Who Says There is Nothing to Do? County Recreational Opportunities Abound!
Anyone living in Amherst County who says “there’s nothing to do” isn’t fully informed… there are plenty of options, all year ‘round. The following is a summary of Amherst County sponsored activities and outdoor natural resources available to everyone.
For more day and time specific information, watch for the semi-annual recreational guide in the new Amherst New-Era Progress, or contact the Amherst County Recreation and Parks Department at 434-946-9371 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Amherst County Parks
Amherst County is widely known and popular for its scenic beauty and natural settings. There are a variety of parks and trails within the county offering healthy “back-to-nature” experiences. The county maintains several parks in very attractive settings throughout the county. There are two on the historic James River and three are at the foot of the fabulous Blue Ridge Mountains. *County park hours are sunrise and one hour after sunset. [Please note that county code stipulates that consumption of alcoholic beverages is strictly prohibited on all county property.]
Located on Coolwell Road, south of the Town of Amherst, this recreational park has a picnic area with grills, a picnic shelter, a play area for children, restrooms, lighted all-purpose fields (soccer, football, and softball), outdoor basketball courts, a nature trail and an outdoor amphitheater.
This park is located on the scenic and historic James River. The park offers a boat ramp and boat dock for access to the river, fishing benches, a covered picnic pavilion and picnic area, a play area for children and restroom facilities. It is located in the Elon area of the county. Directions: take Rt. 130 W. to Elon. Turn left on Monacan Park Rd. The park is located at the end of the Monacan Park Road.
An exciting development for the county has been the enhancement and expansion of Riveredge Park, on the Madison Heights side of the James River directly across from Downtown Lynchburg. The newest addtion to the park is the “BLUESTONE OUTDOOR AMPHITHEATER” located along the Riveredge Park Trail. The boat ramp at this park is used each year to launch the batteaux for the annual James River Batteau Festival. This park offers fishing access, along with comfort stations, picnic tables and a community center. This park is accessible by taking the first two left-hand turns at the bottom of the hill of Rt. 163 (old Rt. 29 bus., now called Old Town Connector) just before the bridge crossing into Downtown Lynchburg.
MILL CREEK LAKE PARK
Located in the Temperance area of the county, this park is considered by many residents to be the most scenic with a clear view of Mt. Pleasant and is part of the Sleeping Giant Loop on the Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail [www.dgif.virginia.gov ] Furthermore, this park is extremely popular with the fishermen! It rests on a 190 acre watershed lake that is open for fishing only (no swimming). No gasoline powered boats allowed. The park consists of a boat ramp, picnic tables and grills, play area for children and restroom facilities. Directions: turn onto Rt. 778 off of Rt. 60 west. Turn right on Rt. 610. Follow the signs.
STONEHOUSE LAKE PARK
Located in the Temperance area of the county, this park rests on a beautiful 41 acre watershed lake and is open for fishing only (no swimming). This park is part of the Sleeping Giant Loop on the Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail. [www.dgif.virginia.gov] There is a boat ramp providing access into the lake (no gasoline powered boats allowed). A covered picnic pavilion, picnic tables and grills, a play area for children and restroom facilities makes this park an attractive setting for family/group picnics and activities. Directions: turn on Rt. 778 off of Rt. 60 W. Turn left onto Rt. 610. Follow the signs.
THRASHERS LAKE PARK
Located in the Temperance area of the county, this park rests on an attractive 36 acre watershed lake open for fishing only (no swimming). This park is part of the Sleeping Giant Loop on the Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail [www.dgif.virginia.gov]. It consists of a boat ramp (no gasoline powered boats allowed) picnic tables and grills, a play area for children and restroom facilities. Directions: turn onto Rt. 778 off of Rt. 60 W. Turn left on Rt 610. Follow the signs.
NIGHT FISHING LICENSES for night-time fishing at the county lakes are available for purchase at the Recreation Department; 129 Frances Ave; Monroe. Current VA fishing license is necessary. Fee: $10/county resident $15/non-county resident
This newest addition to the county trail system is a blacktop hiking/biking trail that extends .4 miles along the James River from Riveredge Park. The county is planning to continue the extension of this trail as property and funds become available.
JAMES RIVER HERITAGE TRAIL
This blacktop hiking/biking trail is part of the Peaks of Otter Loop on the Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail [www.dgif.virginia. gov ] and has two access points. One is from Percival Island Natural Area. The trail extends from Lynchburg’s Blackwater Creek Trail, crossing the railroad trestle onto Percival Isle from Lynchburg. It traverses the island for about one mile along an old railroad bed. The trail continues across the James River on another trestle, and continues along the James River in Amherst County for another 1 ½ miles. This is a beautiful scenic walk or bike ride through an historical area. The trail is also accessible in Amherst County at the end of Fertilizer Road [enter via the Central Virginia Training School]. Be sure to explore the exhibit, VIRGINIA ROCKS, at the JRHT trailhead at the base of Fertilizer Road.
VIRGINIA BLUE RIDGE RAILWAY TRAIL
This trail is idyllically located in the rolling Virginia countryside and follows the banks of the Piney and Tye Rivers along the path of the longest running, commercially successful short-line railway in America. It is part of the Sleeping Giant Loop on the Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail [www.dgif.virginia.gov]. This trail extends 7 miles for hikers, bikers, and horseback riders and provides a perfect opportunity to relive the historically significant events that developed and changed Amherst and Nelson Counties.. The two access points are located at Piney River and Roses Mill.
BROTHER BASIL NATURE TRAIL
Located at Coolwell Park, this ¼ mile trail is located behind the outdoor amphitheater. Go exploring and check it out!
Approximately 25 miles of this trail passes through Amherst County from the Nelson County line to the James River, crossing over the James River Foot Bridge into Bedford County. There are many beautiful and scenic trails that run through the mountains of the county. Enjoy the sights from Mt. Pleasant, Cole Mountain, Tar Jacket, and Rocky Row Run, just to name a few.
HENRY LANUM MEMORIAL TRAIL
Located in the Mount Pleasant National Scenic Area, this 4.8 mile loop leads to the 4,071 foot summit of Mount Pleasant with panoramic 360 degree views high atop Amherst County!
OLD HOTEL TRAIL
A 5-mile loop, when combined with the Appalachian Trail, across the meadows on the summit of Cole Mountain with fantastic views of the Amherst foothills and the western valley.
VIRGINIA BIRDING & WILDLIFE TRAIL
From the Atlantic Ocean of Virginia’s eastern border, to the towering Mt. Rogers at its southwest corner, the Commonwealth includes every bird and animal habitat that occurs naturally between Maine and Florida. Virginia also offers a long history, rich culture, and tradition of warm hospitality to welcome visitors. Within Virginia’s 43,000 square miles of diverse natural habitat, you can find some 400 species of birds, 250 species of fish, 150 species of terrestrial and marine animals, 150 species of amphibians and reptiles, and a wide variety of aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates. The Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail celebrates this diversity. In fact, it is the first statewide program of its kind in the United States. All three phases of the trail link wildlife viewing sites throughout the state have been completed: The Coastal, Piedmont, and Mountain Phases. Amherst County has several trail loops listed inthe Mountain Phase trail system. The Peaks of Otter Loop includes the James River Heritage Trail along the southern border of the county. The Sleeping Giant Loop, includes Mt. Pleasant Scenic Area, Mill Creek Lake, Stonehouse Lake, Thrashers Lake, as well as the Virginia Blue Ridge Railway Trail. For further information or for a map of one of the three phases, visit the Amherst County Recreation Department or contact the Virginia Tourism Corporation @ 1-800-visitva or visit www.dgif.state.va.us.
SOUTH PEDLAR ATV TRAIL SYSTEM
The Terrapin and Rattlesnake trailhead parking lots are posted along Rt. 130. For more information contact the Glenwood- Pedlar Ranger District of the National Forest Service @ 540-291-2188. For an Amherst County Parks & Trails Guide, visit www.countyofamherst.com.
GEORGE WASHINGTON NATIONAL FOREST
Amherst County has been promoted as “Virginia’s Most Civilized Wilderness”. Part of the rationale for this ‘Claim to Fame’ is that nearly 1/3 of Amherst County (northwest) is located in the George Washington National Forest. Hunting, camping, hiking, nature and wildlife watching enthusiasts enjoy the benefits of the GWNF in Amherst County. Scenic view sheds, overlooks, waterfalls, and more- it’s all here! For additional information, visit www.fs.fed.us.
BLUE RIDGE PARKWAY
Outstanding scenery and recreational opportunities make the Blue Ridge Parkway one of the most popular units of the National Park System. “America’s Favorite Drive” winds its way 469 miles through mountain meadows and past seemingly endless vistas. Split-rail fences, old farmsteads and historic structures complement spectacular views of distant mountains and neighboring valleys.” Access to the Blue Ridge Parkway in Amherst County is on Rt. 60 and Rt. 130/501. For more information, visit www.blueridgeparkway.org
MOUNT PLEASANT NATIONAL SCENIC AREA
Located in the Glenwood and Pedlar Ranger Districts of Amherst County, this 7,580 acre area is part of the George Washington National Forest and is accessible by Route 60 West. It is part of the Sleeping Giant Loop on the Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail [www.dgif.virginia.gov ] Mount Pleasant National Scenic Area offers excellent opportunities for solitude and serenity and is very popular for various forms of dispersed recreation including hiking, hunting, and fishing. The core of the Mount Pleasant National Scenic Area is remote in appearance. Motor vehicles are permitted only on open roads. For additional information, visit www.fs.fed.us.
Football, Basketball Leagues, Basketball Camps, Soccer, Soccer Camps, Baseball Leagues, Softball, Golf and Golf Clinics and Hunter Safety Classes are available through the year.
Co-Ed and Girls Youth basketball is available for children aged 5-8 yrs. Registration deadline is Oct. 31st. Registration fee is discounted for those who register early! Registration locations are at the Amherst County Recreation office in Monroe during the week, and every Sat. morning in Oct. at the Coolwell Recreation Center. Registration can also be done online at www.CountyofAmherst.com.
Youth Soccer league competition for those 4 1/2 – 14 year olds takes place spring and fall. Registration can be done online at www.CountyofAmherst.com.
Dixie Youth baseball and Dixie Youth girl’s softball are managed by volunteer organizations. Opening days are in April, with practices beginning in March.
For more information about Amherst Dixie Youth boys baseball, visit www.Amherst Dixie Baseball.com.
For Amherst County Dixie Youth girls softball, call the recreation office at 434-946-9371. The Madison Heights Youth Baseball Association (Dixie Youth) is for participants 5-15 years of age. For more information, visit www.MHYBA.com.
Other local organizations supporting youth sports include Amherst Wolverines Football and Cheerleading (Dawn Smith-(434) 665-7361); Monelison Bruins Football and Cheerleading (call the recreation office-946-9371, for more information); and Amherst United Soccer (David Childress-929-1744).
Adult softball leagues are organized every summer for separate men’s and coed divisions. Games start in late Aug. or early Sept. Call 434-946-9371 for more information.
Winton Country Club hosts a Women’s Golf clinic and a Junior (for youth under 18 yrs.-old) Golf mini-camp every year in April. The instruction for the clinic is specifically for beginning to immediate golfers and is entirely free, with all equipment and range balls provided. The junior mini-camp is also free. For more information or to register, call the Winton Pro Shop at 434-946-7336.
A Hunter safety class is taught in September at the Monroe Community Center. It is required for all 12-15 yr.-olds as well as anyone 16 and over who are seeking their hunting license for the first time. Those already with hunting licenses are also welcome to attend to refresh their hunting skills. Pre-registration is required. For more information, call Mr. Wise at 434-384-7048.
County Community Centers
Coolwell Community Center is located at Coolwell Park and is available to civic organizations and school groups on a reservation basis. . It is also available for rent to private individuals on a reservation (rental fee) basis for events such as birthday parties, reunions or wedding receptions. For additional information call the Recreation Department at 434-946-9371.
Riveredge Community Center is located at Riveredge Park and is available to civic organizations and school groups on a reservation basis. It is also available for rent to private individuals on a reservation (rental fee) basis for events such as birthday parties, reunions or wedding receptions. For additional information call the Recreation Department at 434-946-9371.
Monroe Community Center, the county’s ‘newest’ community center is located at 129 Frances Ave., Monroe and is located in a former elementary school building. The majority of the Recreation Department programs are now held at this center.
OTTER CREEK CAMPGROUND
Camping and restaurant/gift shop. Located at milepost 60 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. For more information, call 434-299-5125.
LYNCHBURG NW/BLUE RIDGE PARKWAY KOA (formerly called WILDWOOD CAMPGROUND)
A family campground in the Blue Ridge Mountains, full of fun and activities including swimming, ATV trail, special events; along with a camp store and gift shop and much more. 6252 Elon Road; Monroe, VA [Rt. 130 west of Elon and a mile east of the Blue Ridge Parkway. For more information, call 434-299-5228 or visit www.wildwoodcampground.com
Health & Fitness
For very reasonable fees, Aerobics Classes are available for adults in Amherst (Amherst Elementary) and Aerobics for Seniors classes are held at the Coolwell Community Center. Yoga classes are offered in six (6) week sessions and held at Central Elementary school once a week. Zumba classes are held in six (6) week sessions on an ongoing basis two (2) times a week at the Monroe Community Center. Even Square Dance, Round Dance and Line Dance lessons are available at the Coolwell Community Center. If you would like information sent to you as it becomes available, visit the county web site at www.countyofamherst.com or send an e-mail to email@example.com
Arts & Crafts
Oil Painting classes are available at the Monroe Recreation Center in Monroe. These painting classes are taught in the Bob Ross technique.
Senior Adult Programs
SENIOR SOCIAL CENTERS
There are two senior center sites in Amherst County. The schedule of activities at each of the sites varies greatly, including table and card games, exercise programs, covered dish lunches, arts and crafts, local shopping and sight-seeing trips, nutrition specialists, health screenings, and an assortment of other special events. Call the Recreation Department for a monthly calendar. Visit each of these locations.
Location: Second St., Amherst
NORTHMINSTER PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
Location: US 29, Madison Heights
Dates: Mondays and Wednesdays
Aerobics and Yoga (see Health and Fitness above) are available to seniors.
There is Bingo every Tuesday morning at 11:30 at the Monroe Community Center free of charge.
Another extremely popular event for senior adults are the monthly Socials for Seniors, involving lunch and entertainment and door prizes. These socials take place at the Madison Heights Community Center on the third Monday of the month. There is no cost to attend, however, reservations are needed. For more information and to make reservations, call 434-946-9371.
Discounted Theme Park tickets
The Amherst County Recreation & Parks Department offers discounted tickets to theme park (Kings Dominion, Busch Gardens and Water Country). For more information, visit the county website at www.countyofamherst.com or call 434-946-9371.
Whether it is learning a new hobby, competing in a sports program or taking advantage of the wonderful parks and trails available, Amherst County residents are fortunate to have so many ways to pursue recreational activities.
But if you have any comments about current leisure services or suggestions for new County sponsored activities, the Amherst County Parks, Recreation and Cultural Development Board (ACPRCD) Board meets the second Monday of each month at 6:30 pm in the Monroe Community Center at 129 Frances Ave. Monroe, to review budget, activities, and discuss future plans. Individuals and groups are welcome and encouraged to bring matters concerning recreation and parks in the county to these meetings. In order to get on the agenda, please call the Recreation Department at 434-946-9371 at least three weeks prior to a scheduled meeting date.
EDITORS NOTE: We’re thankful for the assistance of the Amherst County Recreation & Parks Department in providing information and photos for this article.