Catching up with Ranger Tom
Despite opening in the middle of a global pandemic, visitors have discovered Seven Bends State Park, the new park in Woodstock bordered by the North Fork of the Shenandoah River. Visitors such as Beth and Mike Funkhouser from Woodstock have enjoyed exploring the park, especially in the midst of COVID. They find it the perfect spot to get fresh air and see some wildlife. And with the well-marked trail system, it is a great place to get a nice workout. The park is also a place to relax in the evening when the workday is over.
If you’ve had an opportunity to visit the park, maybe you met Ranger Tom Stevens who has been the park ranger for the past 2 1/2 years. Even though weather delayed opening in 2019 and COVID-19 cancelled the grand opening in 2020, visitation at the park has been booming, said Ranger Tom, especially since the park amenities were completed. Collectively visitors seem really excited about having a state park in their backyards, supported by the fact that the majority of visitors are local, a trend that is different from other state parks that get more non-local traffic. In addition, many of these regular visitors have purchased annual passes in anticipation of repeat visits.
Tom Cardwell from Woodstock seems to agree.
Seven Bends is a great opportunity for the community. Just a few minutes from town and you can be out on a trail—whether it is a strenuous uphill hike or a more leisurely stroll. I have really enjoyed watching the park evolve and seeing the changes. At the start, there were just a few trails and they were mostly unmarked. Now, new trails and markers are coming on-board every few weeks.
Looking ahead, Ranger Tom explained that park staff is continually making improvements such as making the riverside trail ADA compliant and adding a natural playground and outdoor classroom. With such diverse landscapes, Ranger Tom said he has several favorite “spots” in the park. Depending on his mood and time, he can sit down by the river or hike to the top of the mountain where one can see for miles and the views are terrific.
Since the park has opened, Ranger Tom has really enjoyed hearing stories from those who used to live on the property or who were campers when it was Camp Lupton. The park has such a rich history and he said he feels fortunate to have a role in bringing that back to the community.