On a cloudy but pleasantly warm Saturday afternoon, November 21st, approximately 100 people over a two-hour period gathered on the banks of Happy Creek near the Prospect Street Bridge to protest the continuation of planned Town floodwater management and stormwater disposal work between Prospect and South Streets on the Town of Front Royal’s southside.
In addition to a protest of the plan to install large rocks known as “riprap” in place of cleared vegetation along the bank and a naturally formed level shelf at the creek’s edge that helps disburse and absorb floodwater, the gathering was utilized by the sponsoring “Save Happy Creek Coalition” of nine environmentally friendly local and regional organizations as an informational meeting explaining problems with the Town’s plan (See the full list of the “Save Happy Creek Coalition” at story’s end).
The essential problem is that the plan to clear most or all vegetation from the 1300-foot stretch of Happy Creek’s bank and shelf between Prospect and South Streets to be replaced by large rocks, flies in the face of all contemporary “riparian buffer” stream management theory, Shenandoah Riverkeeper Mark Frondorf told one of three informational groupings of about 25 people per current Coronavirus Phase 3 pandemic social gathering guidelines. The other two groupings of 25 got the same message from Tree Steward representatives.
Fortunately, one current Town official, Vice-Mayor Bill Sealock, was present to hear the explanation of fundamental issues with the Town’s plan in the Shenandoah Riverkeeper’s group. Following Frondorf’s presentation, Sealock engaged him in conversation about an optimum method of dealing with the erosion and other problems the town government is trying to address with the work. And from Royal Examiner’s videotaping of that conversation, albeit against a backdrop of obtrusive Commerce Avenue traffic noise, and a subsequent interview with Sealock by this reporter, it would seem that what appeared to be the lone town representative at Saturday’s event and Save Happy Creek Coalition representatives found common ground.
That common ground is that the Town’s plan needs to be revisited and readjusted, and re-permitted if necessary, to correct its flaws. Frondorf agreed with Sealock that some riprap rocks would prove beneficial in certain sections of Happy Creek’s bank in proximity to bridges where trees are not recommended within 100 feet; or where prominent erosion was occurring. And Sealock appeared to agree with Frondorf that blanket replacement of vegetation with riprap rocks the length of the project was not an optimum way to proceed.
In fact, during Frondorf’s presentation, he theorized that town officials responsible for moving the project forward may have simply misread the environmental guidelines for the project they were undertaking. We talked to him later about that possible misunderstanding.
“ ‘Where needed’ is what those guidelines say about the installation of riprap,” he pointed out, adding, “And there is no money in the SUP (Special Use Permit) for (recommended) re-vegetation … I don’t know if it was the Town or the Department of Public Works or whoever, but they took the first paragraph of the Supplemental Environmental Project that talked about riprap and just made a mistake in reading it and determined they were going to do the entirety of it that way. And the SUP says ‘where needed’ … if it’s needed, by all means, put it there” – but not the length of the project,” Frondorf said of the use of riprap.
Of Vice-Mayor Sealock’s presence and willingness to listen, learn and trade ideas, the Riverkeeper said, “I thought that was very promising. I was very appreciative that he was here and in a learning mode; and that he was open to what we were doing here.”
And as to what was happening on the bank of Happy Creek Saturday afternoon, Frondorf said he hoped, not only the vice mayor but all those present would work to gain the full council and town staff’s ear. “If half the people option to act, write a note, drop an email, to send a letter, to tell their friend, I think the town council will sit up and take notice that we can stop this. I mean right now it’s a ticking time bomb,” the Riverkeeper said of the Town’s existing project.
“I’ve spoken with the enforcement officer at DEQ (Virginia Department of Environmental Quality) and he said that as long as all the parties come together and agree that there needs to be amendments, that, that can happen. So, I’m hopeful for that. And we’re not asking the Town (to spend) vast sums of money. We’re just simply asking that it be rewritten to protect the stream, protect the immediate, nearby residents …”
What’s happening to my neighborhood?!?
One nearby area resident who spoke with us observed that the Front Street neighborhood facing Happy Creek and the Shenandoah Greenway Trail paralleling it, were given no advance notice of the work or the extent of what was being planned by the Town.
“I came out and asked the town workers what they were doing – I said, ‘What are you guys doing, why are you cutting all the trees down?!?’ And he said, ‘We don’t even really know.’ So they were just doing what they were told to be doing and ripped it all out anyway,” Stephanie Leypoldt told Royal Examiner.
We asked Leypoldt her hopes in the wake of what she had heard that afternoon in the Shenandoah Riverkeeper’s group.
“I hope they stop what the Town’s doing because the riprap rock to me, is just not pretty,” and potentially pretty dangerous to her kids she pointed out. “I moved away from Sterling to come to the country, so it would be country-like. And so they’re taking all the trees out to make it Sterling again. That makes me upset because we walk on the trail every day and with the trees gone, it’ll be really hot with no shade. My kids like to go to the creek to get crawfish, and they can’t do that if it’s all a rock quarry,” she observed of the treacherous riprap landscape currently planned for the length of the stretch of creek in front of her neighborhood.
“I’ve lived here 17 years and not once has it ever, well once it filled up,” Leypoldt said of Happy Creek reaching its bank. “But 17 years is a long time. I’m just upset because it’s very, very loud now … with the traffic,” she said indicating her now the unobstructed view of Commerce Avenue and nearby commercial business endeavors across the town’s major commercial traffic thoroughfare.
And speaking of that thoroughfare, a number of passing motorists could be heard giving honks of apparent support of the messages being displayed on that side of the creek.
As to an endgame, Leypoldt told Royal Examiner, “I hope all the people in all these organizations can make a difference. I thought we are the people and the government tries to protect us. So, if you’re going behind our back, not in the best interest of the people then you’re just doing it in your own personal interest. It’s nature,” she said pointing to what is left of Happy Creek’s natural riparian buffer, adding, “That’s the whole reason I moved out here … and when they take it away, it just makes me want to move.”
Organizers encouraged those present and others concerned to contact their town councilmen about those concerns. They also suggested a presence at Monday evening’s Front Royal Town Council Meeting of November 23. While not sure an opportunity to speak on the Happy Creek work topic would be available – it should be at the initial public comments/concerns portion of the meeting – their presence on the issue would be beneficial in illustrating the level of public concern about the project’s planned direction and the need to revisit and alter that plan, Save Happy Creek Coalition leadership believes.
Save Happy Creek Coalition: Alliance for the Shenandoah Valley, Beautification of Front Royal Committee, Friends of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River, Front Royal/Warren County Appalachian Trail Community, Front Royal/Warren County Tree Stewards, Izaak Walton League, Shenandoah Riverkeeper, Sustainability Matters – and our affiliate, the Garden Club of Warren County
VDOT: Warren County Traffic alert for October 18 – 22, 2021
The following is a list of highway work that may affect traffic in Warren County during the coming weeks. Scheduled work is subject to change due to inclement weather and material supplies. Motorists are advised to watch for slow-moving tractors during mowing operations. When traveling through a work zone, be alert to periodic changes in traffic patterns and lane closures.
*NEW* or *UPDATE* indicates a new or revised entry since last week’s report.
Vegetation management may take place district-wide on various routes. Motorists are reminded to use extreme caution when traveling through work zones.
Traffic alerts and traveler information can be obtained by dialing 511. Traffic alerts and traveler information also are available at www.511Virginia.org.
The VDOT Customer Service Center can assist with reporting road hazards, asking transportation questions, or getting information related to Virginia’s roads. Call 800-FOR- ROAD (800-367-7623) or use its mobile-friendly website at my.vdot.virginia.gov. Agents are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Front Royal Main Street eatery changes ‘Yappy Hour’ day from Friday to Monday, updates menu
One of Main Street’s popular restaurants recently underwent a name and menu change and also switched the day it devotes to “Yappy Hour.”
During the past couple of years, ViNoVa owner Rachel Failmezger and executive chef Chris Kenworthy featured a tapas menu similar to a Spanish favorite, now moving along to an Italian-Mediterranean style of cooking and changing its long-running “Yappy Hour” from Friday evenings to Mondays (4-6 p.m.). Restaurant hours of operation also have been amended, noon to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday (closed Tuesday) and noon to midnight Friday and Saturday.
The restaurant’s new name retains its original “ViNoVa” with the added words “Mediterranean Bistro.” The property seats about 50 and each Friday, off and on for the past decade, has helped donate thousands of dollars to the Humane Society of Warren County’s Julia Wagner Animal Shelter.
Rachel, noting differing (earlier) eating habits since the pandemic struck, suggests closing earlier than 2 a.m. better meets the needs of an expanded staff and earlier diners, as would the changed menu.
“Overall, we will be more flexible, more accommodating,” Rachel opined in a recent interview as nearby regular customers appeared to be in agreement with the menu changes. “Whatever restaurants did two years ago, they cannot do today. It’s a new age for us,” she said, mentioning that the entrees will be larger, and there will be an emphasis on lunches, particularly the quick “take out” type featuring the “Viva Bowl” in which you choose your own ingredients for an affordable $9 “to go!”
Something to remember by early birds at the Bistro: beer and wine prices are staggered starting at $3 per glass for a beer at 3 p.m., rising to $4 at 4 p.m. and then on to $5 at 5 p.m. for the rest of the evening.
Linden man arrested, charged for child abuse
On October 12, 2021, at approximately 8:20pm, Warren County Sheriff’s Office received a call about an 8-year-old juvenile walking on Freezeland Road, Linden, Virginia. The caller stated the juvenile advised them they were running away from home due to being abused by their father. Deputies responded to 78 Lookout Point Way, Linden, Virginia, where the juvenile resides to perform a welfare check. Upon arrival deputies spoke with Matthew Steven Lewis, the juvenile’s father, and made contact with the juvenile. During the welfare check, deputies observed that the juvenile had sustained multiple injuries. Deputies had Warren County Fire & Rescue respond to the residence, and the juvenile was transported to Warren Memorial Hospital for further treatment.
After the initial investigation Matthew Steven Lewis was placed under arrest for Domestic Assault (M), Child Endangerment (F), and Strangulation (F). Matthew Steven Lewis was held without bond at RSW Regional Jail, preliminary hearing is set for November 4, 2021.
Warren County Sheriff’s Office would like to thank Front Royal Police Department, Virginia State Police, and Warren County Department of Social Services for their assistance.
Social Security announces 5.9 percent benefit increase for 2022
Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for approximately 70 million Americans will increase 5.9 percent in 2022, the Social Security Administration announced today.
The 5.9 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) will begin with benefits payable to more than 64 million Social Security beneficiaries in January 2022. Increased payments to approximately 8 million SSI beneficiaries will begin on December 30, 2021. (Note: some people receive both Social Security and SSI benefits). The Social Security Act ties the annual COLA to the increase in the Consumer Price Index as determined by the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Some other adjustments that take effect in January of each year are based on the increase in average wages. Based on that increase, the maximum amount of earnings subject to the Social Security tax (taxable maximum) will increase to $147,000 from $142,800.
Social Security and SSI beneficiaries are normally notified by mail starting in early December about their new benefit amount. Most people who receive Social Security payments will be able to view their COLA notice online through their personal my Social Security account. People may create or access their my Social Security account online at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.
Information about Medicare changes for 2022, when announced, will be available at www.medicare.gov. For Social Security beneficiaries receiving Medicare, Social Security will not be able to compute their new benefit amount until after the Medicare premium amounts for 2022 are announced. Final 2022 benefit amounts will be communicated to beneficiaries in December through the mailed COLA notice and my Social Security’s Message Center.
The Social Security Act provides for how the COLA is calculated. To read more, please visit www.socialsecurity.gov/cola.
Wildlife biologist to explain changes to deer hunting season during October supervisors meeting
BERRYVILLE, VA — A wildlife biologist from the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) has been invited by the Clarke County Board of Supervisors to talk about the significant changes to the 2021-22 deer hunting season in Clarke, Frederick, Shenandoah, and Warren counties. Fred Frenzel makes his public presentation during the Supervisors’ evening session at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 19. The session includes public hearings on proposed code changes. The presentation and public hearings are in the second-floor meeting room of the Berryville-Clarke County Government Center at 101 Chalmers Ct.
DWR made changes to this year’s deer season because of chronic wasting disease, Frenzel said. Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a fatal neurological disease that can pass between deer through saliva, feces, and urine as well as through water or contaminated soil. CWD was first diagnosed in deer in West Virginia in 2005. It was first detected in Virginia in 2009, and has been reported in Fauquier, Frederick, Clarke, Culpeper, Loudoun, Madison, Montgomery, Rappahannock, Shenandoah, and Warren counties.
“As a result of chronic wasting disease, DWR made drastic changes to deer season in four of the counties I cover,” said Frenzel, the DWR district wildlife biologist for Clarke, Frederick, Shenandoah, Warren, and Page counties. He said the changes were made to mitigate the spread of CWD, noting only minor changes were made to deer season in Page.
Supervisor Doug Lawrence, who represents the Russell District, requested the Supervisors host a public presentation to address questions about the current deer season. “When they changed deer season, it caught a lot of people by surprise,” Lawrence said. “I thought our hunters should understand the rationale behind the changes.”
Clarke Supervisors have also asked Frenzel to discuss coyote bounties, game bird preserves, and Clarke’s prohibition of hunting within 300 feet of public roads.
Read about Virginia’s 2021-22 deer season at dwr.virginia.gov/hunting/regulations/deer/.
For more information about the Oct. 19 public presentation on deer hunting and/or the public hearings, contact County Administration at (540) 955-5100 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
RMA Interact students help clean up our community
Our local RMA Interact Club had a great experience cleaning up Kendrick Lane last week. 17 RMA middle school students participated with our very own Nancie Williams, Arnold Williams, and two faculty members. One of the most interesting items they collected was a old piece of metal, featured in a picture below!
Do you have a student in one of our local schools and want to learn more about Interact? Contact us: www.warrencountyrotary.org