The story behind the Rockville Parking Lot begins in 2004 when Sandy Walbridge was doing title research and discovered a small parcel upstream of the Rockville Bridge which had not been sold to Allegheny Wood Products. FOC Executive Director Keith Pitzer contacted the owner, Allegheny Energy, and after some haggling we purchased the property for a few hundred dollars. It was a small piece, only .8 of an acre, and most of it was in the river. But it gave us a good base to pursue further expansion.
Lower Big Sandy as seen from the Rockville Bridge.
An adjoining parcel, roughly four acres in size, was owned by a subsidiary of Chesapeake Energy Corporation, the third largest independent producer of natural gas in the US. Scott Rotruck, their vice president of corporate relations, has been a “Friend of the Cheat” for many years. He met with FOC Executive Director Keith Pitzer and board member Charlie Walbridge at the Rockville property in December, 2006. Afterwards, he guided request a donate the property through corporate channels. His efforts and Chesapeake Energy’s generosity helped guarantee public access to Big Sandy Creek.
The finished parking lot can easily handle 30 cars as boaters venture out to try their paddles out on Wonderfalls and Big Splat, or take out from the intermediate water upstream.
Before work could begin on the parking lot we were contacted by Ron Stemple of Allegheny Wood Products (AWP). He requested permission to relocate the county road through our property so it would link up more efficiently with their haul road. In return for FOC’s help Allegheny Wood Products donated an additional acre of land that included 200 feet of useful river frontage. The cost of the parking lot was paid by the Conservation Fund of the Canoe Cruiser’s Association of Washington, DC and L.L. Bean’s CFS Program administered by the American Canoe Association. Hundreds of individual paddlers also contributed. Special thanks goes to AWP, whose personnel graded the proposed parking lot and spread gravel at no charge to FOC. The work was finished in the summer of 2008.