The city of Waynesboro has always had a complicated relationship with the South River, one of three rivers (Middle and North being the other two) that merge to form the South Fork of the Shenandoah River. Beginning with the earliest settlement, the river has fueled substantial industries from grain milling and textile manufacture to metal casting. Periodically, the river also sweeps through the city with catastrophic flooding.
Today, the city that now sports the slogan “Where good nature comes naturally,” has embraced the river. A 1.2-mile (and growing) multi-use path connects the Loth Springs wetland at one end to the historic Port Republic Road neighborhood, developed by newly freed African Americans, on the other.
Constitution Park and the Greenway have been an especially valuable resource in recent months during the pandemic. Dwayne Jones, head of Waynesboro Parks and Rec, reports that users on the Greenway have almost tripled, from 2,500 in October 2019 to 6,660 in October 2020.
Industries that drew from the river also abused the river, perhaps the most prominent issue being the mercury that DuPont dumped in the river until 1950. DuPont is now spending millions in cleaning the mercury embedded in the entire food chain along the river. The silver lining is that, as the company works with the city to remove the mercury-laden soil on the riverbank, riparian buffers, a greenway, and a river preserve have arisen.
At the heart of the greenway is the newly-renovated Constitution Park that is part of the brand new 26-acre South River Preserve funded in part by the DuPont-Waynesboro Natural Resources Damage Assessment and Restoration Fund. The city is developing a decades-long master plan for the area that will continue to enhance river access, water quality, and wildlife habitat. The result will be a win-win—good for those enjoying nature along the river and good for all the creatures, human and otherwise, that thrive in a balanced stream and riparian habitat.
Alliance staff met with Dwayne from Waynesboro Parks and Recreation back in October to check out the new Constitution Park and discuss the exciting plans for the South River Preserve. After our lunch at the park, we made the short trip up to the Claudius Crozet Blue Ridge Tunnel and trail (opening this weekend on November 21!).
It’s always been fun to play outside in Waynesboro and eastern Augusta County, but the city is taking it up a notch for its people, plants, fish and birds by strengthening its new relationship with the South River and existing natural and historic resources.