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Humane Society’s ‘Polar Plunge’ scheduled for February 20 postponed

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Polar plungers take to the water at 4-H Center lake last year – this year’s event scheduled for tomorrow, Feb. 20, is delayed due to ‘too polar’ weather. Courtesy Photo HSWC

Some 35 or more swimmers poised to throw themselves into the freezing lake at the county’s 4-H Center to raise funds for the Humane Society of Warren County will have to wait for another (warmer) day.

Humane Society of Warren County Executive Director Meghan Bowers announced the postponement “perhaps to next weekend (Feb.27)” today, Friday, February 19. Confirmation of a new date for the second annual “Polar Plunge” is dictated by future weather forecasts. A warming trend is forecast for next week.

Last year’s “plunge” was unexpectedly popular and raised almost $12,000 for the care of the shelter animals, attracting a crowd of several hundred spectators.

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Crime/Court

Frederick County, Winchester investigate rash of catalytic converter thefts

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The Frederick County Sheriff’s Office and Winchester Police Department are investigating several incidents of catalytic converter thefts from vehicles in the region. The incidents began in January, 2021 and have continued through the end of February, 2021 and have occurred in residential areas, businesses, and churches. The Sheriff’s Office is investigating 7 reported incidents with 19 catalytic converters stolen, and the Winchester P.D. is also investigating 7 incidents with 16 catalytic converters stolen.

It is uncertain if the incidents are related. The incidents in the City have occurred South of Jubal Early Drive within a two-mile radius. In one incident in the City of Winchester, video footage captured a gold minivan occupied by a white male on the night of the theft. Images of that van have been attached to this release. The incidents in Frederick County have been widely scattered, occurring at businesses, mostly, which had multiple vehicles available to the suspect (s).

The removal of catalytic converters takes time and requires the use of a reciprocating saw. They are then sold through third party online markets or taken to scrapyards. The interest in the vehicle part is due to it containing precious metals. The thefts are a nationwide problem.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Investigator J. Bowman at the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office (540) 504-6527 or Detective Thurman at the Winchester Police Department 540-545-4704. Callers can remain anonymous by using the P3 tip app or by calling 540-665-8477.

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Area residents voice bus stop, summer school concerns; School Board adds snow make-up days

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Two residents asked the Warren County School Board to improve specific supports for students and board members voted unanimously during their Wednesday, March 4 meeting to add three days of instruction to the school calendar to make up for recent snow days.

The School Board also received a new update on the COVID-19 mitigation health plan for Warren County Public Schools (WCPS) regarding social-emotional learning and supports.

WCPS Superintendent Christopher Ballenger updates Board on the vaccination rates in the school system.

During the board’s community participation portion of its meeting, Noel Williams of Front Royal, Va., voiced concerns to the School Board about elementary school students who have fallen behind during the ongoing pandemic.

Williams wanted to know how the students would be supported by WCPS to catch up on their education, explaining that she has two grandnephews in second grade and another in first grade who are “doing pretty good in science, but their math and their reading, they are falling behind on. How are we going to catch these kids up in these grade levels?”

Williams said the children also have missed a lot of school due to snow and asked if there was consideration being given to summer school.

WCPS Superintendent Christopher Ballenger said there will be summer school this year. “We’ve also encouraged parents to continue to work with the principals at each of the schools to bring students in on additional days or on Wednesdays for remediation or extra individual tutoring sessions,” Ballenger told her. “So, we do have plans in place, and we are working toward summer school.”

Another resident, Pernille Brandt of Linden, Va., told School Board members that she and neighbors nearby her Apple Mountain residence recently “got a lovely letter telling us that our bus stop was being moved.”

Brandt decided to drive her car to where the new stop is located and told the board members that her children, a fifth grader, and a high school freshman, would have to walk 3.3 miles to get to it. If they walk another route to the same bus stop — walking under the overpass to 66 and down 55 to Dismal Hollow Road — Brandt said, “it will only take them 48 minutes and it’s two-and-a-half miles.”

“I am lucky, I can drive my kids to school, but there are kids on that mountain that are not that lucky,” added Brandt, who said she thinks part of this change is designed to push back against Apple Mountain residents who urged the Warren County Board of Supervisors against approving a new Sheetz in the area.

“I want you guys to think about keeping our kids safe,” Brandt said. “I’m really surprised how little our kids’ safety matters. There are going to be kids that are walking an hour and 10 minutes to get to the bus. That’s really not okay.”

In response to a query today from the Royal Examiner, Superintendent Ballenger wrote in an email that WCPS has “provided a temporary solution and we are working to find a permanent solution for the students and families of Apple Mountain.”

Ballenger added that as the school division reviews the bus stop, “we must ensure that it is a safe stop and that we are not placing students in danger when loading and unloading the bus.”

Action agenda
Following a lengthy discussion largely centered on inconveniencing families and students during Spring Break, School Board Chairman Arnold Williams Jr., Vice Chairwoman Catherine Bower, and members Ralph Rinaldi, Kristen Pence, and James Wells voted unanimously to approve a recommendation by WCPS to revise its 2020-2021 School Calendar and change Monday, April 5;
Friday, April 30; and Friday, June 18, 2021, to school days.

Due to the number of days and the number of hours in the division’s current school calendar, WCPS needed to adjust its calendar to make up for three missed snow days on December 17, February 1, and February 18. All other inclement weather days were scheduled as virtual learning days, said WCPS Assistant Superintendent for Administration Melody Sheppard.

State policy requires the length of the school year to be 180 teaching days or 990 teaching hours and requires the first five days be made up if inclement weather results in the closing of schools. The WCPS 2020-2021 School Calendar did not have built-in days for inclement weather, Sheppard said.

With the calendar update, April 5 will be a virtual school day while the other two dates will be in-person instruction. “There’s really no great solution,” Sheppard said.

School Board members also voted unanimously to approve the purchase of 920 units of the 2020 Virginia Into Literature Comprehensive Student Resource Package with Hardcover Student Edition Prints from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt at a cost of $135,766.93.

The purchase of the package is for grades nine through 12 and will finish K-12 English textbook purchases, said WCPS Director of Secondary Instruction Alan Fox. The purchase also will allow digital access for six years. “Our schedule will allow two students to use the same license in one year, so it is not necessary to purchase a digital license for every student,” Fox added.

Board members also unanimously approved the appointment of K-12 science textbook adoption committees, which are:

Elementary Science Textbook Adoption Committee Members
Course Representatives
Science K  – Kaitlyn Tharp, Holly Gardner, Amy Plauger, Melissa Hanscome, Jessica Ashwood
Science 1 – Carey Brogan, Felicia Warner, Chris Seiders, Amanda Litwin, Jennifer Reinhard
Science 2 – Cathy Harron, Lori Abbott, Anna Wadas, Katie Mullen, Amber Walker
Science 3  – Kelly Mitchell, Nicole Stevens, Samantha Donaghy, Lauren Vice, Bernadette West
Science 4  – Faith Falkenstein, Tiffany Swanson, Rebecca Hutson Hodge, Amber Ring, Whitney Dinkle, Justyne Louck
Science 5 – Stephanie Gibb, Kaitlyn Tuttle, Eileen Willett, Cheri Morris, Debra Curtis, Sara Kenney, Laurel Gilliom, Julie Besecker, Natalie Fetty
Others – Lisa Rudacille (Director of Elementary Instruction), Justin Maffei (STEM Coordinator), Jennifer Cameron (Dean EWM), Lori Layman (Principal ASR)

Secondary Science Textbook Adoption Committee Members
Course Representatives
Science 6 – Cindy Rutherford, Emma Vanderlinden
Life Science – Melissa Lucas, Emma Vanderlinden
Physical Science – Robin Jensen, Jen Davis
Bio 2: Ecology – Brian Cantwell
Earth Science – Jim Kenney, Debbie Cheek, deLyn Alumbaugh
Earth Sci 2: – Astronomy Stephanie Scriva, DeLyn Alumbaugh
Physics – Stephen Rinker, Ken Castor
Others – Alan Fox (Director of Secondary Instruction) and Justin Maffei (STEM Coordinator)

Other notable items
WCPS Special Services Director Michael Hirsch provided the School Board with the division’s updated COVID-19 Mitigation Health Plan Phase III, which was revised this month and does not vary significantly from Phase II of the plan.

Hirsch pointed out that significant resources have been allocated to support the division’s Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Initiative.

According to the Phase III plan: “Our current SEL teacher will be collaborating with our school social workers and trauma coach to ensure staff and students are supported. This support includes linkage to community-based mental health supports who currently partner with WCPS, as well as direct support to students and staff.

“In addition, out-patient counselors will be available in each middle and high school to meet the additional mental health challenges the pandemic has created,” the plan says. “These supports will begin March 15, 2021. Private Insurance, as well as Medicaid, can be used to access these supports.”

“The social-emotional learning of both students and staff has been impacted by the pandemic” and extra supports are needed, Hirsch told the School Board, adding that out-patient counseling remains available for students with parental consent after March 15. Support is being offered confidentially to meet mental health needs, he said.

A few changes to the pandemic mitigation plan that begins when students return from Spring Break on March 15 is that students will sit one per seat on the school bus unless they are siblings, and face coverings will be worn at all times. If one student per seat cannot be done, an additional face shield or mask may be worn as appropriate, according to the plan.

For elementary schools, the expectation that staff and students wear face coverings when six feet of social distancing cannot be maintained has been removed. The plan states: “Face coverings will be required in classrooms for all grade levels, even while distanced 6-feet apart while recognizing developmentally appropriate protocol and extenuating circumstances. Face coverings should not be placed on young children under the age of two, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove facial covering without assistance. In addition to this guidance, face coverings will be encouraged.”

For other changes, read the plan in its entirety here.

School Board members also received an update from Ted Cole, a representative from Warren County’s financial advisor, Davenport & Company, LLC, on the County’s interest in refinancing part of the existing 2014 Virginia Public School Authority (VPSA) Bonds through the 2021 VPSA Spring Pool.

There is no cost or direct savings to the School Board as the County currently makes the payment for these bonds, Cole said, and while no motion was necessary at the Wednesday meeting, the School Board will be asked to adopt a resolution at its March 17 meeting supporting the refinancing of these bonds. The Warren County Board of Supervisors also will be considering a similar resolution at their March 16 meeting, said Cole.

Additionally, the Skyline High School Wrestling Team received recognition during the meeting for capping off what Ballenger called an “impressive season” during the 2020-2021 Virginia High School League (VHSL) Class 3 State Championship, finishing the season as Northwestern District Class 3, Region 3B Champions, and the Class 3 state runner-up.

Kyle Symons, the head wrestling coach, said 11 out of 14 starters will return next year.

The Hawks had three team members win individual state titles and seven others finished in the top 5 and earned all-state honors. The team’s 2nd place finish in the state is the highest any team at Skyline High School has achieved, according to Ballenger.

Bill Cupp, Skyline’s athletic director, introduced wrestlers and Skyline coaches to the board and the student-athletes brought along their trophies. Kyle Symons, the head wrestling coach, said 11 out of 14 starters will return next year.

Following a closed meeting on a personnel issue, the board adjourned a little after 8 p.m. on Wednesday.

Watch the entire School Board meeting online here.

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Blue Ridge Wildlife Center Patient of the Week – Striped Skunk

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“Phew! What is that smell?!” That is the sweet smell of love for our Striped Skunk neighbors. Breeding season for Striped Skunks begins as early as mid-February and goes through April. With hormones raging these little critters tend to get distracted and accidents inevitably happen.

Photos / Blue Ridge Wildlife Center

This skunk (pictured) was admitted to our hospital after being hit by a car, most likely on his mission to find love, and was suffering from severe head trauma. Please use extra caution this time of year, especially at dawn and dusk when skunks are more active.

Though they are known for their odor and unpopular den choices, skunks are generally not aggressive and they serve an important role by feeding on many “pests” such as insects and mice.

They are most active at night, and don’t want to spray unless they believe their life is in danger. If you see a skunk, respect it’s space, and slowly exit the area.

If a skunk is behaving oddly or appears ill, or if you believe there are babies in need of help, do not try to handle them yourself. Skunks are considered a high-risk rabies vector species and handling them can result in life-threatening consequences for you and them. Call BRWC at (540) 837-9000 or your local permitted rehabilitator.

This patient has become more alert and has started eating on his own. We hope that this skunk will continue to improve and be ready for release soon!

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Fundraising, community efforts on behalf of slain Town of Stanley police officer

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Royal Examiner has been informed by local law enforcement in Front Royal and Warren County of fundraising and community efforts on behalf of the family of Town of Stanley Police Officer Dominic “Nick” Winum. As previously reported in the linked story “Page County police-civilian shooting deaths investigated by State Police”, Winum was slain during a traffic stop in Stanley in Page County on Friday, February 26. A “Go Fund Me” page has been set up for Jedediah Winum at https://gofund.me/ed4467b5.

Also, next weekend, Saturday and Sunday March 6 and 7, from noon to 7 p.m. weather permitting, in Stanley at the Ed Good Park located at 332 East Main Street Stanley, Virginia, “The Grill Sergeant’s Smoke Pit” is offering free meals to law enforcement personnel. All proceeds and tips will be donated to the family of Officer Winum.

Officer Dominic “Nick” Winum – Courtesy Photo Town of Stanley Police Department

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Incoming – the Town Pavilion’s indoor restrooms arrive, without keys

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The arrival of an important auxiliary building portion of the new Town Pavilion arrived at the Village Commons area in the heart of Front Royal’s Historic Downtown Business District Tuesday morning, March 2. The first clue something was up, was a towering crane pointing toward the heavens – and at a passing airliner that may have had to alter its course slightly to avoid a collision. Just kidding, it wasn’t quite THAT tall.

The H&W Construction crane cradles the Pavilion restroom structure to the ground as jetliner headed somewhere northwest passes overhead. Below, that’ll get your attention in downtown Front Royal. Royal Examiner Photos by Roger Bianchini

Town crews on hand, along with five contractors’ personnel were present at least in part to place an enclosed restroom facility adjacent to the pavilion. When the project is completed you can say “goodbye” to those downtown Village Commons’ Johnny Blues.

With the bulk of the Commons-Gazebo area parking lot closed to traffic, a large Midland Equipment flatbed carried the restroom facility into place at the pavilion’s front after the construction site parking lot fencing was removed. The crane jockeyed its huge arm in position to place its hook, eventually sporting multiple hoisting cables, above the building headed for the east side of the pavilion shell.

That is a lot of cargo to be maneuvering in that parking lot. Below, ‘you want this placed where?’


Being a bathroom facility that will hook into the Town Water-Sewer Utilities, inside access was required by town staff to line up the piping connections. But who had the keys to the locked up for transport building? No one on-site, it turned out. Public Works Director Robbie Boyer was reportedly headed back to departmental headquarters on a key-finding mission. Shortly, word came back to the site that the keys were in McLean, apparently at the building’s source point.

“It’s always something” was the construction, transport, and related crews assessment on the ground. But after an hour-plus delay, things began moving again as one way or another inside access was achieved. An attempt to reach Boyer prior to publication for details on the solution to the inside access problem was unsuccessful.

But here’s a nod to whatever solution was achieved – word on the ground was that the Town would have been charged by the day for equipment required to be maintained on-site to completion of the job. And our guess is that the crane belonging to H&W Construction of Winchester wasn’t coming cheap.

We got her hooked up to go …

In addition to Town crews, Midland Equipment and H&W Construction on site were Smith-Midland Concrete, Well’s Roofing, and Lantz Construction of Winchester. And following placement of the restroom facility, in addition, to hook up work there, crews were on the pavilion roof and on the base beneath that roof. Stay busy boys, completion of the pavilion project is slated for at least “substantial completion” by the end of March, according to Town Manager Hicks report on Town business to the County EDA Board of Directors last week.

According to corrected figures provided after initial publication by Town Finance Director B. J. Wilson, the total cost of the pavilion project approved by the Town Council on September 8, 2020, was $295,800 with Lantz Construction being the chief contractor. The $225,715 number was the originally discussed cost, Wilson clarified.

The pavilion is seen as an additional, covered, outdoor events facility to augment the Gazebo-Village Commons area at the East Main and Chester Street intersection. And a March-April completion will be JUST in time for the next round of warm weather weekend downtown walking mall street closings, should the newly aligned council elect to revisit that popular COVID-launched concept of outdoor restaurant seating to aid downtown businesses through pandemic-restricted indoor seating restrictions.

And then there is that downtown, outdoor high school prom idea being floated for spring.

… From there, to here

Now let’s get those pipes hooked up so these things flush


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Christendom College conducts emergency operations training exercise with Front Royal and Warren County First Responders

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Christendom College hosted a tabletop exercise testing the college’s emergency preparedness on Wednesday, February 24, in coordination with senior leadership from the Town of Front Royal and Warren County. Chief Executives from the town’s Police Department and Fire and Rescue, along with the Warren County Sherriff’s Office and Warren Memorial Hospital, all attended the event, which successfully tested the emergency response coordination between the college and public safety and health agencies.

“We are preparing for something that we hope and pray never happens — nevertheless, if something like this should happen, we want to ensure that we are as prepared as we possibly can be,” said College President Dr. Timothy O’Donnell. “All of you, as first responders, please know that you all share our gratitude for all that you do to keep Christendom College safe and for being here today.”

The tabletop exercise was the result of years of work by the college’s Emergency Operations Team and their external crisis consultant management consultant, who helped the college prepare extensively for the exercise on February 24. Over the course of the afternoon, the exercise helped the college and town and county personnel perform an extensive review of what resources are in place for a variety of crisis-level events, from neutralizing threats to assisting victims to effectively communicating during and after a crisis.

The exercise proved to be fruitful not only for testing emergency preparedness, but also for building up relationships between the college and surrounding law enforcement, fire and rescue, and health agencies.

“We applaud the administration at Christendom College for recognizing the need to have emergency planning in place and developing the relationship with public safety partners,” said Front Royal Police Department Chief Kahle Magalis.”They have been very accommodating in providing facilities for us to train our personnel in emergency response over the past several years. Clearly, they have witnessed the complexity of emergency operations and identified key personnel within their staff to form their emergency operations team, as well as their plans to integrate into the emergency response. My hat is off to them for devoting valuable resources to this endeavor.”

Attendees for the event included: Christendom’s President Dr. Timothy O’Donnell and Executive Vice President Mark Rohlena, along with the college’s entire Emergency Operations Team; Front Royal Police Department Chief Kerry Magalis; Warren County Fire and Rescue Fire Chief James Bonzano and Emergency Coordinator Lietutenant Rick Farrall; Warren County Sheriff Mark Butler; Warren Memorial Hospital Safety and Emergency Management Manager Daniel Mulcahy and Emergency Department Clinical Manager Delores Gehr; and Golden Seal Enterprises President and CEO Frank Yurkovich, along with other members of all the above agencies.

Sheriff Butler stated that “the Sheriff’s Office applauds the Emergency Operations Team of Christendom College for taking a strong leadership role for ensuring the safety and education of its students and staff alike. In a world where the unexpected – is to be expected, it takes a concerted and enduring relationship between all agencies to sustain a steady state of preparedness for such events. By training and exercising together we learn best how to support one another, manage expectations and ensure a confident and safe response to all-hazards.”

The tabletop exercise was the latest in a series of exercises conducted on campus in conjunction with Front Royal and Warren County agencies, including mass casualty incident training that was conducted in August of 2020. All of the exercises contribute to ensuring that the college is as well prepared as possible in the event of a crisis.


About Christendom College: Christendom College is a four-year coeducational Roman Catholic Liberal Arts College with undergraduate and graduate programs offered in four locations in Front Royal and Alexandria (Virginia), Donegal (Ireland), and Rome (Italy). Founded in 1977 in response to the devastating blow inflicted on Catholic higher education by the cultural revolution which swept across America in the 1960s, Christendom’s goal is to provide a truly Catholic liberal arts education in fidelity to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church and thereby to prepare students for their role of restoring all things in Christ.

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Front Royal
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UV index: 0
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Upcoming Events

Mar
9
Tue
6:30 pm Dance Fitness Class @ Warren County Community Center
Dance Fitness Class @ Warren County Community Center
Mar 9 @ 6:30 pm – 7:30 pm
Dance Fitness Class @ Warren County Community Center
This class is for all fitness levels and anyone who is looking to have fun dancing to a variety of music styles from hip hop to swing to salsa, all while EXERCISING! This class will[...]
Mar
13
Sat
10:00 am HSWC Polar Plunge @ Culpeper Lake at the 4-H Center
HSWC Polar Plunge @ Culpeper Lake at the 4-H Center
Mar 13 @ 10:00 am – 1:00 pm
HSWC Polar Plunge @ Culpeper Lake at the 4-H Center
The Humane Society of Warren County “Polar Plunge” delayed from February 20 due to “too-polar” weather here in northwestern Virginia has been rescheduled to Saturday, March 13 – Don’t worry, it will still be a[...]
Mar
16
Tue
6:30 pm Dance Fitness Class @ Warren County Community Center
Dance Fitness Class @ Warren County Community Center
Mar 16 @ 6:30 pm – 7:30 pm
Dance Fitness Class @ Warren County Community Center
This class is for all fitness levels and anyone who is looking to have fun dancing to a variety of music styles from hip hop to swing to salsa, all while EXERCISING! This class will[...]
Mar
23
Tue
6:30 pm Dance Fitness Class @ Warren County Community Center
Dance Fitness Class @ Warren County Community Center
Mar 23 @ 6:30 pm – 7:30 pm
Dance Fitness Class @ Warren County Community Center
This class is for all fitness levels and anyone who is looking to have fun dancing to a variety of music styles from hip hop to swing to salsa, all while EXERCISING! This class will[...]
Mar
28
Sun
2:00 pm Pictures with the Easter Bunny @ Warren County Community Center
Pictures with the Easter Bunny @ Warren County Community Center
Mar 28 @ 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Pictures with the Easter Bunny @ Warren County Community Center
Come join the staff of Warren County Parks and Recreation and get your picture taken with the Easter Bunny! Pictures will be taken and printed on site; upon departure you will be given an Easter[...]
Mar
30
Tue
6:30 pm Dance Fitness Class @ Warren County Community Center
Dance Fitness Class @ Warren County Community Center
Mar 30 @ 6:30 pm – 7:30 pm
Dance Fitness Class @ Warren County Community Center
This class is for all fitness levels and anyone who is looking to have fun dancing to a variety of music styles from hip hop to swing to salsa, all while EXERCISING! This class will[...]
Apr
3
Sat
12:00 pm Egg-stravaganza! @ Sky Meadows State Park
Egg-stravaganza! @ Sky Meadows State Park
Apr 3 @ 12:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Egg-stravaganza! @ Sky Meadows State Park
Eggs are popping up all over Sky Meadows State Park. Visit our egg-laying free-range chickens by taking our Chicken Walk. Go on an egg-citing Geocache adventure. Kids, use your scavenger hunting skills using clues from[...]
Apr
17
Sat
all-day Shenandoah Epic @ Caroline Furnace
Shenandoah Epic @ Caroline Furnace
Apr 17 all-day
Shenandoah Epic @ Caroline Furnace
This tried and true Epic 24-hour AR will test your biking, paddling, trekking, and navigation skills as you explore two state parks (one of them brand new!) and national forest lands. Join soloists and teams[...]
Apr
24
Sat
10:00 am Earth Day @ Sky Meadows State Park
Earth Day @ Sky Meadows State Park
Apr 24 @ 10:00 am – 1:00 pm
Earth Day @ Sky Meadows State Park
On this Earth Day, celebrate safely by doing your part to restore our earth and joining the Great Global Cleanup. Stop by one of our tables at the Explorer Outpost, Picnic Area, or Lost Mountain[...]