With the spring hiking season not far off, this news from Shenandoah National Park might not thrill everyone. They're permanently closing the "upper lot" parking area at the Ridge Trailhead for Old Rag Mountain.
Shenandoah Superintendent Martha Bogle says the 12-space parking area is being closed because of damage caused by folks parking along the road and on private land that borders the park. Additionally, the congested parking that has arisen at this trailhead in the past has made it difficult for emergency service vehicles to respond to those in need of help on Old Rag, she said.
Temporary signing in the upper and lower lots and at Rt. #600 to advise visitors of the impending upper lot closure has been posted. Park staff will accomplish the closure with the installation of a temporary gate and other barriers by mid-April 2010. The closure is a result of an Environmental Assessment (EA) entitled Old Rag Parking Lot, which included extensive public involvement over a two-year period. The Finding of No
Significant Impact for that project was approved in June 2009.
The Old Rag Mountain area trails are some of the most popular day and overnight use trail areas in park. Visitation on weekends each day can frequently exceed 500 people completing the 8.8 mile Old Rag circuit hike, park officials say. Public vehicle parking has been provided at the 12-space NPS upper parking lot and the leased 250-space lower lot.
Park officials expect that the closure of the NPS upper lot will substantially reduce the conflict and congestion of shared visitor vehicle traffic and pedestrian use on Rt. #600, will minimize road shoulder parking trespass on adjacent private land, and should potentially reduce crowding and resource impacts at the Ridge and Nicholson Hollow trailheads.
Upon closure of the upper lot to public vehicle access, the site will continue to serve as work-trip parking access for PATC and Old Rag Mountain Steward volunteers and for emergency vehicle and other official park administrative access. For the near future, at least one portable toilet will be maintained on site and most trash receptacles will be kept available.
A new parking lot in the area of Nethers Rt. #600 for Old Rag trail access is planned for future construction.