Afton's Rockfish Gap Tourist Visitor Center on Monday, February 18, 2013.
The troubles continue up on Afton Mountain with the Rockfish Gap Tourist Visitor Center. Formerly housed in one of the run-down buildings at the lower level of the parking lot, it was moved five years ago up to the overlook area of the Afton Inn, formerly a Holiday Inn in the days before Afton's decline. Now it may be moving due to water issues.
A non-distinct modular trailer purchased from the Winchester school system was parked at the edge of the parking area overlooking the Shenandoah Valley to the northwest and the Rockfish Valley to the east with only a flag pole and American flag as its decor. No flowers, no trees, just a utilitarian trailer in the parking lot. When it moved to the new location, I wrote about it:
Could a modular trailer be made to be aesthetically pleasing with stone foundation, walkways, flowers? Maybe volunteers would be willing to add their talents to the project?None of that happened. Sadly, five years later, the area is even more run down, the burned-out buildings still stand, and the eyesore that could be a shining gateway into the Shenandoah Valley is still an eyesore.
That area is aching for some upgrades and, in these financially strapped times, maybe a group could be pulled together, not just the volunteers who work inside, but others who would be willing to help spruce up the outside.
You know ... curb appeal ... for the millions of visitors passing through the area every year as they travel the Blue Ridge Parkway which is the most visited national park averaging 20 million travelers annually, as well as the Skyline Drive and I-64.
I would love to see a nice cafe at Afton with views of the Shenandoah and/or Rockfish Valleys ... outdoor seating ... something casual that could be used by hikers, bikers, travelers, and locals. It could be a "go-to" place for friends to meet and watch the sunset over the Alleghany Mountains.
When I lived in NC, we were near Blowing Rock and Boone, places that utilized their mountain views with restaurants, B&Bs, and parks with the Blue Ridge Parkway passing through their communities. They were "go-to" destinations for anyone within an hour's drive.
Would Afton be financially successful with lodging, a cafe, and shops?
Porta-John portable toilet outside visitor center.
At last week's Augusta County supervisor meeting, it was mentioned that the Rockfish Gap visitor center may be looking for a new location because the owner of the buildings on Afton is not able to provide adequate water needs. Indeed, while there on Monday to take these photos, a Porta-John was positioned outside the building.
Afton could be a show place. Bob Kirchman of Staunton came up with some suggestions of what could be done to make Afton the world class entrance to Shenandoah. It has been years ... one has to wonder how much longer we must wait to see Afton come back to life.
Meanwhile, where will the visitor center go?
Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
February 18, 2013