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Plans for a 40-acre Yogi Bear Jellystone Park campground along the banks of the New River in Wythe County, Va., have raised concerns by local environmentalists.
According to the Roanoke Times, development along the river is an increasingly contentious topic for the waterway’s three-state length, and the prospect of rows of recreational vehicles on the riverbank has long alarmed preservationists.
Others feel that offering campground sites and more recreational activities would improve the tourism experience. Wythe County officials and residents around the proposed park site are among those who welcome the plan.
“Anything that would increase tourism over there on the New River Trail would be a positive move,” said Wythe “Bucky” Sharitz, chairman of the county board of supervisors.
The developers, a family from Georgia with Virginia ties, bought properties three years ago on either side of the New River Trail State Park.
Some 85 RV sites are planned beside the trail along the New River. The other side of the planned park is more mountainous and this section of the property would include 30 to 40 cabins, a miniature golf course, heated swimming pool and trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding. Shuttles would take customers to the river for tubing, canoeing and rafting.
Not everyone is eager to see this kind of commercial development in a region where the tourism theme is rural and natural.
“It’s going to completely change the nature of the New River,” said Liza Field of Wytheville, who has been active in preserving acreage in Wythe County in its natural state. Building an RV park will lead to similar developments, she fears.
“We’re certainly watching the situation,” said Jeffrey Scott, executive director of the National Committee for the New River, an organization with headquarters in North Carolina. “Any project that harms the viewshed would be of concern.”
The project is on hold for now, pending a plan to connect the two properties across the New River Trail. The state has an easement that does not allow commercial crossings.
The Jellystone Park was scheduled to open next spring, but could be delayed until the summer of 2006 or later until accommodations are worked out with the state.