VINTON–Vinton Town Council approved a proposal on July 1 which will allow Jack Cranwell to make improvements to the existing Third Street/Tinker Creek boat and canoe ramp as his Eagle Scout service project.
According to the Roanoke Valley-Allegheny Regional Commission (RVARC), “the ramp will establish a Blueway connection to the Roanoke River and Tinker Creek Greenways and will allow access for canoes, kayaks, and jon boats to remote and undeveloped sections of the Roanoke River.”
Tinker Creek is a popular fishing spot, stocked with trout just upstream from the Tinker Creek boat ramp access point.
Tinker Creek also connects downstream with the Roanoke River, where it flows to Niagara Dam, visible from the Blue Ridge Parkway bridge over the Roanoke River Gorge near Explore Park.
At the dam, boaters can disembark, carry their boats past the rapids, and then return to the river and travel through the waters of Explore Park, eventually ending up at Smith Mountain Lake.
Currently the boat ramp in Vinton is not open to the public. Part of the site adjacent to the ramp is now in use as a parking lot for employees in the Vinton Public Works Department.
Members of the public have asked for several years to be given access to the ramp, which was designated in the past as an access point to the waterway for emergency vehicles.
“We are thrilled to have Jack take on this project at the Tinker Creek boat launch,” said Liz Belcher, Director of the Roanoke Valley Greenway Commission. “We have worked with Vinton for several years on the possibility of opening this ramp to the public, but the Town realized that additional facilities and information were needed to make it a public access point.”
Belcher says that, “In June the first Roanoke River Blueway plan was completed by the Regional Commission. At this time the blueway map shows that the Third Street boat/canoe site is “Under Development/No Public Access.”
“It was so timely to have Jack step up to help add amenities to this boat ramp in Vinton,” said Belcher. “The Greenway and Blueway complement each other, and we are excited to have another access point under development.”
Cranwell is a member of Boy Scout Troop # 17, which meets at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Roanoke. He is the son of Elizabeth and Dick Cranwell of Vinton and will be a senior at North Cross School this fall.
According to the RVARC, “the forty-five-mile Roanoke River Blueway water trail runs from the South Fork of the Roanoke River at East Montgomery County Park to the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries Hardy Ford boating access at Hardy Road in Bedford County at Smith Mountain Lake.
It includes sections of the South Fork Roanoke River, Tinker Creek, and Back Creek and flows through, or borders, the cities of Roanoke and Salem, the counties of Montgomery, Roanoke, Bedford, and Franklin, and the Town of Vinton.
“The Roanoke River Blueway provides river access for canoeing, kayaking, fishing, tubing, wading, wildlife viewing, and other recreational opportunities, while connecting to numerous local parks, including the Roanoke River, Tinker Creek and Mill Mountain Greenways, the Blue Ridge Parkway, Explore Park, and Smith Mountain Lake.”
Vinton Town Manager Chris Lawrence hopes that the public will be given access to the boat ramp by the end of the summer, even though all proposed improvements to the site may not be completed by then. Liability and legal issues need to be settled, with signage being the primary factor in liability. The ramp will be open from dawn until dusk each day.
Cranwell’s project includes building a safety and information kiosk, installing a picnic table with benches, adding signage, and adding gravel for parking spaces for those who wish to launch boats at the ramp. Because the area is in the flood zone, the picnic table must either be concrete or anchored.
The complete list of proposed improvements for the site includes adding a canoe storage rack, planting cedar trees for screening, and stabilizing the slope near the stream along the boat ramp.
The total cost of improvements is estimated to be around $7,000. Cranwell will raise funds for his portion of the project. The Town of Vinton will seek funding sources for the remaining upgrades to the site.
Cranwell says he selected the improvements to the boat ramp because he wanted his Eagle Scout project to be an undertaking that would have a lasting impact on the community, and because he enjoys the outdoors himself.
His mother at one time served as Vinton’s representative on the Greenway Commission and became friends with Belcher. When her son was researching projects to achieve his Eagle Scout rank, Elizabeth Cranwell asked for ideas from Belcher, who suggested the ramp improvements.
Scouts working on their Eagle Scout project generally are assisted by an adult in completing their project. Mark Corkery, Cranwell’s Eagle Scout project coach and the president of South End Construction, will be working with him on building the kiosk and other parts of the project. South End Construction is located in the Berkley’s Bottom area near Vinton.
Scout leaders Patton Coles and Robert Brailsford will supervise Cranwell and his fellow Scouts as they work on their Eagle projects.
Cranwell plans to submit his proposal to the Eagle Scout Board at their first meeting in August; with their approval, construction could begin in mid-August. His intention is to complete the project over the course of three weekends. He says the first weekend will be spent in the workshop building the kiosk itself; the next will be spent in site preparation; and the last in installation.
According to Cranwell, an Eagle Scout proposal requires “lots of paperwork, photos, supporting documents, lists of needed tools and materials for the task, the proposed budget, and a list of people used as resources. Anita McMillan, Director of Vinton’s Planning and Zoning Department, and also a member of the Greenway Commission, has assisted Cranwell in planning his project.
Cranwell has been involved in scouting since he began elementary school. He has advanced through the ranks of Boy Scout, Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star Scout, Life Scout, and now is working on the Eagle Scout rank, the highest in scouting.
A link to the Roanoke River Blueway Interactive map, showing the status of the Third Street boat ramp and other access points may be found online at http://rvarc.org/blueway/.