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With latest grant, Friends of the Rappahannock helping to draft new management plan for Fredericksburg riverfront land
Paddlers enjoy the Rappahannock River, which is buffered from development by 4,200 acres of city-owned land.
FILE/SUZANNE CARR ROSSI/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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By RUSTY DENNEN
With recreational use of the Rappahannock River growing by leaps and bounds, a river-protection group wants to make sure those activities don't harm the waterway or its environmentally fragile surroundings.
Friends of the Rappahannock recently received a $100,000 grant to head up creation of a management plan for its Rappahannock River Water Trail. The grant is from the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network.
The trail winds through more than 4,200 riverfront acres Fredericksburg owns upstream along the Rappahannock and Rapidan rivers.
City Council created a permanent conservation easement two years ago on the relatively pristine swath of land.
"The timing for this is important because we're seeing consistent growth in recreational use of the river," said John Tippett, FOR executive director.
The Rappahannock is getting more love from devotees than ever before as people move to the area.
Other draws: The removal of Embrey Dam near Fall Hill Avenue in 2004 opened a new section of river to paddlers and those on float tubes. Also a series of fish kills along the Shenandoah River sent more anglers here.
"It's important for us to get ahead of this curve," Tippett said.
Fredericksburg has a management plan for the riverfront land it acquired from Virginia Electric and Power Co.--now Dominion Virginia Power--in the late 1960s. But it is dated and needs to be overhauled.
"The big difference now is that we have the easement in place," Tippett said. He noted that "the devil is in the details" about how recreational activities should be regulated.
"We're going to be addressing issues like campsite locations, human waste disposal and trash disposal, locations of future trails," he said. Also, how conflicting uses, such as camping and hunting, should be controlled.
FOR will work with the easement holders--Fredericksburg, The Nature Conservancy, and the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries--and others, such as Lee Sillitoe, the city's watershed property manager, to draft the plan.
"A big part of this is that we want want users of the land to help craft solutions," Tippett said. "There will be plenty of opportunities for public input."
Any plan would have to be approved by City Council.
Tippett said the process will take 18 months.
Fredericksburg-based FOR created the Rappahannock River Water Trail with an earlier Bay Gateways grant to help paddlers explore and understand the easement property.
It created a laminated trail guide and in May opened the Water Trail Orientation Center in its headquarters on Fall Hill Avenue.Friends of the Rappahannock: riverfriends.org
Rusty Dennen: 540/374-5431