Guides play an important role in enhancing the visitor experience of every national park. Shenandoah National Park's rangers are very competent, but are relatively few when compared with the size of the park and the number of visitors. This web based guide can serve to provide an orientation for first time visitors, in-depth information about many park elements for all visitors, and also has references to other publications with specialty coverage relating to the science, history, and current condition of this well loved national park. The guide features general park information, a careful look at the park's history, insightful background about flora and fauna, full coverage of Skyline Drive and a comprehensive set of hike recommendations with new maps and updated descriptions.
This web based guide also offers an interesting experiment in support of national parks. While it is not possible to publish this guide in print form it is hoped that this electronic version will prove a cost effective way to support and promote visitation and enhance the visitor experience. As was noted, the original Heatwole guide sold over 75,000 copies in the over 20 years it was in print which resulted in a significant financial assistance to the park. The electronic version of the original guide was put on the web in 1997. Currently the site is visited more than 100 times each day. A Google search reveals that there are more than 100 sites with links to the guide. This edition thus has the potential to reach a much broader audience.
Throughout the history of the park, the park staff has maintained a continuing program of research designed to develop a better understanding of the park's history, flora, fauna, and its continuing evolution from pre-park conditions to mature forest. Henry Heatwole worked closely with Park Service staff in developing his original guide. This complete edit, update, and revision, has made extensive use of all of Henry's original work, subsequent staff research, and the reality of on the ground experience.
Studies show that in the competition for our time, particularly among young people, nature oriented outdoor activities are losing ground to computer games, organized sports, and a multitude of after school activities. The Park Service is committed to preserving Shenandoah as a nearby sanctuary for expanding urban areas while enhancing the visitor experience.
Visitors are asked to join in the preservation and enhancement efforts. Enjoy your visit to the fullest. Treasure and protect the flora and fauna. Then spread the word that something vital is lost when the joy of nature is not experienced firsthand and passed on to younger generations.
Our hope is that future generations will continue to experience and enjoy the visionary expectations of the park's founders and Henry Heatwole's love of and insight into most every element of the park.
Larry W. Brown