Clarke County Opens Expanded parking near A.T.

Star staff reports
May 14, 2018

berryville parking lotBERRYVILLE — After months of planning and waiting for appropriate conditions for construction, an expanded parking lot is now open in Clarke County near the Appalachian Trail, just in time for the busy hiking season. The parking lot is north of Va. 7 (Harry Byrd Highway) and east of the village of Pine Grove.

Previously, only about 10 cars could fit in a small, gravel parking lot off Route 679 at Raven Rocks, an access point to the 2,190-mile Appalachian Trail. Construction of a much larger lot began in November 2017 and was completed on May 8. The larger lot can now accommodate 30 vehicles or more.

“We are really pleased to open an expanded parking lot for residents and visitors who want to enjoy the Appalachian Trail,” said Alison Teetor, natural resource planner for Clarke County who oversaw the project. “The Board of Supervisors recognized a need based on an increasingly dangerous situation and decided to fund the expansion.”

The 5.5-mile Raven Rocks stretch of the Appalachian Trail is popular with day hikers. But once the small lot was full, too many people parked their vehicles along the shoulders of Pine Grove Road (Route 679) and Va. 7. That practice is dangerous and — as indicated by numerous “No Parking” signs — illegal.

Solving the problem took money as well as collaboration between the Clarke County Board of Supervisors and Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), which is responsible for state-owned roads. The Potomac Appalachian Trail Club helped identify the boundaries for an expanded lot as it is the organization that cares for the trail in Maryland and West Virginia as well as parts of Pennsylvania and Virginia, including the 22 miles of trail in Clarke County.

Last year, VDOT engineers looked at the Raven Rocks area and determined there was enough existing right-of-way to create a lot that could accommodate between 25 and 35 vehicles. VDOT did not have funds in its budget to finance the parking lot expansion, but the Board of Supervisors was keen to improve parking and safety near the trail for everyone — hikers, residents and people driving through the area.

In November, the Clarke County Board of Supervisors approved a $7,100 expenditure to clear the land. The second phase — grading and gravel — waited until early spring. The supervisors approved an additional $8,200 bringing the total project cost to $15,300.

In January, the Board of Supervisors took another step to improve safety on county roads when it amended the Clarke County Code related to illegally parked vehicles. The supervisors began looking at the code last fall in response to concerns expressed by residents, visitors and the Clarke County Sheriff’s Office about dangerous parking situations along roads.

Now, the new code gives law enforcement officers the option of issuing citations or having vehicles towed when they are illegally parked. Previously, all law enforcement officers could do was call for tow trucks.

After the parking ordinance was amended, the supervisors asked VDOT to install more “No Parking” signs along roads such as Va. 7 near the Appalachian Trail as well as heavily traveled spots along U.S. 50, U.S. 340 and Lockes Mill Road.

Raven Rocks is one of four Appalachian Trail access points in Clarke County, where 22 miles of the AT run along the Blue Ridge Mountains. In 2015, Clarke County was officially recognized as an Appalachian Trail Community by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. The Appalachian Trail Community program helps communities generate awareness of the iconic trail as well as preserve and protect the AT.

The Appalachian Trail, which was conceived by forester Benton MacKaye in 1921, is the longest hiking-only footpath in the world.