Arts, Leisure and Sports

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Vinton Mayor Brad Grose checks out a Zagster bike/G Marrano photo WFIR

The coronavirus impact has led to the end of the Zagster Bike Share service, which has been suspended since late March due to safety concerns. RIDE Solutions had sponsored the bikeshare service, which often meant riders pedaling along greenways and local streets were on bikes they could rent via a phone app. Holmes says he hopes Zagster or a similar program will return to the area in the future. Jeremy Holmes, the director of RIDE solutions says the service is ending because of the pandemic, not because of low ridership.

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(news release) Roanoke, VA., May 28th, 2020 – In an email to its community partners yesterday, Zagster announced that it would end bikeshare service in Roanoke because of financial strain caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The effects of COVID-19 on our communities has been tragic,” the statement read.  “Sadly, the pandemic has also impacted Zagster’s business, and it is with heavy hearts that we must inform you that Zagster will no longer be providing bike share services in your community. This was a difficult decision but a necessary one, for which we are truly sorry.”

The removal of bicycles and stations will begin immediately, with all equipment to be removed by June 12th.  Bikeshare service has been suspended since March 26th out of concern for the health and safety of users and service technicians at the start of the COVID-19 lockdown.

Says RIDE Solutions Director Jeremy Holmes, “With the deleterious economic impact of COVID-19 both locally and nationally, we are saddened but not surprised at the news that Zagster’s business has also suffered and will result in the end, for the time being, of bikeshare in Roanoke.  However, we know that bikeshare has been a success in the Roanoke Valley, and we also know that the micromobility market will adapt to the post-pandemic economic situation.  We’re confident that new mobility solutions will arrive that will allow us to revisit bikeshare – or perhaps something more exciting! – in the next few years.”

Zagster bikeshare started in Roanoke in May of 2017 with most of the funding coming from private sponsorships.  The system, which launched with 50 bikes and 10 stations, quickly expanded to almost double that number, including additional stations in Salem and Vinton. “With the help of our sponsors and community partners,” says Holmes, “we funded and launched a bikeshare program in record time, in a market that only a few years previous seemed an unlikely candidate for a successful program, and created a valued transportation and recreation service for our citizens.  That is a testament to the strength and creativity of Roanoke’s business and civic community, and I know that we will be able to tap into that again sooner rather than later for new and better amenities.”

The Mill Mountain Theatre Board of Directors and producing artistic director Ginger Poole made the tough call public this morning: all live productions have been cancelled for 2020 – at least until the Christmas show,”Holiday Inn.” Mill Mountain Theatre is asking patrons who have purchased tickets for the 2020 season to roll them over for a future credit – or donate that money to help sustain the non-profit playhouse. Meanwhile all of the acting summer camps have gone virtual; those classes start in mid-June. Poole also says there will be extensive coronavirus safety precautions put in place whenever productions resume.

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The George Washington and Jefferson National Forests will reopen many recreation sites over the next week, starting this weekend. They include trailheads, shooting ranges and ATV trails. Campgrounds and rest room facilities will remain closed.

NEWS RELEASE: Roanoke, VA. (May 22, 2020) – George Washington and Jefferson National Forests officials will reopen many recreation sites for day use beginning the weekend of May 23, 2020. The decision to reopen recreation areas is being done on a case-by-case basis. All openings will consider health and safety recommendations, employee safety and the availability of personal protective equipment (PPE) and trained personnel, as reflected in CDC, state and local guidance. Site closures and modified operations may occur, as needed, to protect public health and safety. Presently, the schedule for reopening recreation sites is as follows:

  • May 22: All trailheads providing access to the Appalachian National Scenic Trail will reopen, except for Dragon’s Tooth and Spy Rock trailheads.
  • May 23: All shooting ranges will reopen. Crabtree Falls, Cascades, Pandapas Pond, and Roaring Run day use areas will reopen.
  • May 26: South Pedlar ATV Trail System will reopen.
  • May 28: Additional recreation sites will reopen, including Peters Mills Run/Taskers Gap ATV/OHV Trail System; please check our website for specifics.

Campgrounds, and most facilities and day-use areas within campgrounds, will remain closed pending further evaluation. In certain areas, flooding and rainfall impacts may delay opening.

All restrooms will remain shut down. Visitors are responsible for providing their own PPE (including hand sanitizer), and must pack out what they pack in as trash service may not be available. In order to minimize environmental impacts, visitors are encouraged to practice the Leave No Trace principles found at lnt.org.

“We know the importance of the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests to communities and we want people to use and enjoy the forests again,” says Job Timm, George Washington and Jefferson Forests Supervisor. “We are working on phased plans to reopen sites and facilities, but protecting our visitors and employees remains our highest priority. And while we understand there may be some excitement from the public to return to beloved recreation areas, please respect site closures and continue to follow local, state, and federal guidelines on staying safe.”

George Washington and Jefferson National Forests officials continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation. Remember to avoid congregating at trailheads and/or parking areas and refrain from gathering in groups of 10 or more. Visitors should be prepared to change plans if high visitor use prevents social distancing. Please review current recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention along with local and state guidelines for social distancing and cloth face coverings.

For a complete list of recreation sites and their status, please visit fs.usda.gov/recmain/gwj/recreation.

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