South River earns state Scenic River designation
The Virginia Scenic River Program’s intent is to identify, designate, and help protect rivers and streams which possess outstanding scenic, recreational, historic, and natural characteristics of statewide significance.
The Scenic River designation for Waynesboro’s stretch of the South River became official on July 1, but it wasn’t a given. The designation is achieved through a legislative process that begins at the local level.
The city made its request for consideration in early 2019. The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation administers the program and evaluates rivers for potential designation. DCR must complete a rigorous field evaluation of the waterway. During this evaluation, 14 criteria are considered and scored. These include development in the visual corridor, streambed modifications, water quality, fisheries quality, recreational access, and landscape characteristics.
After delays from weather in 2019 and then COVID in 2020, the evaluation was finally completed in August 2020. A review and discussion of the evaluation revealed this 6.5-mile stretch of the South River did qualify for the designation.
Armed with DCR’s approval, Waynesboro City Council passed a resolution of support and asked 20th House District Del. John Avoli to sponsor a bill during the 2021 General Assembly session to recognize the river segment as a Virginia Scenic River.
The bill was passed by both the House and Senate and was on its way to the governor for final approval in February.
Dave Hennel, a local paddling advocate and regular on the South River, couldn’t be more thrilled with the designation.
“The South River Scenic River designation is a winner for our community,” Hennel said. “It shouts out to everyone what a great resource and amenity we have here in our little city. It’s a positive response to some of the not-so-favorable press the river has seen in its past. I think the biggest winner in this, is the South River itself, as it will lead to more folks utilizing, appreciating, and protecting this gem of a river.”
The Virginia Scenic River Program celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2020. The designation’s intent is to recognize and conserve streams and their corridors that have characteristics of statewide significance. The designation does not place strict limitations on the river or take any power away from the locality or property owners. It should not be confused with the National Wild and Scenic River Program.
Currently, only 2% of Virginia’s nearly 50,000 river miles are designated as state scenic rivers.
Paddlers can access the South River at various put-ins within the Waynesboro Park system. These include Ridgeview, Rife, Constitution Park, North Park and Basic Park. The float from Ridgeview to Basic Park typically takes about 1.5-2 hours to complete depending on the river’s water level.
A water level around 2’ is ideal for beginner paddlers.
For more information on the Waynesboro Water Trail and planning a paddle trip, visit the webpage, www.waynesboro.va.us/889/Waynesboro-Water-Trail or contact the Parks and Recreation Department, email@example.com.
For more information on Virginia Scenic Rivers Program: www.dcr.virginia.gov/recreational-planning/srmain.