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Staunton River State Park wants public’s input for master plan

Plans are in the works to spruce up Staunton River State Park, and park personnel are seeking the public’s input.

Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation Park Planner Bill Conkle wants to hear thoughts of Halifax County residents concerning the three-phase Staunton River State Park Master Plan.

That plan, which includes future additions and renovations as funding becomes available, was presented Wednesday evening at the park’s Visitor’s Center. 

“Right now, these are suggestions. The Board of Conservation and Recreation may decide to complete some of these or none of these. It all depends on funding,” said Conkle. 

Parks receive 50 percent of their funding from tax sources and the other 50 percent from visitor fees. Bond referendums also have been used to fund past projects. 

Prior to this meeting, an inventory was taken of Staunton River State Park before developing a list of proposed developments. The costs for development, staff and operations also were configured before writing the final draft master plan. 

Phase one of the plan includes several changes to the park’s Visitor’s Center. Originally, the Visitor’s Center was planned also to be an exhibit hall, but according to Conkle, the meeting and conference space provided would be limited there.  

This plan includes enlarging the center approximately 600 square feet to install exhibits as well as enlarging and reconfiguring parking and the entrance for the building. 

“We want to make the parking safer, larger and more convenient,” added Conkle. 

Also a possible new park entrance and internal park road is included. This new entrance would begin east of State Route 344 near the equestrian campground, and the internal road would extend to where the current equestrian day-use parking is located. 

This equestrian day-use parking may be converted to a picnic area and trailhead parking, and the original parking area could be moved closer to the equestrian campground. 

Edmunds Lake could gain a new look with repairs and upgrades to its dam, road upgrades, bank fishing nodes and a hand-carry boat launch, construction picnic area, comfort station and parking located north of the lake. 

Phase two of the plan includes renovations to a log cabin at Edmunds Lake to house seasonal staff, and phase three includes construction of an environmental education facility and a group camp at the lake. 

“I would just like to point out that the phases can be moved,” said Conkle. 

Currently a pond is located adjacent to Beaver Swamp Trail that could gain a nature trail and fishing piers compliant with the American Disabilities Act. 

Phase two of the plan also includes a canoe landing/launch on the Dan River, and phase three would bring a large picnic shelter and a boat dock to that river.

This boat dock would connect the park to Occoneechee State Park providing guests an opportunity to boat to and from each park, said Conkle. 

If guests were to ride a pontoon boat from Staunton River to Occoneechee, Conkle estimated it would be about a 15-minute trip. 

Public input is very important in this project, Conkle said, adding written and emailed comments will be accepted for the Staunton River State Park Master Plan through April 19.

After the 30-day waiting period, the master plan will be presented to the State Board of Conservation and Recreation. It will undergo a 30-day review by the General Assembly before becoming adopted by the DCR director. 

Guests also were offered a chance to speak following the presentation of the master plan. 

Several spoke about the park’s annual star parties expressing concern about adding lights to the boat ramp. 

The Chapel Hill Astronomical and Observational Society (CHAOS) holds its Staunton River Star Party in the park in the spring and fall since the park is located in an area with very little light pollution. 

This provides an ideal location for the CHAOS astronomers who gather with their telescopes for star parties twice a year.

As part of the star parties, presentations are offered on viewing the heavens above, and stations are set up to see major planets, stars and other celestial objects.

Staunton River State Park Manager Adam Layman assured everyone that if more lights are purchased, they would be shielded and would shine downward to not impact the night sky. 

Conkle said he would look at the master plan to make sure the sky would be protected from light pollution.

A guest also suggested more electricity should be provided for use at the star parties. 

Another guest also urged clean-up to the pond area stating she wished it was more “usable” for fishing because she said the plant life is now “overgrown.” 

The park planner reminded everyone the plan may not happen immediately, but “this is what it could look like in 25 years.”

“Master plans outline the desired future condition for a park when it is fully developed,” said Conkle. “We welcome public input in the planning process.”   

Written comments should be submitted to Bill Conkle, park planner, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.