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For time being, river gondola is still pie in the sky
Silver Cos. leaving options open for cross-river gondola linking its 'Celebrate' developments

Date published: 5/13/2012

By RUSTY DENNEN

Whether a gondola will ever be built to link Silver Cos. developments along the Rappahannock River is unclear.

But the company is keeping its options open for the proposal, which drew praise and ridicule before it was first approved in 2002.

Celebrate Virginia North LLC is asking the Virginia Marine Resources Commission to extend for three years the company's permit to span the river on city-owned land about a mile west of the Interstate 95 bridge. The VMRC must sign off on projects in and over state waters. The commission will take up the request at its May 22 meeting.

Chris Hornung, a vice president with the Silver Cos., said Friday that it still wants to be able to add a gondola when it makes sense for the development.

The gondola was intended to be used by visitors to a major attraction in Celebrate Virginia South, who would then take the aerial ride to historic sites and other attractions across the river in Celebrate Virginia North.

"Our hopes were that the project would take off," Hornung said, but the downturn in the economy and other issues have made an impact.

Namely, the major draw for Celebrate Virginia South--Kalahari Resorts--is having difficulties financing its project. Kalahari has proposed a water-themed resort and hotel complex.

Until that component is in place, along with additional attractions on the north side of the river, Hornung said there's no need for a gondola. He said the company wants to extend the permits "simply to continue to let it stay active."

Hornung said the company has not yet decided on some details--for example, whether it would use detachable or fixed cars. The initial plan called for up to eight cars suspended by a steel cable at heights of 80 feet to 120 feet above the river, over a distance of about 2,000 feet.

Hornung said the gondola towers and stations would not be visible from the river.

In 2002, the Fredericksburg City Council approved a conservation easement and air-space lease for the gondola. The air-space lease was given in exchange for 60 riverfront acres deeded to the city by the Silver Cos.--part of a 129-acre conservation easement on the south side of the river.


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