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Beaverdam Park-An Outdoor Treasure ~ Part I
By Hugh Davis
 
     Hiking, biking, horseback riding, fishing, canoeing, picnicking, youth camping, meetings, reunions, weddings, bird-watching, nature study, horseshoes, volleyball—Beaverdam Reservoir Park, near Gloucester Courthouse, offers a complete range of outdoor activities to all comers.

     I live within a mile of the park and often hike, fish and canoe there, but I wanted more information, so I arranged an interview with the park manager, Chris Smith. I had originally intended for this article to be the first in a series on hiking trails in the Middle Peninsula–Northern Neck Area. However, in talking to Chris I learned that Beaverdam Park has much more to offer than the hiking, fishing, boating and canoeing I was familiar with. I felt that Chesapeake Style's readers deserved to know about all of these outdoor recreation opportunities, so I expanded this article to cover the full range of activities available. In future issues, I hope to provide a more detailed guide to the hiking trails at Beaverdam and then continue with descriptions of other trails in the area.
There are two entrances to Beaverdam Park. The main entrance is at the end of Roaring Springs Road (Route 616) near Gloucester Court House. The secondary entrance is on Fary's Mill Road (Route 606), about two and a half miles northeast of Ark. I met Chris Smith at his office at the main entrance ranger station. He told me he came to his job last July, after serving for three years as a ranger and environmental education coordinator at Sandy Bottom Nature Park in Hampton. Before that he taught biology and environmental science at Bethel High School in Hampton for 25 years. 

     Chris explained that the Beaverdam Reservoir is the main source of water for the Gloucester County municipal water system and covers more than 600 acres. Beaverdam Park's 1000 or so acres include the reservoir and a buffer zone extending from 50 yards to several hundred yards from the shore line. The park is operated by the Gloucester County Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism.

     Chris has found that this park is very different than Sandy Bottom Nature Park. "The personnel here are just great. I have a very good working relationship with my boss, Carol Steele, the Director of Parks and Recreation. The staff here at the park are friendly and easy going. It's a pleasure to work with all of them."
I asked Chris how many people were on the park staff. He said, "Besides me, there are two full-time employees, Chuck Hyde, in charge of programs and Eddie Hester, in charge of maintenance. There are also from five to seven part-time workers, depending on the season."

     He described the activities and facilities available to park users. "Here at the main entrance, boaters and fishermen can rent jon boats, electric outboard motors and canoes. They can also purchase daily and annual boat and canoe launching permits and fishing licenses. We have a volleyball court, horseshoe pits, playground equipment and an exercise trail. Fisherman, particularly kids, can use our fishing pier or fish from the shore. Families and groups can rent the Smith Picnic Shelter or the Whitcomb Lodge for picnics, weddings, meetings and family reunions. There are also several picnic areas with charcoal grills and tables for use by families and smaller groups. Hikers, bike riders and horseback riders have access to the ten- mile long multi-purpose trail and there is a three-mile long nature trail, open to hikers only. 

     "At the Fary's Mill Road entrance we have a boat ramp, a pier, access to the multi-purpose trail, a shelter with rest rooms and soft drink machines (available from March through November), playground equipment and a couple of picnic tables with charcoal grills."

     Although I am familiar with the multi-purpose trail for the first four miles from the Fary's Mill Road end, I asked Chris to describe the total trail system for me. He told me that "From the Fary's Mill Road entrance to the Roaring Springs Road entrance the trail stretches for ten miles. It runs mostly through open woodland, dominated by mature poplar, oak and beech trees. There are several wooden bridges or causeways that cross the small streams and marshes that feed the lake. One of the more attractive features of the multi-purpose trail is the existence of several ‘loop trails’ that allow hikers to take a different route back to their starting place without a great deal of backtracking. Many of the trail segments run close to the reservoir, affording views of the lake and of the various species of waterfowl and other birds that frequent the lake. At other times the trail climbs well up into the low hills surrounding the reservoir. We also have a nature trail, open only to hikers and joggers. It begins at the Roaring Springs Road entrance and is about three miles long.

     To reach the ranger station and main entrance to Beaverdam park, as you head south on US 17, pass Riverside-Walter Reed-Hospital and turn left on Business Route 17 into Gloucester Courthouse. After you pass St. Therese Catholic Church and the Pocahontas statue, turn left again onto Roaring Springs Road (Route 616.) Go about two and a half miles and drive straight into the parking lot. To use the Fary's Mill Road entrance, as you head South on Route 17, turn left on Fary's Mill Road (Route 606) at Ark. After about two and a half miles, cross a short bridge over Beaverdam Swamp, as it enters the reservoir, and immediately turn right into the park.

     To learn more about the park or for specific questions, you may call the ranger station at 804-693-2107 or send e-mail to csmith@co.gloucester.va.us. 

© 2001 Hugh Davis. All rights reserved.


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