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McDonald default judgement penalty arguments continued to future date

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A potential default judgment liability showdown between Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority attorneys and former EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald’s counsel did not happen during a virtually conducted Warren County Circuit Court hearing on Friday, May 8. Present in the Warren County Courtroom for the 2:30 p.m. EDA civil motions hearing was Judge Bruce D. Albertson, the court clerk, bailiff, and two media representatives (move down another seat, Josh). All involved attorneys – no defendants were acknowledged during the hearing – were linked in by phone connection.

Court files showed that Judge Albertson removed arguments on damages from a January 10 default judgment against McDonald on April 23 in the wake of receipt of a letter from McDonald’s attorney objecting to the planned May hearing date.

In an April 15 letter to the court filed April 20, McDonald attorney Peter Greenspun noted his “strenuous objection to any action being taken or order entered” on May 8. Greenspun indicated he felt he had been left out of previous communications between the court clerk’s office and “all other parties”, including other EDA civil case defendant counsel.

Greenspun referenced a suggestion the May 8 motions hearing for multiple defendants would last one hour, countering that his estimate was his client’s hearing on default judgment damages would last “two to three days”.

Jennifer McDonald at the time of one of her arrests on related criminal charges. Thirty-four criminal indictments against her have been dropped largely to prevent speedy trial statute violations from kicking in. However, the EDA civil litigation against McDonald and alleged co-conspirators proceeds as the new criminal case prosecutor bides his time on potential refiling of criminal charges. Royal Examiner File Photos

At issue here is what judgment against McDonald will be ordered by the court for a failure to respond to civil court orders for information on her two real estate companies, DaBoyz and MoveOn8, which are also listed defendants in the EDA civil litigation. That failure to respond to court orders for information on her real estate companies came during a time of legal flux for the former EDA executive director around whom all the other defendant allegations seem to revolve.

Her initial civil case attorney Lee Berlik and his Berlik Law firm had withdrawn from her civil defense during the period of the court order to provide information on her real estate companies to the court and plaintiff counsel.

Prior to the Berlik firm withdrawing from the case, questions had been raised in court about the method by which McDonald had paid Berlik law, including the alleged use of $10,000 of EDA funds through the Afton Inn Renovation Project. Also, evidence introduced by Berlik Law on their client’s behalf in one hearing also had been alleged by plaintiff witnesses, including former County-EDA attorney Dan Whitten, to have been forged. Courtroom discussion indicated a belief the forgery did not originate with her counsel, but rather by McDonald in presenting documentation in support of her case to her counsel.

While there was little courtroom discussion during the January 10 hearing regarding potential damages from the default judgment, the involvement of information on her two real estate companies alleged to have been used to misdirect EDA assets could conceivably bring portions of those companies’ real estate holdings into play in the default judgment ruling.

McDonald was fined $350 on the January 10 civil contempt judgment against her. That was all plaintiff counsel was seeking regarding McDonald’s attempt to move a piece of property previously frozen as a case-related asset by Judge Clifford L. Athey Jr. before leaving the case for a seat on the Virginia Appeals Court.

Having just taken on McDonald’s civil case assignment after the withdrawal of her original counsel, Greenspun argued that his client’s attempt to move the parcel through her sister Gail Addison was a simple mistake made while attempting to raise revenue for her legal expenses. It was a mistake rectified voluntarily once discovered by her new attorney, Greenspun told the court in January.

Greenspun was present at the outset of the May 8th hearing with other defense counsel and plaintiff attorneys. However, he alerted the court he would soon have to leave for another appointment.

So, Greenspun was not present when the date of June 18, on the 9 a.m. docket was agreed to by the court and other defense counsel involved in Friday’s hearing.

Jennifer McDonald and counsel will be back in court for default judgment penalty arguments, it is just not clear exactly when; or whether in person or by remote pandemic emergency management precautionary connection. Other EDA civil defendants are slated for motions hearings on the morning docket of June 18.

The primary arguments made by plaintiff and defense counsel on May 8 were whether there were substantive grounds in the EDA’s amended civil suit to charge McDonald’s former Administrative Assistant Michelle “Missy” Henry with intentional acts rising to the level of conspiracy or breach of fiduciary duty, with which she is charged civilly.

See our related story on those arguments on Michelle Henry’s civil liability.

Henry civil case attorney argues insufficient evidence to proceed against her

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Virginia restaurants grapple with plastic foam container ban

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From vermicelli bowls to crispy chicken, Pho Luca’s, a Vietnamese-owned Richmond restaurant, uses plastic foam containers to package takeout meals. That may soon change after the General Assembly recently passed a bill banning such packaging.

After negotiations on a Senate amendment, the House agreed in a 57-39 vote last week on an amendment to House Bill 1902, which bans nonprofits, local governments, and schools from using polystyrene takeout containers. The Senate passed the amended bill in a 24-15 vote.

“We’re just leveling the playing field,” said Del. Betsy B. Carr, D-Richmond, about the amendment. “So not only do restaurants, but nonprofits and schools will be subject to this ban in 2025.”
Food chains with 20 or more locations cannot package and dispense food in polystyrene containers as of July 2023. The remaining food vendors have until July 2025. Food vendors in violation of the ban can receive up to $50 in civil penalty each day of violation.

Carr said she is glad Virginia is taking the lead to curb plastic pollution and that the measure will “make our environment cleaner and safer for all of our citizens (by) not having styrofoam in the ditches and in the water and in the food that we consume.”

This is the second year the bill was sent to a conference committee. Last year’s negotiation resulted in a reenactment clause stipulating the bill couldn’t be enacted until it was approved again this year by the General Assembly.

The COVID-19 pandemic loomed over this year’s bill dispute as businesses shift to single-use packagings, such as polystyrene, to limit contamination.

Lawmakers skeptical of the polystyrene ban spoke out on the Senate floor, arguing the ban will hurt small businesses who rely on polystyrene foam containers, which are known for their cheaper cost.

“The places that give me these Styrofoam containers are the places that are struggling the most right now,” said Sen. Jen A. Kiggans, R-Virginia Beach.

The pandemic has financially impacted the restaurant industry. In 2020, Virginia’s food services sector lost more than 20% of its employees from 2019, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Like many small businesses, Pho Luca’s has relied on polystyrene foam takeout packaging because it is affordable and functional.

Dominic Pham, the owner of the Pho Luca’s, said he has been in contact with several vendors that sell polystyrene alternatives, but it has been a challenge for Pham to find suitable alternatives.

Pho Luca’s currently uses plastic foam containers that cost about a nickel per container, Pham said. The alternatives will cost about 55 cents more. However, Pham said he is willing to make the change, recognizing that polystyrene containers are detrimental to the environment.

Pham said he distributed surveys to consumers on the possibility of raising prices to offset the cost of polystyrene alternatives. The results were overwhelmingly positive.

“Even if we have to upcharge them a dollar for the recyclable, reusable containers, people (are) happy to do that, they don’t mind,” Pham said.

The use of plastic foam containers has risen during the COVID-19 pandemic. Several states and cities have reversed or delayed restrictions and bans on single-use plastics since April 2020, according to a USA Today report.

The pandemic also has resulted in an increase in single-use plastics, such as plastic bags and personal protective equipment. A 2020 report in the Environmental Science & Technology journal estimated plastic packaging to increase 14% as consumers seek out prepackaged items due to sanitary concerns.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic sparked renewed interest in single-use plastics, environmental organizations and businesses have spoken against the use of plastic foam containers. Polystyrene biodegrades slowly and rarely can be recycled, posing a risk to wildlife and human health, according to Environment Virginia.

MOM’s Organic Market, a mid-Atlantic grocery chain, has used compostable containers and cups since 2005.

“I think that it’s the right thing to do for the environment, for communities, for our residents,” said Alexandra DySard, the grocery chain’s environment, and partnership manager.

DySard said purchasing compostable takeout containers instead of polystyrene foam containers has not financially hurt the chain. She said using a plastic lid that can be recycled locally is a better alternative than using polystyrene foam.

Polystyrene alternatives will become more affordable and accessible the more businesses use those products, DySard said.

“If it’s a statewide change, that’s kind of the best-case scenario because everybody makes the change at once,” Dysard said. “And it’s driving demand for the product up and costs down.”

The bill now heads to the governor’s desk. If signed, Virginia will join states such as Maryland and Maine to ban polystyrene foam containers.

By David Tran
Capital News Service

Capital News Service is a program of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Robertson School of Media and Culture. Students in the program provide state government coverage for a variety of media outlets in Virginia.

Virginia moves closer to ban plastic foam containers

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Lydia Lancie of Front Royal Named to Cedarville University Deans List

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Lydia Lancie

Lydia Lancie of Front Royal, VA, was named to the Cedarville University Dean’s List for fall 2020. Lydia is a freshman at Cedarville and has maintained a 4.0 GPA. The Dean’s List recognition requires a 3.5 minimum GPA while carrying a minimum of 12 credit hours.

Lydia is majoring in Social Work, with a minor in Art. Judy and Mark Lancie of Front Royal, and her two sisters, are very proud of her accomplishment.

Lydia choose Cedarville University based on its Social Work accreditation that allowing graduates to complete the Master of Social Work program in about one year. Some have gone on to complete a law degree and have become legal advocates for the poor and disenfranchised.

Located in southwest Ohio, Cedarville University is an accredited, Christ-centered, Baptist institution with an enrollment of 4,550 undergraduate, graduate, and online students in more than 150 areas of study. Founded in 1887, Cedarville is recognized nationally for its authentic Christian community, rigorous academic programs, strong graduation, and retention rates, accredited professional and health science offerings, and high student engagement ranking. For more information about Cedarville University, visit www.cedarville.edu.

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Virginia lawmakers pass COVID-19 Workers’ Compensation bills

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The Virginia General Assembly passed multiple bills allowing health care workers and first responders to receive workers’ compensation benefits if they are disabled or die due to COVID-19.

“We did it!” Del. Chris Hurst, D-Blacksburg, said in a Twitter post. “Health care heroes who got COVID on the job will get the retroactive workers’ comp presumption they deserve!”

Hurst’s House Bill 1985 expanded workers’ compensation benefits for health care workers “directly involved in diagnosing or treating persons known or suspected to have COVID-19,” including doctors and nurses. The bill provides coverage from March 12, 2020, until Dec. 31, 2021.

The health care worker must have been treated for COVID-19 symptoms and been diagnosed by a medical provider to qualify for compensation before July 1, 2020. The individual must have received medical treatment and a positive COVID-19 test to be eligible for compensation after July 1, 2020.

The bill also said health care workers who refuse or fail to get vaccinated for COVID-19 will not be eligible for workers’ compensation. The aforementioned rule doesn’t apply if a physician determines vaccination will risk the worker’s health.

“This is how we honor our brave health care heroes that put themselves in harm’s way to treat those infected with this horrible virus,” Hurst said in a press release. “They sacrifice for us and deserve our utmost praise and admiration, but they also deserve our help.”

There were concerns about the bill’s costs, according to Hurst. The Senate tried to remove the bill’s retroactive clause, but the bill passed the House and Senate with bipartisan support following negotiations.

The Virginia Nurses Association said the bill will make it easier for nurses to access benefits.

“Unfortunately, too many Virginia nurses caught COVID-19 while treating patients,” the association said in a Facebook post. “For those that got very sick, there is no easy way to file for workers’ compensation, and many have suffered not only physically, but financially.”

Senate Bill 1375 and HB 2207 cover workers’ compensation for first responders who are diagnosed or died from COVID-19 on or after Sept. 1 of last year. The measures include firefighters, police officers, correctional and regional jail officers, and emergency medical services workers. The bills require an official diagnosis through a positive COVID-19 test and symptoms of the disease.

The House bill, sponsored by Del. Jay Jones, D-Norfolk, originally included a retroactive clause that compensated cases going back to March 2020, but that was taken out of the legislation’s final version.

“We fought tooth and nail to provide our first responders – the real heroes of the pandemic – coverage under workers’ compensation for COVID, and we got it done,” Jones said in a Twitter post.

By Sam Fowler
Capital News Service

Capital News Service is a program of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Robertson School of Media and Culture. Students in the program provide state government coverage for a variety of media outlets in Virginia.

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Fauquier Health moves from zero-visitor policy to a limited-visitor policy

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Prior to the holidays on December 11, 2020, Fauquier Health implemented a zero-visitor protocol at the hospital due to the documented increase in confirmed positive cases in our region. Fauquier Health has since announced, that due to the decreased number of confirmed positive cases, they have been able to move back to a limited-visitor policy. This decision comes after the recent trends reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Virginia Department of Health (VDH).

This means that Fauquier Hospital is limiting visitors to the facility if they are essential for the patient’s physical or emotional well-being and care (e.g., care partners). Some exceptions may still apply that prevent a visitor from entering the facility. The hospital still encourages the use of alternative mechanisms for patient and visitor interactions such as video-call applications on cell phones or tablets.

Points of facility entry will continue to be limited to ensure all patients and visitors can be properly screened for any symptoms of the COVID-19 illness. If fever or COVID-19 symptoms are present, visitors will not be allowed entry into the facility.

Fauquier Health also announced that the Bistro on the Hill is now serving outside patrons for takeout only. Anyone coming into the bistro to grab a to-go-meal between the hours of 7 am and 2 pm, will still be required to enter through the main lobby to receive screening. Outside patrons are not permitted to dine in and will be required to exit the facility upon completing their meal purchase.

Fauquier Health reminds the public to continue doing their part to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by practicing social distancing, avoiding large gatherings, washing your hands regularly, and wearing a mask or face covering while in public.

For a detailed list of policies and updates, please visit the COVID-19 Preparedness page at FauquierHealth.org.

COVID-19 Vaccine Update and Registration Details

Fauquier County is operating under Phase 1B of the vaccine rollout as directed by the Rappahannock-Rapidan Health District (RRHD)/Virginia Department of Health (VDH). Community members who are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine include frontline essential workers, persons aged 65 years and older, people living in correctional facilities, homeless shelters, migrant labor camps, and people aged 16 through 64 years with a high-risk medical condition or disability that increases their risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

Eligible community members can visit the Rappahannock-Rapidan Health District’s website to learn how to register or click on the link below to pre-register through the new statewide system at vaccinate.virginia.gov.

All individuals who have previously filled out a survey or signed up for a waitlist to be vaccinated through their local health district will be automatically imported into the new statewide system. Individuals will maintain their current status in the queue and will be able to search that they are in the new system

Questions or concerns? If you need any assistance registering or have any registration questions, please contact the Fauquier County COVID-19 Call Center at 540.422.0111 or email covid.registration@fauquiercounty.gov.

About Fauquier Health
Fauquier Health is a community health system dedicated to high-quality, patient-centered care in a unique environment that considers the multiple facets of healing and respects the individuality of each and every patient. Located at 500 Hospital Drive in Warrenton, Virginia, Fauquier Health serves the residents of Fauquier and several surrounding counties. It comprises Fauquier Hospital, a fully-accredited, 97-bed hospital; Fauquier Health Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, a 113-bed long-term care and rehabilitation facility; the Villa at Suffield Meadows, an assisted living facility; the Wound Health Center and a medically supervised Wellness Center offering health and wellness programs. Fauquier Health also operates nine physician’s offices, including primary care and specialties. More information on Fauquier Health is available online at FauquierHealth.org or by calling 540.316.5000.

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Crime/Court

Sheriff’s Office seeks information on man sought for assault on woman morning of March 1

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The Warren County Sheriff’s Office has released details of the Monday morning search for a man being sought for the reported assault of a county woman. That release states:

“On March 1, 2021, Warren County Sheriff’s Office received a 911 call from the 100 block of Barnett Road. The caller stated a male previously known to her had broken into her residence and assaulted her. Deputies responded to the residence where the suspect, identified as William Edward Jenkins, 40 years old, had fled on foot before arrival. Deputies and K9 teams from Warren County Sheriff’s Office, Fauquier County Sheriff’s Office and the Virginia State Police searched the area with no results.

William Edward Jenkins

“At this time William Edward Jenkins is wanted for §18.2-57.2 (Assault & Battery against a family or household member), additional charges are pending. Warren County Sheriff’s Office would like to thank Front Royal Police Department, Fauquier County Sheriff’s Office and Virginia State Police for their assistance throughout the investigation.

“Anyone with information regarding the whereabouts of William Edward Jenkins can contact Warren County Sheriff’s Office at 540-635-4128.”

(From a WCSO press release)

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No COVID slowdown for Blue Ridge Wildlife Center as record number of animals treated in 2020

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Blue Ridge Wildlife Center treated a record 2,864 mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians, during 2020 at its Boyce hospital and, similar to previous years, it reported a survival rate of over 75% among animals that lived through the first 24 hours of hospitalization. Executive Director Annie Bradfield said that in the past 20 years, since the center was opened, more than 24,000 native wild animals have been treated.

“Each year, as awareness of (the center) grows, so does our impact. In 2020, despite the pandemic, we hit a new record of over 2,800 animals treated, and we expect that number will continue to rise each year,” Bradfield said.

Above, Annie Bradfield is enjoying her first year as BRWC executive director. Below, Dr. Jennifer Riley, director of veterinary services, and Jessica Andersen, BRWC program manager, treat a bald eagle. Courtesy Photos BRWC

The types of animals that wind up at the center include raptors, songbirds, doves and waterbirds. Rabbits (Eastern cottontails) lead the mammal group, followed by opossums, squirrels, foxes, bats and raccoons. Then there are the turtles (209 of them) and 42 snakes followed by a small number of toads and frogs.

The Clarke County-based wildlife center covers 14 contiguous counties including the nearby counties of Warren (267 sourced cases), Frederick (599), Fauquier (285), and Clarke (229).

Treated animals that cannot be released back into the wild serve as “ambassadors”, greeting visitors from a “Wildlife Walk” area adjacent to the administration and hospital building. In addition to wildlife rehabilitation, educational outreach programs were highlighted last year following Bradfield’s arrival on the job.

Four baby killdeer, whose parents were killed in a mowing incident, were raised at the center and successfully released.

In 2020 the center took in $811,083, including contributions totaling $498,462, with $547,367 having been spent in support of operations. Beatrice von Gontard of Warren County heads an eight-person board of directors, while Bradfield’s “team” includes Jennifer Riley, DVM and a staff of five others, plus a wealth of volunteers which contributed almost 7,000 hours last year, as well as 26 interns whose hours added up to 4,453.

Blue Ridge Wildlife Center is located at 106 Island Farm Lane, Boyce. Its hotline is 540-837-9000.

More than 300 opossums were treated in 2020, including this guy!

Juvenile bobcat, victim of predator attack, possibly by an adult bobcat, naps during recovery.

Northern saw-whet owl, the smallest owl species seen in Virginia.

This Eastern copperhead snake was found tangled in garden netting. Homeowner was considerate enough to seek help of BRWC for an animal “so often persecuted for merely existing,” the center observed.

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King Cartoons

Front Royal
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Upcoming Events

Mar
3
Wed
9:00 am Community Blood Drive @ Front Royal Fire and Rescue Department
Community Blood Drive @ Front Royal Fire and Rescue Department
Mar 3 @ 9:00 am – 2:00 pm
Community Blood Drive @ Front Royal Fire and Rescue Department
The Front Royal Police Department is sponsoring a blood drive on Wednesday, and all eligible donors are encouraged to log onto redcrossblood.org to schedule a donation of the GIFT OF LIFE! Jeff Farmer and the[...]
9:00 am Free Tax Preparation @ Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Free Tax Preparation @ Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Mar 3 @ 9:00 am – 12:00 pm
Free Tax Preparation @ Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Free tax preparation will be available again this year through the AARP Tax Aide at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Front Royal, Monday and Wednesday mornings beginning Feb. 15th. To make an appointment, please call[...]
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[...]