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Old Mill Park to get canoe launch

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Old Mill Park in Fredericksburg could have a canoe launch by the end of the summer.

 Fredericksburg officials will seek permission from the city Architectural Review Board on June 11 to add the put-in/take-out area on the Rappahannock River. The plans are being submitted to the ARB for design approval.

 Mike Ward of the Fredericksburg Parks, Recreation and Public Facilities Department said the city also is waiting on a final permit from the Virginia Marine Resources Commission.

The project is something that the Friends of the Rappahannock has been working on for two years, said John Tippett, executive director of the river-protection organization.

  FOR obtained money for the launch from a grant through the National Park Service and a matching grant from the Chesapeake Conservancy, Tippett said.

 The grants total about $52,000 for construction, said Chip Rice, programs manager of FOR, which is based in Fredericksburg.

  The project will be put out to bid, so its exact cost has not been determined, Ward said.

 He said there are “a couple small details to wrap up” after the ARB review, but he hopes to receive bids on the project soon.

 Paddlers already have whitewater launches off River Road at Mott’s Landing in Spotsylvania County and at the Virginia Outdoors Center in Fredericksburg.

The Old Mill Park site is just downriver of the Falmouth Bridge and the end of the whitewater section of the Rappahannock. The next closest public launch is the boat ramp downriver at City Dock.

 Tippett said the new launch will provide a good place for people who want to experience a flatwater trip and not worry about rapids.

It’s about a two-mile trip from the Old Mill site to City Dock.

The Rappahannock River is a popular waterway for canoeists and kayakers. It attracts visitors for events  such as this weekend’s Great Rappahannock Whitewater Canoe and Kayak Race.

“There is growing level of canoe activity on the river, and this boat launch will provide a permanent place where canoes can be launched or taken out with safety,”  senior city planner Erik Nelson said in an email.

 The planned launch will allow a large number of craft to access the river without causing erosion. The riverbanks in Old Mill Park are tree-lined, and getting in and out isn’t easy because of mud, slippery rocks and tree roots.

 Tippett said FOR  was driven primarily by wanting to prevent more erosion  at Old Mill Park.

“We wanted to give them a safe way to put in that was not going to destroy the riverbank, too,” he said.

  The launch will include reinforced concrete steps and landings on both sides of the boat slide for kayaks and canoes. Rip-rap will stabilize the bank on each side of the concrete.

 Ward said he hopes to have all of the work completed by the end of August.

Tippett said the launch will help people get on the river. And once they enjoy it, they will more likely become good stewards, he said.

“I think it’s going to make for a nice recreational trip on the Rappahannock, and more people will recognize the really wonderful river we have in our backyards,” he said.

Robyn Sidersky 540/374-5413

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