Officials say a proposed split rail fence at Historic Port of Falmouth Park would restrict access to a popular beach on the Rapphannock River.

Officials say a proposed split rail fence at Historic Port of Falmouth Park would restrict access to a popular beach on the Rapphannock River.

FALMOUTH, Va. – There is a now a plan to improve the parking lot at the Historic Port of Falmouth Park, and with it restrict access to a popular beach on the Rappahannock River.

The proposed plan, with an overall $230,000 price tag, calls for building a split rail a fence in the park near the river shoreline. It’ll mean removing a fence and gate that now that sits at the park’s entrance on River Road.

Currently, the gate locks at dusk to prevent people from getting into the park. But, with no gate, and a fenced in parking lot, the lot would then be open to visitors 24-hours a day. Officials hope that could spur more small businesses to locate to Falmouth, and that lot would give customers a place to park their cars.

The river beachfront park is a popular summertime destination for swimmers. It can also a dangerous one where swimmers go for a dip at their own risk, as the river’s strong currents have claimed several victims to drowning.

“We were asked to look at an option to restrict use of the beach, and this is the option that we came back with,” said Stafford County Administrator Anthony Romanello.

The discussion of changing the face of Falmouth ramped up in March when the details of a new master interpretive plan was presented that calls for building a new monument that recognizes the slaves the crossed the Rapphannock in search of freedom on the Underground Railroad, as well a implementing a walking tour that educates visitors on some of Stafford County’s most historic places.

At that time, Hartwood District Supervisor Gary Snellings said the only way Falmouth could attract more business would be to close the beach.

New shrubs and trees would be planted along the river shoreline to give it a “more mature state,” as Stafford public works director Mike Smith said. The new vegetation would, in theory, keep people away from the shoreline.

But will new plants a split rail fence be enough to keep people away from the river?

“I remember as a kid a split rail fence wouldn’t stop me for a split second,” said Rockhill District Supervisor Cord Sterling. “I mean, it’s not really a hindrance. Do we really need to spend the money?”

Stafford County Parks and Recreation Director Jamie Porter says new black-coated aluminum lighting poles would also be added between King Street and River Road, as well as improved lighting on the Belmont-Ferry Farm Trail which runs through the Falmouth park.

Taxpayers would also have to pay $5,000 for an archaeological dig before a fence could be installed.

“This is something we have to have in the historical district every time we dig a new hole,” said Porter.

Currently there is no money budgeted for the Falmouth improvements which could take up to five years to compete, if implemented.