The COVID 19 pandemic has forced many of us and our localities to rethink how we do business. Here at PEC, we are working remotely and continue to try and provide you with connection to your community and the issues that affect you. This includes connecting you to the important decisions being made at the state and local level.
In Rappahannock, you may have noticed that the county recently 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. As a result, we believe most land use decisions will be postponed for the time-being. Importantly, there have been recent decisions related to keeping our local parks open for passive use and closing down trails that connect to the Shenandoah National Park and the Appalachian Trail.
Please find a summary of many of these updates from our local Rappahannock County government and community leaders. Many of these issues have stories and more information that can be read by following the links provided. I hope that this information will help you stay informed during this uncertain time, as well as provide you the opportunity to participate in local government decision-making, and can share a list of community resources that may be helpful during this time.
Rappahannock County Government
Even though there continue to be no known cases of COVID-19 in Rappahannock County, to protect the health of county citizens and employees, and while continuing to provide critical services, Rappahannock County government offices will modify hours and operations effective March 22, 2020. All county-government business may be completed by telephone or email whenever possible and until further notice. Changes made in each county office can be found in the March 22 County Press Release. These practices are subject to change over the coming days and weeks as we adapt to the evolving COVID-19 situation.
- Rappahannock County addresses public on COVID-19 crisis with live-stream meeting: Rappahannock Co. government officials held an emergency live-stream meeting to address citizens on the County’s efforts during the time of the COVID-19 crisis on April 3, 2020, making it the first live-stream meeting of its kind for the County. In attendance were Board of Supervisors Chairperson Christine Smith, Rappahannock County Administrator Garrey Curry and Rappahannock Schools Superintendent Dr. Shannon Grimsley. Standing a safe distance in the background were Rappahannock County Sheriff Connie Compton and Rappahannock Emergency Services Coordinator Kevin Williams. The County outlined current efforts to maintain local services, such as trash disposal at the County’s two refuse stations, the availability of local COVID-19 testing, public school on-line resources, public internet locations (especially for local students), school meals for pick-up, food bank resources, and childcare for essential employees. It was recommended that any business in the county that experiences crowd issues— including those not practicing social distancing guidelines or size limits — should contact the Rappahannock County Sheriff’s Office.
- Additionally, Rappahannock Co. government has made the following COVID-19 Information Releases available on the County’s website, rappahannockcountyva.gov
- Rappahannock County COVID-19 Release No. 3, March 22, 2020 (click to download)
- Rappahannock County COVID-19 Release No. 2, March 17, 2020 (click to download)
- Declaration of a Local State of Emergency (click to download)
- Rappahannock County COVID-19 Release No. 1, March 14, 2020
- General Administrative Order, March 16, 2020 (click to download)
- Supreme Court Order Declaring a Judicial Emergency, March 16, 2020 (click to download)
- Supreme Court Order Extending Judicial Emergency, March 27, 2020 (click to download)
- Procedural Order for Rappahannock Circuit, March 17, 2020 (click to download)
- For more information on pending court cases call either the GDC/JDR (540) 675-5356 or Clerk of the Circuit Court (540) 675-5350
Shenandoah National Park and Skyline Drive
Skyline Drive through Rappahannock County is closed: As of April 4, 2020, the Shenandoah National Park has closed the section of it’s Skyline Drive through Rappahannock, Warren, Page, Madison and Greene Counties, beginning at Mile Marker 0 in Front Royal, and ending at Mile Marker 65.5 at Route 33 west of Stanardsville (Swift Run Entrance). This recent closure comes from the National Park Service in response to guidance from the Virginia Department of Health, in support of the CDC, state and local authorities to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). The Skyline Drive will be open to pedestrians, bicycles and other non-motorized vehicles from Front Royal to the Swift Run Entrance every day from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Rappahannock Board of Supervisors votes to close local routes and trailheads to public access: As of March 30, Rappahannock Board of Supervisors held an emergency meeting to address ways of restricting thousands of tourists and motorcyclists who have overwhelmed county roads and backcountry roads, as well as the few local businesses that remain open. In unanimous votes, Supervisors Christine Smith, Ron Frazier, and Kier Whitson made the following actions:
- Authorized the Board of Supervisors to work with the County Administrator and Attorney to coordinate with VDOT the closure of local routes and the associated trailheads to Shenandoah National Park.
- Drafted a letter to VA Sen. Mark Obenshain, Delegate Michael Webert, and others requesting that the head of the Department of Interior formally close Shenandoah Park, home of Skyline Drive.
- Coordinate signate with VDOT to place signage and barriers on Route 522 and Route 211 to restate Gov. Northam’s Stay at Home order.
Tourist homes and Short-term Rentals
The Rappahannock Board of Supervisors has voted to enact an emergency closure of short-term rentals (as of April 6) that prohibits “the advertising of and rental of a hotel room, motel room, room(s) in a B & B, tourist home, rental housing unit, condominium, RV campsite, primitive campsite, rental cabin, or similar accommodation for less than thirty (30) consecutive days.” An exception was made for medical personnel, first responders, and family members of the property owners.
Local County Parks and Recreation
Rappahannock County Park remains open for “passive use”: Rappahannock County’s only public park remains open for now, but only for “passive use,” meaning all organized events, pavilion reservations, and facilities are closed at this time. Volunteer activities will be allowed under the restriction of 10 people or less, and are to follow CDC social/ physical distancing guidelines. Some activities like basketball and the playground may not lend themselves to social distancing, and will be evaluated by the Rappahannock County Parks Recreational Authority (RCRFA) at their next meeting (April 9) to determine if they should continue. “We have wonderful, upgraded facilities, trails and outdoor areas that our community can enjoy during this challenging time,” said Mike Del Grosso, chair of RCRFA. “With everyone homeschooling, our kids need a place to go to get out of the house.”
Local Food Security
Rappahannock Food Pantry acts as a front-line defense to hunger during this time of need, and is currently accepting financial and food donations to serve local residents of Rappahannock County. There has been a dramatic increase in demand for pantry items and local volunteers to distribute food deliveries to residents who are sheltering in place. Currently, the Pantry remains open on a Drive-Thru basis, and anyone who lives in Rappahannock County and in need of food is welcome (you do not have to be a client of the pantry to receive food). The Pantry is open for drive-through shoppers on Tuesdays and Thursdays from noon until 4pm and Saturdays from 10am to 2pm. Drop-off hours are Tuesdays & Thursdays 9:00am to 11:30am and Saturdays 9am to 10am. The Pantry is located at 11763 Lee Highway in Sperryville.
Additionally, local high-school students have formed a volunteer group, “Rappahannock Warriors Delivery Service,” to deliver food, supplies, and other necessities to home-bound and at-risk residents on a regular schedule.
Many local farms, such as The Farm at Sunnyside and Waterpenny Farm are donating fresh, organic produce to our local food pantry. Additionally, these farms along with Bean Hollow Grass-fed, Whiporwhill Farm, Belle Meade Farm, Starstead Farm (Rixeyville-based), Whiffletree Farm (Warrenton-based, delivers to Rappahannock) are setting up online ordering and/ or farm stores for pick-up of farm produce, eggs, and meats. Please visit these farms’ websites and Facebook pages to see how you can support local farms during this difficult time and fill your kitchen with fresh, healthy food for your family. I would be remiss to not thank the few but strong food-service businesses who remain open, including: Sperryville Corner Store, Off-theGrid, Griffin Tavern and Skyward Cafe in Huntly for providing fresh food to-go, groceries, and needed pantry items.
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 in my next “Rappahannock County Blog” post at PEC!
Rappahannock Field Representative
The Piedmont Environmental Council
540-347-2334 ext. 7060