shelter and an entrance road.

Long-range plans call for Phase II, which is 10 to 20 years out, and Phase III, 30 years and out, projects.

Phase II projects include:

  • Building:  Environmental Education and Visitor Center,  10 yurts, a sort of raised campsite, a bathhouse,  20 primitive campsites, bank fishing nodes and extend trail system.

Phase III projects include:

  • Constructing: a group camp with a small shelter, vault toilet, and water, add another boat launch on Lupton Road side of the park with parking for 20.