Ownership of the watershed including the park land can be traced back to the late 1700s and included ownership by the New Rawley Springs Company. In 1883 this entity sold 237 acres of its non-resort land to Mssrs. Silbert, Sprinkel, and Lowenbach. The City of
At this cleared site, the Civilian Conservation Corps program set-up a camp in 1942. During the two years it operated the Corps offered camping and military discipline to young boys between the ages of 7 and 14. Among the 100 or so who participated in this experience several would become local and national leaders. Some sources suggest the swinging bridge was one of the Corps projects. After the Corps left, the site fell into disrepair.
In 1947, the City Council donated $1,000 to turn the site into a City park. The Daily News Record,
Dick Keane [a recent veteran]…spent the summer clearing out brush, building picnic tables and outhouses, and supervising a crew of students….His crew built 18
oak picnic tables, moved an enormous old stove from the Masonic Temple downtown to the pavilion and added a gate to the swinging bridge…They gave me an old police car….we used it to haul rocks out of the river for fireplaces and chimneys ….He estimated the summer’s expense, including labor, at about $800.
Fifteen years later, in 1962, vandalism closed the Park.
For a third time, in 1978, the Young Adult Conservation Corps, a Federal program, assisted in the restoration of the Park. The park reopened on
August 1, 1978 with the cabin refurbished as an information, nature and arts and crafts center, but authorities closed the swinging bridge for safety reasons and to prevent public to the dam site. The cleanup revealed what was believed to be the tallest sassafras tree in the state.
To maintain the
watershed, the City awards small contracts to private logging operators. In 1992, residents living near the Park protested the removal of about 300 trees. The City defended the tree cutting as a way to keep the Park safe, to maintain the forest, and to protect the water supply. The project provided lumber for other Dry River projects and as well as earned some revenue for the City. The City’s Public Works Department continues to permit limited harvesting of timber in the 1450 acres in the Rawley Springs to Skidmore Fork watershed. The funds earned are used to maintain the property and currently to study the feasibility of adding recreation uses. City Park
Deed Books: 22:311; 57:181ff; 63:471
Daily News Record:
10/8/30; 8/22/78; 5/19/83; 3/5/92; 11/7/92; 8/15/94; 8/22/94; 5/24/02;
Interviews: David S. Wigginton, Asst. Director,
& Recreation Harrisonburg Parks
Ande Banks, Director of Special Projects, City of