The COVID 19 pandemic has forced many of us and our localities to rethink how we do business. Here at PEC, we continue to work remotely and provide you with connection to your community and the issues that affect you. I have drawn together this second edition of the Rappahannock Land Use blog for PEC as a summary of the past week’s events, for April 6-April 12, 2020.
Importantly, our community has been in the forefront of regional news since the Shenandoah National Park and the Skyline Drive are completely closed, as of April 8, following an urgent request from the Rappahannock Rapidan Health District of the Virginia Department of Health. All boundary trailheads and their local routes remain closed to public access by SNP, VDOT and Rappahannock County.
Rappahannock County Government
On April 2, Rappahannock County Board of Supervisors passed a continuity of government ordinance. The county’s ordinance makes clear that they will be focused on decisions that are immediate and necessary, related to the current pandemic.
An April 4, 2020 press release from the County announced the first case of COVID-19 in Rappahannock Co. As cases of COVID-19 become more prevalent in our area, County officials urge citizens to heed the Governor’s “Stay at Home” order. If you must leave your home for essential purposes, please protect yourself and those around you by following the latest CDC guidance.
Rappahannock Board of Supervisors held its first regular meeting on Monday, April 6, after first announcing the local State of Emergency last month. This meeting covered essential items only, and allowed for electronic participation using Zoom for an online video conference.
Emergency Services Update
Rapppahannock County’s local State of Emergency has opened up special funding to allow County Fire and Rescue squads to add paid staff to keep operations going during the COVID-19 crisis. Local Fire and Rescue stations in Rappahannock County have always operated with a strong support team of volunteers. Now, as COVID-19 elevates risk for older populations, some local volunteers have had to take a step-back from their positions as EMS and firefighters. Sperryville, Flint Hill and Chester Gap look to hire new staff to add capacity their forces during these uncertain times, within a threshold that could be reimbursed by Rappahannock County.
As of this week, the Child Care Learning Center (CCLC) will reopen on a limited basis for very small classes that will be focused on serving the needs of local medical professionals and first responders. The service is being provided without charge through the end of May. CCLC is following strict guidelines from the Virginia government for day care centers during the lockdown period. Classes will be kept smaller than four children, with health checks before entering the school, teachers will wear masks and ensure proper sanitizing protocols are taken daily.
Shenandoah National Park and Skyline Drive
The Shenandoah National Park and the Skyline Drive are closed: As of April 8, 2020, the Shenandoah National Park has completely closed it’s Skyline Drive, all park trails, campsites, and facilities. The decision to immediately close the 199,000-acre park until further notice came from Superintendent Jennifer Flynn, with the support of the NPS Deputy Director of Operations, David Vela, and Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt, in response to the Rappahannock Rapidan Health District of the Virginia Department of Health recommending the “full closure” of the national park due to the threat of COVID-19. Virginia State Highway 211 from Sperryville to Luray as well as Route 33 further south will remain accessible to pass-through traffic during the closure.
Local routes and trailheads remain closed to public access: As of March 30, Rappahannock Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to close public access to all boundary trailheads leading to Shenandoah National Park, and their local routes maintained by VDOT. SNP states on their website: “This is an official closure. You can NOT park or enter Shenandoah at these points. Failure to comply can result in a fine and/or imprisonment according to the Code of Federal Regulations.”
Popular trailheads that are closed include:
- Compton Gap Boundary Trailhead, located at the terminus of Chester Gap Road (Route 610)
- Mount Marshall Boundary Trailhead, located at the terminus of Mount Marshall Road (Route 625)
- Little Devils Stairs Boundary Trailhead, located at the terminus of Keyser Run Road (Route 614)
- Thornton River Boundary Trailhead, located at the terminus of Hull School Road (Route 612)
- Hazel River Boundary Trailhead, located off of Woodward Road (Route 600)
- Jordan River Boundary Trailhead, located at the terminus of Bean Hollow Road (Route 629)
- Harris Hollow Boundary Trailhead, located off of Harris Hollow Road (Route 622)
- Piney Branch Boundary Trailhead, located off of Swindler Hollow Road (Route 600)
- Pass Mountain Boundary Trailhead, located off of US Hwy 211 E.
- Buck Hollow/Buck Ridge Boundary Trailhead, located off of US Hwy 211 E
- Broad Hollow/Hazel Mountain Boundary Trailhead, located off of Rolling Road (Route 681)
- Pine Hill Gap Boundary Trailhead, located at the terminus of Rolling Road (Route 681)
Local County Trash and Recycling Facility Update
Rappahannock County trash and recycling facilities at Flatwood station in Washington, and at the Amissville station have new hours and procedures beginning Sunday, April 19. Page Co. has provided Rappahannock with temporary dumpsters and containers as Rappahannock Co. continues to plan for further updates to the County’s trash stations later this year. County Administration asks citizens not to overwhelm the Flatwood and Amissville centers during this time, and to abide by CDC guidelines for public health and social distancing.
Both facilities will be closed this Wednesday and Thursday (April 15 and 16) to allow the county’s current vendor to remove its containers and to provide Page County sufficient time to begin operations. The Flatwood facility will operate with modified Sunday hours of 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. until further notice.
County residents disposing of household waste may continue to use the Culpeper County residential convenience center on a free-of-charge basis. The facility is located at 14017 Laurel Valley Place, which is off Route 522. Operating hours for the Culpeper County center are Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday (bagged trash only) from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Local Food Security
Known to locals as “Industry Night,” the Rappahannock food-industry group meets monthly as a way to engage local farms, restaurants and food-service businesses in a community meet-up. In recent times of COVID-19, these meetings have been suspended and instead, have shifted gears to meet the needs of the many affected families of the hospitality and food sectors that have seen their worlds turn upside-down in the last month. This month, Industry Night will be a “pick-up” version, sponsored by The Farm and Sunnyside and Bean Hollow Grassfed. Local members order in advance a bag of Sunnyside vegetables and/ or pork sausage from Bean Hollow. There is opportunity for more local food-industry businesses to sponsor this event in the future, as it will continue its monthly schedule for the time being and remain a “pick-up” event.
Rappahannock County Public Schools set a record for providing free meals to students this week (as of Monday, April 6th), for a total of 1100 meals, which included 550 breakfasts and 550 lunches, including for 110 students. On Monday mornings, the bags are picked up and delivered door-to-door throughout the county by various RCPS representatives, which have included school principals, bus drivers, the athletic director, the Commit to Be Fit team, and RCPS School Board Chairman Wes Mills. Additional meals are taken to the school board office for those parents that requested a pick-up, non-delivery option.
Rappahannock 18th Annual Spring Plant Sale has been cancelled as an event at Waterpenny Farm, but has been moved to an online plant sale with the many local plant nurseries and farms that want to help you green up your garden this spring. Below is their contact information:
Blue Ridge Botanicals: By appointment only between 10 a.m.-noon. We are open on Saturdays starting April 11 for you to pick up pre-orders and/or shop our wide variety of Culinary & Medicinal Herb Plants and Native Perennials. Schedule appointments and send pre-orders via our customer contact on our website www.blueridgeherb.com. Plant your own anti-viral and calming herbs this spring!
Hill House Farm and Nursery: We are open by appointment on Fridays and Saturdays for customers to come shop. We also accept pre-orders for pick-up or delivery via our website www.hillhousenativeplants.com. Use the Customer Contact page to place your order. Create habitat for our fellow creatures while social-distancing from other humans!
Eastwoods Nursery: Eastwoods is shipping Japanese Maples and specialty ornamentals — but is willing to arrange a drop off place for an interested local person; call us at 540-675-1234.
Morningside Farm & Nursery: Open by appointment only and they are taking pre-orders for pick up. Their website is at www.morningsidefarmandnursery.com.
Rappahannock Nature Camp: We’ve been raising and potting Mountain Mints, Pawpaws, Monardas and other plants attractive to our local bees and butterflies, and will be arranging a plant swap and tour of pollinator plants at our campsite later in the season. All who registered as Perennial Campers will receive an invitation; others who are interested should contact us at email@example.com or 540-987-9530. Already this year we are seeing Pipevine Swallowtails, Falcate Orange-tips and other old friends. This is the time to start your own plants for planting and swapping!
Old Rag Master Naturalists: Please visit us virtually at our website for the latest information and activities: www.oldragmasternaturalists.org.
Waterpenny Farm: Check out our new online store to place orders for our vegetable, herb, and flower plants using pre-orders with designated pickup times on the farm. It can be found through a link on our website, www.waterpennyfarm.com. The first pickups are on Friday afternoons from 2-4 on the farm, and orders should be placed by Thursdays. The selection and variety will change as the season progresses, with the most variety in late April- early May, when tomato, squash, pepper, basil and other warm season plants are ready to be transplanted. We will likely transition to orders of farm produce in the summertime. Our on-farm self-serve stand in the green barn is also ongoing, with precautions taken to pre-bag produce and sanitize surfaces to prevent potential coronavirus spread.
Thank you for your continued support for our local community, and please let me know if you have anything else that you feel is important to share for our “Rappahannock County Blog” at PEC!
Rappahannock Field Representative
The Piedmont Environmental Council
540-347-2334 ext. 7060