Home Waynesboro’s South River access, greenway transformed; result is ‘pretty spectacular’

Waynesboro’s South River access, greenway transformed; result is ‘pretty spectacular’

South River Preserve
Photos courtesy Waynesboro Parks & Recreation Department

A 26-acre park along the banks of the South River and a nearly two-mile greenway are both part of a plan to rebrand the River City as an outdoors destination providing an enhanced quality of life to those who call Waynesboro home.

Visitors and residents have enjoyed the South River Greenway for years with the original footprint taking walkers and cyclists from the Loth Springs Trailhead near the Y to Constitution Park. The greenway was later extended from Constitution Park to North Park, and plans are in the works to extend it even further to Basic City and Ridgeview Park.

A section of the popular greenway near Constitution Park has been closed for months as construction was being done as part of the South River Preserve project. But today, AFP got word from the Waynesboro Parks & Recreation Department that the full stretch of the current greenway is open again.

There may still be short closures to the greenway as work continues in the stream and asphalt is completed, said Stephanie Seltzer, who is serving as project manager of the South River Preserve through her job with Parks & Rec.

“There will be some slight interruptions when we’re getting delivery of a product or when other work is taking place, so that might call for a minor closure or rerouting into a grassy zone to get people safely around it,” said Seltzer.

The parking lot will also be open as soon as the city completes some safety items and has signage in place, she said.

The city has gotten numerous calls asking when the greenway would reopen.

“There are regular users that are there every day or even multiple times per day,” Seltzer said. “The greenway is a much beloved amenity that the city has.”

The large parking lot, once used by DuPont and Invista employees, has been replaced with trees and lots of plants.

“I will tell you the transformation is incredible,” said Seltzer. “Once the plants went in and some fresh asphalt was in place, the little pedestrian bridge you walk on, what will be the new greenway route is pretty spectacular.

“It’s an entirely different experience than it was before looking at a decrepit, unused parking lot.”

Seltzer is anxious to see what the space will look like in several years when the habitat is more established.

“They’ll all be coming in here in the next few years,” said Seltzer. “You’ll really be able to see it take shape, but even now, the transformation is absolutely incredible through that section.”

South River Preserve

South River Preserve

Visitors to the greenway may be among the first to see the work completed as part of the South River Preserve project. When it’s complete, in-stream habitats will be improved; fishing access points will be added; and it will feature a river theater, an ADA fishing platform and pollinator gardens.

Originally, the goal had been to have the project completed by June 1, but the project is behind schedule, in part to a gas line that needs to be moved on the eastern side of the river.

Seltzer said they are in a “holding pattern” for that section until the gas line work is done. Once that is complete, the crews should be able to move their efforts over to that side of the river.

The more visible work on the western side of the river is coming together. Plants and trees were put in the ground, and the asphalt was done in mid-April. The river theater has also been completed giving people the ability to get closer to the water to wade and splash.

Due to a grant from the Central Shenandoah Central Planning District Commission, the city was able to restore planting at or above the original design. There had been some cuts planned to the amount of plants due to increased project costs, so Seltzer said the original plan for the project is back in place.

“You’re going to get a different feel and idea of what Waynesboro is when you’re looking out over a lush meadow, and you see butterflies, and you hear birds chirping and singing and nesting,” she said.

The greenway extension

The current greenway runs approximately two miles one way and has 60,000 visitors annually.

There are still plans to extend the greenway from North Park to Basic Park and from the Loth Springs Trailhead, near the Waynesboro Y, to Ridgeview Park.

The current asphalt greenway includes benches, portable toilets, exercise stations and a bike repair station. There are also bags provided for pet waste making the scenic walkway a perfect place to walk your four-legged companion.

North Park to Basic Park

South River Greenway

The extension from North Park on Bridge Avenue to Basic Park would use the existing pedestrian walkway over the bridge and then follow the opposite side of the river down around the bend into Basic Park with the path winding around to the parking lot.

When we chatted with Seltzer in the fall, she said the city was working with a property owner to secure an easement so this leg of the greenway can move forward. Seltzer said there has been some progress: the land has been appraised, and the city is negotiating with the property owner now.

Construction plans are ready, she said, so once the easement is in place, she expects the turnaround to get started to happen quickly. The goal is to move to the construction phase some time this year or by spring of next year.

Loth Springs Trailhead to Ridgeview Park (via 14th Street)

The extension to Ridgeview Park in Waynesboro will run approximately 0.70 miles from Wayne Avenue to 14th Street to Magnolia Avenue and could be completed as early as Thanksgiving.

Unlike the paved greenway residents are accustomed to, this part of the path will run on sidewalks.

Leslie Tate, director of community development for Waynesboro, said that the Virginia Department of Transportation environmental review was just completed on the extension. The next step is to get final authorization to post the invitation to bid on the project. The goal, she said, is to award the job and give a notice to proceed on the project in early July.

Tate said she’s hopeful the job can be completed before weather becomes a factor but said they are about two months behind, and the original estimate was that the project could take up to six months to complete.

“It might be a little tight now with our late timeframe,” Tate said. “If it needs to extend past Thanksgiving, then you get worried about weather. Our hope is to still be able to get it in before the end of the year.”

Funding for this stretch of greenway is through a VDOT open container grant. The total grant was just over $1.2 million for the expansion.

The project will replace some sidewalks and add sidewalks where there are none, pedestrian crosswalks and ADA-compliant curb ramps.

“It is different than the typical greenway,” said Tate. “It’s a really important linkage in that overall kind of circumferential trail that is planned for the city.

“And I think it provides a different opportunity to go from a more recreational setting to walking through neighborhoods. We’re excited to get it done.”

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Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.