Whiteoak Canyon Trail bridge

ANDREW SHURTLEFF/THE DAILY PROGRESS

Ribbon cut on new bridge

A new 35-foot bridge allowing access to one of Shenandoah National Park’s most popular trails was dedicated Tuesday at the Whiteoak Canyon Trailhead in Syria. The new bridge improves fish passage and allows betters access for first responders. Read the story on Page A3. Find more photos at DailyProgress.com.

Officials with Shenandoah National Park and a trio of private groups have opened a new bridge to the Whiteoak Canyon Trailhead in Madison County.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held Tuesday to celebrate the new 35-foot bridge across Cedar Run in Syria.

The bridge was a public-private partnership between the park, Piedmont Environmental Council, Trout Unlimited and the Graves Family, which owns the land.

The $110,000 project was funded through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, Orvis, The Piedmont Environmental Council, Nimick Forbesway Foundation and Ohrstrom Foundation.

The park closed the bridge after it was heavily damaged by rain in 2018. The closure blocked access to a parking area as well.

The old bridge blocked fish movement and was frequently clogged with woody material and river cobble, requiring frequent maintenance, according to a news release. The blocked bridge also caused Cedar Run to flood surrounding areas and erode banks.

“Brook trout require healthy watersheds and stream habitat to survive and thrive,” Seth Coffman of Trout Unlimited said in a news release. “Equally important is access to that habitat, and the more habitat that is available the more resilient brook trout populations will be into the future.”

The new bridge allows fish to travel underneath, improving stream habitats, according to the National Park Service.

The bridge boosts habitats for brook trout, American eel and other species and also reduces erosion and the risk of flooding downstream.

The new span also improves emergency vehicle access and reopens access to the Whiteoak Canyon Trailhead area.

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