The town of Culpeper supports Madison County's plea for a public entrance to Shenandoah National Park to finally make good on a presidential promise from nearly 84 years ago.
Per resolution at its meeting Tuesday, Culpeper Town Council unanimously endorsed the initiative to re-establish entrance to the park via route 649, the Quaker Run and Rapidan Road near Criglersville.
Herbert Hoover (1874-1964), the 31st U.S. President, had his summer retreat at Rapidan Camp in Madison, where he and First Lady Lou Henry Hoover found much needed rest and recreation, especially during the later difficult years of his administration after the stock market crash and beginning of the Great Depression.
According to a Madison County Government resolution, the same one endorsed by Culpeper Town Council, Hoover promised Madison citizens back in 1929 that in consideration of the sacrifice of labor, money, hospitality and surrendering of private property for Rapidan Camp that they would have an entrance to the park.
"That promise until now has not been honored," according to the resolution.
Madison County contributes one of the largest land areas of any Virginia county to SNP with over 33,000 acres, more than 50 square miles. Yet it is the only such county in the state without an entrance into the park, the resolution said. In addition, the road the county helped improve in 1929 is still used and maintained, but a locked gate established by the National Park Service near Hoover's camp blocks access to Big Meadows from Criglersville.
"This entrance represents a historical and important connection to Shenandoah National Park, and tells of the many lessons learned and the sacrifices made in its creation," the resolution says. "This entrance will provide significant economic, historic and educational value to Madison County, Va., all citizens of the U.S. and to the National Park Service and Shenandoah National Park in particular."
Others also endorsing the resolution so far include the Culpeper County and Madison County Board of Supervisors, Madison Town Council and Thomas Jefferson Partnership for Economic Development.
President Hoover, in a speech in Madison on August 17, 1929, spoke of the necessity of his mountain getaway.
"In the early years of the Republic, Virginia was home of the presidents and it would seem appropriate that with the changing years, the president should at least have a weekend camp in Virginia," he said. "It has become a habit and a necessity for our government officials who have major anxieties in national affairs to seek some other place from which to conduct their work for prolonged periods in the summer time ... I have discovered that even the work of government can be improved by leisurely discussions of its problems out under the trees where no bells ring or callers jar one's thoughts from the channels of urbanity."
Hoover also spoke of his love for the scenery and recreation.
"It is a place for weekend rest ... fishing is an excuse and valid reason of the widest range of usefulness for temporary retreat from our busy world," he said on Madison Day. "In this case, it is the excuse for return to the woods and streams with their retouch of the simpler life of the frontier from which every American springs."
Rapidan Camp was the first complex specifically designed as a presidential retreat, according to nps.gov. It eventually consisted of 13 buildings connected by a network of paths and stone or wood bridges designed to blend with surrounding nature. According to the National Park Service, the Hoovers were very social and rarely came to Rapidan Camp alone, inviting such notable guests as Charles and Ann Morrow Lindbergh, Mrs. Thomas A. Edison and Mr. and Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt.