This Saturday, April 28th, the Town of Front Royal along with the Front Royal Warren County Tree Stewards and the Urban Forestry Advisory Commission will be hosting an Arbor Day/Earth Day celebration at Burrell Brooks Park on Criser Rd. Mayor Hollis Tharpe will read a proclamation and the Virginia Department of Forestry will award a banner to the Town marking the 18th year that Front Royal has qualified with the Tree City USA program. This year the Town will also receive a special Growth Award. Town Horticulturist Anne Rose has selected a Katsura tree to be planted at the park as this year's Arbor Day tree. This event begins at 8:30 am.
Following the Arbor Day tree planting, Mayor Tharpe and town officials welcome the public to join in a Ribbon Cutting Ceremony on Criser Road at the new sidewalk across from Samuels Library and Ressie Jeffries Elementary School. The completed sidewalk along the south side of Criser Rd marks the completion of the Royal Shenandoah Greenway. The Greenway is a system of paths and trails to support active and healthy living and appreciation of nature for local residents and visitors of all ages. The roughly 5 mile loop connects Front Royal's educational, recreational, historical and commercial areas.
At 9:15 (runners) and 9:30 (walkers) the days events continue with the "Green"Way Run/Walk, a free event for the whole family. Run or walk all or part of the loop in this informal, self-reporting activity. There will be check points and water stations along the route. Come out and join us! Our community has much to celebrate this April.
A greenway for Front Royal had been contemplated as far back as 1989 but, for some reason, it was shelved. Six years ago at our annual Tree Stewards retreat we decided to see if we could spearhead its development. We first got Virginia Tech to develop a four-and-a-half-mile trail on paper. We then presented this to both the Town and County officials since it would run through both entities. Today, nearly four miles of the greenway have been completed thanks to their cooperation and commitment of both labor and fund-raising.
The trail runs from the Visitors Center, down Main Street to Luray Avenue, and then proceeds down to the South Fork of the Shenandoah River. From there it travels along the river for about a half mile, then passes under a railroad overpass and proceeds up through the woods to where it presently stops in front of the Skyline High School. Taking the trail in the opposite direction from the Visitors Center one can easily find a macadam path running from Main Street to South Street and from South Street to Criser Road near the library.
What remains is for the trail to continue a short distance from Skyline High School to the intersection of Route 340 and Criser Road. And then about a half mile along Criser Road to Happy Creek. That will complete the loop.
There is much to see along the Royal Shenandoah Greenway. There is an arboretum replete with a variety of labeled trees and shrubs that the Tree Stewards maintain. A stroll along the South Fork of the Shenandoah, is sublime with spring bluebells providing bright and restful color. The Town has installed two kiosks – one in the Arboretum and the second, funded by the Beautification Committee, at the Visitors Center – providing information about tree care and current events. The Trees Stewards maintain these kiosks.
And now the trail is taking on a life of its own. As the result of a Boy Scout project there is a book box by the river where one can read at leisure, take a book home and later return it along with other book donations. Eastham Park, through which runs the river section of the trail, has two dog parks (large and small) and soccer fields. An extractible toilet will be installed this fall in a section of Eastham Park that is in the flood plane. This is being built by the Blue Ridge Technical Center, an incredibly refined and diverse unit of the Warren County School system. The entire building can be removed in times of flooding.
The Royal Shenandoah Greenway is a trail for hikers, bikers, walkers, and baby strollers. But it is greater than the sum of its parts. Many organizations, public and private, and individuals have contributed financially to its creation. It is a living vibrant confirmation of the spirit that makes our community such a wonderful place to live.
Those interested in joining this undertaking or in getting more information are encouraged to contact us.
To see the conceptual master plan for the Greenway from the project by the Community Design Assistance Center at Virginia Tech click here.