The public got a peek this week at a proposed Headley Road bridge public access point.
Brad Fink and Stephen Reeser, both with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, spoke Thursday evening before about 20 people. Those in attendance included county residents, Virginia Department of Transportation officials including Edinburg Residency Administrator Ed Carter and Shenandoah County Board of Supervisor members Rich Walker and Dennis Morris.
They gathered to discuss the department exploring the possibility of requesting a permit to create a public access point to the Shenandoah River near the Headley Road Bridge along Route 600.
The plan unveiled showed a walk to an access point designed for hand-carry canoes and kayaks.
The plan includes a parking lot, probably made of stone, that offers five parking spots with a path to the river.
The number of parking spots was determined by the space available and the required size of each parking space, the men said.
“It’s a pretty simple access point,” Fink said.
He acknowledged there is concern about parking.
“Parking is always an issue,” he said.
If the VDOT issues a special use permit, the access point could open sometime in the spring of 2020 — about the time of the grand opening of Seven Bends State Park.
Both men said they would anticipate Seven Bends State Park – with its river access plus amenities such as bathrooms, picnic area and a much greater number of parking spaces – would draw the most people.
The access point, if approved, would be open from one hour before sunrise to one hour after sunset. There would be no use after dark and no trespassing signs would be posted.
The meeting allowed the public to hear more details about the project and comment about either their concerns or support.
One family offering support is the Chapins family, of Shenandoah County.
“You have to experience nature to want to protect it,” said Kathy Chapins who was at the meeting with her husband Andy Chapins.
The two spend a lot of time on the Shenandoah River and support having the access point near the Headley Road Bridge.
Also offering support at the meeting was Jay Eiche, board member of the Friends of the North Fork.
“The board of the Friends of the North Fork is in favor of public access in general. We are in favor of the project as it is currently drawn,” Eiche said afterward.
But some property owners near the proposed access point had concerns.
Thomas Sours lives adjacent to the property.
He asked what the proposed fence that will separate the parking lot from his property would look like.
Reeser said they would work with an adjacent property owner about the fence but explained it would probably be something like 6 x 6 posts close to one another that would keep vehicles from continuing onto the private property.
Sours replied that the posts are fine as long as it keeps cars off his property.
There appeared to be concern about the number of parking spaces.
Mike Hockman wanted to know about what would be done about illegal parking on the other side of the road to the access point.
He explained he owned those 7 acres.
Fink explained that no parking signs would be put up. If there were problems. he could call either the Game and Inland Fisheries Conservation Police or the Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office, both of which would patrol the area.
An attendee asked if it would be possible for the first 30-45 days that the access point was opened if law enforcement might offer more patrols to establish a presence and help deter future violators.
Sgt. Carl Martin said he had been thinking about that.
“I am sure we can have some increased presence,” Martin said.
Hockman said after the meeting that if their suggested solutions work, then he has no problems with the access point.
Hockman said officers gave him phone numbers to call them if issues were to occur.
Sours said after the meeting that after hearing the presentation he was more comfortable with the access point.