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New and repeat visitors keep Fairy Stone busy
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Fairy Stone State Park opened the season with strong attendance on Memorial Day, and the number of visits has been strong since then, said John Grooms, park manager. The park has about 130,000 visitors a year, about 60 percent of them from Memorial Day to Labor Day, Grooms said. Above, visitors enjoy the water over the weekend.
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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer

Pretty much every year for about the last 17 years, members of the Ghyzel family from several states have taken a summer camping trip to such places as Virginia, West Virginia and Kentucky.

This year, for the second time, they chose Fairy Stone State Park as their destination.

“We always look for a central place to meet,” Ann Ghyzel said Saturday. The trips typically last a week.

Ann and her husband, Peter, of Rochester, N.Y.; their daughters, Allison, 24, and Katherine, 19; Peter’s two brothers and their families (one brother lives in Centreville, Va., and one in Newnan, Ga.); and Peter’s parents, of Rochester, were staying in the 16-person lodge at Fairy Stone. In all, eight cousins were on the trip.

“We love the beach and the hiking, and the fairy stones have been a lot of fun,” said Ann, a health, safety and environmental coordinator at Kodak, which has its headquarters in Rochester. Peter is a chemist for Kodak.

Therese Ghyzel, a sister-in-law, said, “Everything is so clean, ... The rangers have been very friendly.”

“The water is so clear,” said Stephanie Ghyzel, one of the cousins.

“We keep coming back to Virginia. They have a good park system,” said Wes Ghyzel, Peter’s father.

Last year, the Ghyzels went to Hungry Mother State Park in Marion for their summer camping trip.

When asked to tell some highlights of this year’s trip, Ann said, “The boys have been fishing on Philpott Lake. We went to the country music festival at the beach today.”

Other activities included a lot of eating, laughing, and playing board and card games. They also looked at photos from when they camped at Fairy Stone 10 years ago, Ann said.

Lewis and Mary Johnson of Marion said they were camping at Fairy Stone for the first time. They and their granddaughter, Erin Enfield of Kingsport, Tenn., were staying in a 14-foot pop-up camper.

Lewis said he drove through the park, probably in the 1980s, and liked it.

The park is “pretty,” has “a lot of shade trees,” and offers fishing, he said.

January Oliver of Roanoke was at the beach at Fairy Stone on Saturday with her children, Lola, 6, Willow, 4, and Ozzy, 1.

‘We come every couple years,” she said, adding that it was Ozzy’s first trip to the park.

“As a family, we really love the state parks,” she said. They offer the chance to get outside, see nature and meet other families, she said. “It’s just good, kid-friendly fun.”

When asked what they like about Fairy Stone, Lola and Willow said they like making new friends. Lola added, “I get to swim.”

January said a nature hike also was on the agenda.

Kellie Norris of Ridgeway was lying on the beach, reading a book. She usually has her 2-year-old daughter with her when she visits the park.

The beach at Fairy Stone is perfect for her daughter, who can play with other children or just spend time with mom, Kellie said.

She added she likes “the environment, the room (at Fairy Stone). It’s not crowded.”

John Grooms, park manager at Fairy Stone, said Memorial Day attendance at the park was bigger than usual, and attendance has been good since then.

The park has about 130,000 visitors a year, about 60 percent of them from Memorial Day to Labor Day, Grooms said.

The park has 51 camp sites in the main campground, six group camp sites and 25 cabins, he said. Reservations are recommended. “Never assume we are so booked up, you can’t try (to get reservations),” he added.

Maggie Blankenship and Ariel Kroplin are park interpreters at Fairy Stone this summer. Maggie, 18, of Elamsville, is a rising sophomore at Patrick Henry Community College, majoring in general studies. Ariel, 20, of Stuart, is a rising senior at Ferrum College, majoring in environmental science.

They said they have been leading such activities as fairy stone hunts, hikes, spillway tours, “canoeing with ghosts” (canoe trips to the graveyard at Fayerdale), launching water rockets, painting hiking sticks, campfire activities, telling the history of the park and teaching basic canoeing skills, among other things.

Maggie and Ariel said it’s a fun job — much better than working in an office for the summer.

 

 
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