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    Document Summary
    - Report Published -

    House Document No. 35

    Document Title
    Feasibility Study for a State Park on the Mayo Rivers in Henry County and Mayo Scenic Rivers Study Henry County, Virginia

    Department of Conservation and Recreation

    Enabling Authority
    HJR 709 (Regular Session, 2007)

    Executive Summary
    The 2007 General Assembly of Virginia passed House Joint Resolution 709 requesting the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) to study the feasibility of establishing a state park on the Mayo Rivers in Henry County. The Resolution also requested that DCR evaluate the North and South Mayo Rivers for possible State Scenic River designation. This report is divided into two sections (Part A and Part B) to address the resolution’s two requests.

    An impetus for this study is the development of a North Carolina State Park on the Mayo River in that state (beginning at the Virginia-North Carolina state line). As of July 2007, the North Carolina Division of State Parks has purchased 1,922 acres of the 3,000 acres they hope to acquire. They have indicated that they are interested in cooperating with DCR, Henry County, or others in resource management should public facilities be established on the Mayo Rivers in Virginia. Since the Mayo River in North Carolina is the centerpiece of that state park, many people in Virginia’s Henry County believe that similar development in the Commonwealth would complement North Carolina’s park and provide improved recreational opportunities for all park visitors, additional protection for the important natural resources along the river, and increased eco-tourism.

    This study concluded that a state park on the Mayo Rivers in southwestern Henry County is feasible, and that there are two other viable park alternatives. The three options are as follows:

    Adequate undeveloped and sizable tracts of land exist which could meet the 600-acre minimum park size recommendation for a state park. The area of primary focus should be south of Route 695, the “lands between the rivers.” A large parcel of land that fronts on both rivers and controls the critical confluence of the rivers is apparently available from a willing seller. There do not appear to be any site limitations that would preclude the development of facilities usually found at a Virginia State Park, although some steep slopes would have to be considered in facility location. No significant historic or cultural resources were identified that might limit normal developments. The presence of the rivers on two sides of the land would add to the importance and diversity of the site. There are a number of other large land parcels contiguous to this tract that could, if owners are willing, be acquired to reach the desired state park size. There would be a unique opportunity to partner with the North Carolina state park system to enhance recreational offerings and protect a valuable natural resource.

    Henry County or the Regional Recreation Facilities Authority could acquire the key property at the confluence and partner with the North Carolina State Parks system to create a cooperative arrangement for a park in Henry County that would complement the North Carolina site. This would create a significant regional park for the area, and it would not need to meet the 600-acre minimum for a state park. This too would contribute significantly to the area economy, offer enhanced resource and recreational opportunity, and would be less costly to acquire and develop than a state park.

    Henry County could acquire smaller tracts at the Route 695 bridge crossings and create a reliable public access sites program to improve access to the rivers. It would also be advisable to acquire a small interim site between the bridges and the state line on each river to create additional day-use stops for river users. This option would also complement the developments in North Carolina, increase local tourism, and provide valuable recreational opportunities for Henry County residents and visitors to the area. The development of this public access in the vicinity of the Route 695 bridge crossings is not only significant in its own right, but it would also be a significant contributor to any of the alternatives. This would be the least expensive of the three options.

    In addressing the Scenic River possibilities, portions of the North and South Mayo Rivers in Henry County meet the adopted criteria for scenic river designation and are good candidates for addition to the Virginia State Virginia Scenic River system. It is recommended that:

    1. The North Mayo River between Route 695 and the Virginia - North Carolina state line, a distance of approximately 7.1 miles, and the South Mayo River from the Patrick County - Henry County line to the Virginia - North Carolina border, a distance of approximately 6.9 miles, be considered for Virginia Scenic River Designation;

    2. The Department of Conservation and Recreation should be appointed the Administering Agency.