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Virginia official impressed with first visit to Fairy Stone
Secretary of Natural Resources Doug Domenech (right) and Deputy Secretary Anthony Moore (left) are shown with Fairy Stone Park Manager John Grooms during their visit to the park Thursday. (Contributed photo)
Friday, August 3, 2012
By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer
Two and a half years after being appointed Virginia’s secretary of natural resources, Doug Domenech on Thursday made his first visit to Fairy Stone State Park in Patrick County.
He was impressed.
“It’s a beautiful place,” said Domenech. “It has a different feel than a lot of the other parks. It is very serene.”
“It has a historic feel to it,” he said, and in terms of how employees take care of the park, “the upkeep of the facilities really is awesome.”
Domenech and his deputy, Anthony Moore, visited Fairy Stone as part of a tour of southwest Virginia’s state parks to learn more about them. Although he has been the natural resources secretary since January 2010, he had not visited Fairy Stone due to other job commitments, he indicated.
Covering 4,639 acres, Fairy Stone is the largest of Virginia’s six original state parks. It is now the second largest of the state’s 35 parks.
It was built during the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, which developed the lake, cabins and other structures still in use today.
Domenech toured Fairy Stone with Park Manager John Grooms and looked at campsites, new stables being developed for horseback riders, the conference center and a cabin. He mentioned that most of the cabins were booked, as often is the case.
Domenech said he understands some park visitors have said structures at Fairy Stone appear dated while others — such as those who really seek a natural setting — like their simple appearance and amenities.
However, the park is trying to stay up to date. Domenech said, for example, Wi-Fi technology is being installed in commons areas. Younger park visitors want access to the technology, and installing it in commons areas instead of cabins is “the compromise” with people hoping to get away from technology during their visits, he added.
Domenech said he also is impressed with how well the staff maintains the park grounds.
“They accomplish a lot with the small staff they have,” he said.
That includes six full-time and nine part-time workers as well as 30 seasonal employees such as lifeguards, according to Sara Benghauser, a spokesman for the secretary’s office.
The park is named after specimens of staurolite — a combination of silica, iron and aluminum — found there. According to legend, the cross-shaped stones formed from crystallized tears of fairies who cried upon learning of Christ’s death, which resulted in them being known as “fairy stones.”
Domenech said he did not find any fairy stones, although some were given to him during his visit. However, he did say that he talked with park visitors who had found some of the stones.