February 29, 2013
Madison County officials want the National Park Service to restore a promise put in place by a president more than 80 years ago -- a promise to have access to Shenandoah National Park.
Madison County contains 33,000 acres of the park, and it's also the only county bordering the park without access to it.
"The goal is really to have access up into the park," county administrator Ernie Hoch said.
County officials are petitioning the National Park Service to reopen that access. Dirt and gravel roads already exist, but some have been blocked off since 1939.
"I think the opportunity here is to have an entrance that is very unique, that really is kind of a snapshot in history 84 years ago, that's frozen in time for future generations to really show the genesis of this park," Hoch said.
In a letter to county supervisors 84 years ago, President Herbert Hoover promised an entrance to what was then the newest national park.
"The Madison County supervisors have advanced the improvement of a road which will form one of the fine openings to the new park," the letter read.
Hoover also set up the first presidential retreat, the Rapidan House, in the forest. But after the depression, plans for park access were put on hold.
Today, county officials say it's time to restore Hoover's promise.
"It's really a place we can preserve for all Virginians and all citizens of the United States to come and see a place lost in time a little bit," Hoch said.
Opening up access from the county to Shenandoah National Park would allow the park to be a gateway to show visitors everything Madison and its surrounding communities have to offer.
"The entrance by itself won't generate millions of dollars," Hoch said. "But the entrance can be a spark to really highlight all of the other beautiful things the park has to offer in the region."
County officials plan to meet with the park's superintendent in March. If all goes well for the county, it could have limited access to the park by this summer.