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The National Park Service is seeking comments regarding the proposed parking lot development on the north side of Old Rag Mountain as the agency develops an Environmental Assessment (EA). The opportunity to provide comments has been extended to September 22, 2007.
Among the most popular hiking destinations in Virginia, the Old Rag Mountain region attracts more than 50,000 visitors annually to Madison County. For many years, visitors to this area have parked in a small pasture that was leased by the Park. The lease on the Nethers lot has been extended for 10 more years, through 2017. However, future long-term use of this lot, which is almost a mile from the Trailhead, is not certain. Failure to find a permanent solution may cause significant impact to visitors and the community. After many years of study and management activity a more permanent solution to parking and associated issues for Old Rag must be found.
The following are primary objectives for making parking improvements at Old Rag:
· ensuring a long-term and environmentally responsible solution to parking issues in the Nethers;
· reducing park visitor impacts to the Nethers neighborhood, including obstruction of traffic flow caused from roadside parking along the narrow State Route 600, trespassing, littering, and inappropriate disposal of human waste;
· resolving visitor safety concerns caused by high numbers of vehicles and pedestrians sharing the same narrow roadway;
· improving visitor experiences which are impaired by the lack of parking and/or poor trailhead access (requiring adding 1.6 miles round trip hiking distance by walking along the road).
An EA for the project will be prepared in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to provide the decision-making framework for the following:
· analysis of a reasonable range of alternatives to meet project objectives;
· evaluation of potential issues and impacts to natural and cultural resources and values;
· and identification of mitigation measures to lessen the degree or extent of those impacts.
The NPS encourages public participation through the NEPA process. The public has two opportunities to formally comment on the project – once during public scoping and again following release of the Draft EA. We are currently in the public scoping phase of this project.
Comments should be posted online at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/shen or sent to: Superintendent, Shenandoah National Park, Attn: Old Rag Parking Lot Project, 3655 US Highway, 211 East, Luray, VA 22835.