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Shenandoah River State Park, VA develops a boardwalk

Park Manager Tony Widmer was project manager for the Bluebell Loop boardwalk trail.

From Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation
By Jeff Foster, November 2008

photo of bridge

The boardwalk under construction at Shenandoah River State Park


Raymond "Andy" Guest Jr. Shenandoah River State Park is located in Warren County, Virginia. The park encompasses 1,604 acres with over five miles of river frontage along the South Fork of the Shenandoah River. Nestled between the Massanutten Mountains to the west and the Blue Ridge Mountains to the east, the unique location of the park offers an enticing variety of terrain as well as breathtaking scenery and abundant wildlife.

As part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, the park is a significant resource and offers numerous opportunities for environmental education as well as recreation. Since opening in 1999 the parks annual attendance has continued to grow and a record 116,000 visitors visited in 2007. Campers utilize the hike or canoe-in campground along the river for extended visits.

The Bluebell Loop Trail is located just north of the campground near the Shenandoah River. The trail meanders through a wooded floodplain that contains about thirty vernal pools.

photo of bear and cub on boardwalk

Park residents taking a closer look at the new boardwalk


Vernal pools are seasonally flooded wetlands that are often overlooked in our forests. Spring rains and snow melt help create these important eco-systems which improve water quality, are an excellent educational tool, and provide habitat to hundreds of species. They are also extremely sensitive to disruption and are increasingly threatened, primarily by development. Because of the susceptible nature of the environment and very wet surface area visitor access to the trail is limited from February through June.

A trail was desired that would get park visitors safely to this sensitive area where they could enjoy bird watching or take a quiet hike to see what is going on in the vernal pools. This trail could also be used to bring school groups in and teach them the importance of the wooded floodplain, vernal pools, riparian areas and how they all tie directly into the health of the Chesapeake Bay. In 2006, Park Manager, Tony Widmer came up with an idea to build an elevated boardwalk trail.

Tony visited boardwalks at parks in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia. He attended trail conferences and workshops to gain the knowledge needed to initiate the project. Construction of the boardwalk was challenging due to the wetness of the area. Most of the work was completed during the winter months when the ground was frozen.

photo: working on boardwalk

Fence posts and salt treated lumber were used to construct the supports and framing for the boardwalk


The staff used round fence posts and salt treated lumber to construct the supports and framing. The round fence posts were set in cement, 2” X 8” were used for cross ties and Choice decking was attached on top of 2” X 6” stringers. Choice decking is a more environmentally friendly type of decking composed mainly of recycled plastics. Using this type of decking prevents the use of additional treated wood products and all but eliminates the need to replace boards due to weathering.

The Bluebell Loop boardwalk trail was completed in June 2008 with funding from the Virginia State Parks Trail Funding Project. The finished trail is over a mile and half in length. It will provide year long enjoyment and increased educational opportunities for park visitors, as well as protection for the sensitive vernal pools and the many species that inhabit them.

For more information:

Shenandoah River State Park
350 Daughter of Stars Drive
Bentonville, VA 22610
Phone: (540) 622-6840

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