The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on May 4, 1997 · Page 92
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 92

Salina, Kansas
Issue Date:
Sunday, May 4, 1997
Page 92
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VIRGINIA BEACH, VA. SUNDAY MAY 4, .19.97 , A DAY AT THE BEACH With sun worshippers in decline, Virginia Beach tries to lure families to coast By JAYNE CLARK Pittsburgh Post-Gazette "IRGINIA BEACH, Va. — The days of going to the beach just to lie around in the sun ended about the time the words "premature aging" and "melanoma" began sliding off tongues as smoothly as saltwater off« baby-oiled back. As a result, many beach resorts, including Virginia's largest, are attempting to lure potential vacationers with more than'~sun, sand and sea. Virginia Beach is touting its natural assets, manufactured attractions and historical location, besides its gussied-up boardwalk and revamped image targeted at families. The first visitors here were none other than Capt. John Smith and his band of English settlers, who touched land in 1607. They spent a week at the beach before Smith decided the spot wasn't sufficiently protected and sailed inland up the James River. The first sun-seeking visitors arrived in the late 1800s via railroad. The tracks led almost into the lobby of the Princess Anne Hotel, a two-block-long beauty that ruled the waves in the early days of seaside tourism. By the 1920s, tourism really took off with the construction of a boardwalk and the Cavalier Hotel, which remains the grande dame of the resort area. Scripps Howard Newer Serice This old resort town has spruced up its beachfront and added concerts and access to a remote beach to lure more families. But Virginia Beach's major growth spurt along its three-mile boardwalk came in the '70s and '80s. Unfortunately, it wasn't a particularly inspired era for beach-front architecture. Much of the 40- block commercial stretch is lined with bland, boxy hotels and motels supplemented by wax museums, putt-putt golf courses and fun-house attractions. A six-year effort to spruce up the boardwalk (which is actually concrete) has transformed the outdoor spaces. The city removed tacky overhanging signs. It added more connectors from the main thoroughfare to the boardwalk and placed comfortable benches and colorful sculpture at intervals. Three new entertainment areas, including a large park and stage at 24th Street, are venues for free entertainment throughout the summer. So while the urban beach experience is a lot more pleasant than it once was, some of Virginia Beach's nicest shoreline is tucked away from public view. Six miles of pristine beach front stretch down a barrier spit south of the resort area right to the North Carolina border. "There is no place like it in Virginia," says Gary Williamson, chief ranger at False Cape State Park. He is driving his green ranger's truck along the 200-foot- wide beach; flocks of gulls and other shorebirds are all that stand in his path. "With ecotourism being such a buzzword, people are flocking to areas like this," he says. Until this summer, the only way into False Cape was by hiking six miles, through the adjoining Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, or via mountain bike or canoe. Now, for the first time, an electric tram like the ones used in the 1996 " Olympics in Atlanta is being used to ferry in visitors. Though tram service will open up the park to more visitors, Williamson doesn't think it will change the, essential nature of the place. "The tram is an access vehicle. Not a tour," he says. "There are mixed emotions about that, but I don't think it will change why people come to this park, and that's the beauty of it. It isn't for everyone." In fact, there isn't a speck of commerce or shelter on its six miles of beaches, save for 12 primitive campsites and a couple of outhouses tucked back among the dunes. The park is so primitive that campers are required to watch a video before they're issued a permit, just to make sure they know what they're getting into. I ^ MOKY HILL ineyards dC Winery Inc. 212 W. Gotf Link Rd. / Salina, KS / 913-825-2515 3 miles North of 1-70 & 9th street exit 250. Come join us on: August 17th for the blessing of the vineyard and Greek festival October 11 & 12 for our annual Octoberfest, Brats throughout the day, German Dinner Friday & Saturday evenings SPOTLIGHTING THE SO's Saturday, September 27 « Parade • Pancake Feed • 3 Entertainment Stages • Kidrific Area • Chili Cook Off • Arts & Crafts • Food-Food-Food • Commercial Booths TA FE DAY

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