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New Owner Brings Virginia Campground Back to Life

The Pink Zipper slide, which replaced a cable ride in the early 2000s.

Water from the lake that cooled the hides of generations of visitors and locals in the Augusta, Va., area is slowly draining away and exposing more of its sandy basin.

Shenandoah Acres is coming back to life after seven years, the Staunton News Leader reported.

The new manager for the campground and former resort needs to be able to see the bottom to determine how much work will be required to refill and maintain the spot once advertised as "America's Finest Inland Beach."

When patrons are splashing around in the springwater, a fondly remembered local tradition will be reborn, said Manager Ashley Jones.

"I keep hearing stories from people telling me, 'I came here as a kid, and I'm glad it's reopening,' because now they can bring their kids," Jones said.

Under previous management, the campgrounds existed for a stint as Mountain Spring RV Resort. Jones and her family took over operations last month, and on July 1, she reopened the campground as Shenandoah Acres, a name known to locals and vacationers for some 65 years.

Opened in the 1930s by a family of Pennsylvania transplants, the lake and resort became a summer icon for swimming off its sandy "beach," man-made and fed by a pristine groundwater stream. Rupert and Helen Blacka considered the 280-acre property for a health resort and were enticed to build the lake in part because the spring water was so clean that it required no maintenance.

Over the decades, the property became the site for camping, volleyball, miniature golf, baseball, picnics, and overnight stays inside a small complex of cabins. Local horse enthusiast Dale Bartley provided animals for trail rides from the 1950s until the time of his death three years ago at age 81.

The Blacka family sold the property in 2005 to Good Faith LLC, right before it would have been time for the 30th annual Shenandoah Acres sandcastle contest. Good Faith decided not to reopen the lake area because rising insurance costs ate deeply into its income during its last years.

New owners and managers planned and used the property intermittently since then, as neighbors wondered whether the popular cooling and gathering spot would ever open to the public again, or had been shuttered for good.

Although Jones was able to visit Shenandoah Acres just a couple of times before it closed, she was one of the locals who hated to see it go, she said.

"I loved the fact that it was a natural lake without chemicals or anything in it," Jones said. "It was safe to swim in, and it was a beautiful place. I was really sad to hear that it closed."

For the rebirth, Jones and others have been clearing brush and rehabilitating the buildings to renovate the former rustic oasis, with its walking trails, playgrounds, horseshoe pits, picnic tables and covered pavilion. The lake will not use the zip slide or the other kinds of equipment that made it more expensive to insure, she said.

The campgrounds offer open tent and recreational vehicle lots with utility hookups.

And they have retirees Helen and Lee Via living permanently on the grounds to look after it. The couple sold their home in Crimora this winter for easier, low-maintenance RV living. The Jones family, which is a member of their church, offered them a permanent "home."

"If anybody has a problem, they (campers) all have somebody to come to. And if I see a problem, I can go to them," Lee Via said.

By next year, the property might even allow overnight cabin stays, Jones said.

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