STRASBURG — Use of the town boat ramp will be a topic of discussion at the next Recreation, Parks & Trails Committee meeting.
At the Town Council’s regular Tuesday meeting, Mayor Richard Orndorff Jr. said the boat ramp has been a topic of discussion for a while but recently came to a head when area residents broached the problem on social media.
“The town manager and the town staff are on top of the issue,” he said.
Orndorff has been in touch with the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, and Councilwoman Kim Bishop posted an online poll on Monday that, as of Wednesday afternoon, had received about 630 votes and about 300 comments on whether people should swim at the boat ramp.
“I was disturbed at just some of the nastiness and the ugliness and the rhetoric on social media,” Orndorff said. “And the only thing I can say is, they were referring to children. You know, that just is beyond me.”
Pictures and other comments posted to Facebook earlier this week show that residents are concerned about people swimming in the same area where boaters are trying to put in on the Shenandoah River or return to land. Overcrowding in that area, captured in a video taken last summer and posted by resident Wayne Rutz in a link on the What’s Happening Strasburg Facebook page, caused frustration as people were shown maneuvering around each other in the water.
The boat ramp being Strasburg’s only public access point to the river has been a longtime town discussion topic and one that the committee and council are attempting to remedy through the town’s Master Park Plan, a comprehensive inventory of the town’s recreational resources and analysis of potential improvements.
One suggestion has been acquiring a second access point upriver where people can put in watercraft such as kayaks and tubes, to float downriver to the boat ramp at the park.
Among various improvements that the town plans to make to the park and around town in the next few years is the addition of a skate park. A group of community volunteers has been fundraising and looking over designs to make the Tribute to Trent Skatepark a reality.
The Recreation, Parks & Trails Committee, composed of Town Council members Ken Cherrix, Emily Reynolds, John Massoud and Taralyn Nicholson, recently met to consider the town’s Master Parks Plan before taking it to the council next month.
Other discussion items at the committee’s Feb. 6 meeting included improvements to the ballfields, relocation of existing features like the volleyball court, renovations to the park’s restrooms and water access for the community garden.
The committee, along with the town’s Community Advisory Committee, wants to pursue connectivity between the town and the popular River Walk trail, as well as consider other town features like a splash pad fountain and an eventual aquatics facility on which the town would seek to partner with Shenandoah County.
Addressing criticism he read on social media after the town received a grant to plant trees along the River Walk, Orndorff explained on Tuesday that grant money can only fund what’s required from the grant.
The recent state grant cannot fund anything other than the planting of trees, he said.
"You can't take money to build roads and paint the town hall," he said. "And that is very, very difficult to get across [to people.]"
The Recreation, Parks & Trails Committee will meet at 7 p.m. March 5 to discuss the boat ramp. The Master Parks Plan is expected to go before the Town Council at the 7 p.m. March 2 work session.