If you’re a Waynesboro local and haven’t been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard about the city’s newest outdoor asset: Sunset Park. If you’re planning a visit, Sunset needs to be on your short list of things to do. Perched high above downtown Waynesboro, this park offers amazing bird’s eye views of our beautiful town and the Shenandoah Valley, but the history and intentional construction of Sunset Park is also interesting, so let’s take a look at how the town dump turned into the town gem!

A Blast from the Past (Literally)

First off, let’s talk history. Contrary to popular belief, the summit of Sunset Park wasn’t technically a landfill. You can see where the former landfill was as you drive up, marked by gas monitoring units.  Before the landfill, a quarry operated at the site, known for mining minerals including quartzite and manganese oxide. Take a look at the picture below and you can see what an eyesore the quarry was from Downtown. After the quarry closed, the landfill opened and started filling in the hole with the town’s trash. So, while you are sitting in the park on your picnic blanket, rest assured you’re not on top of trash, the trash is a part of the drive up. The quarry closed in 1976 and the landfill opened up maintaining operations at the Sunset site until 2003. It was closed, capped and seeded, and sat vacant for the next 19 years.

Building the Park

A decade after the landfill closed, the city started taking steps to provide a passive recreational area and development of trail systems for walking and mountain biking. Waynesboro’s Parks and Recreation utilized the services of Community Design Assistance Center from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University to help develop a master plan for the development of Sunset Park.

The city eventually recognized the property as a park which allowed for the pursuit of grant funding for the creation of the park. In 2018 the City of Waynesboro received a VDOT Recreation Access Grant to make vital upgrades to the existing gravel road leading through the landfill to the future park. After numerous setbacks, construction finally started in 2023 using State and Local Recovery Funds authorized by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

Hiking and mountain bike trails have been professionally designed through the efforts of the Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition (SVBC) and 1 mile of the 4.5 miles of planned trails have been completed and is open for use. Parks and Recreation will continue to partner with SVBC to identify funding sources for the trails.

On June 4, 2024, Sunset Park had its grand opening. In the first week over 4,000 vehicles made their way up the hill to take a look at the park and the spectacular views and trails.

It’s the Little Things

The Parks and Recreation staff, including director Dwayne Jones and project manager Stephanie Seltzer, spent a lot of time making sure every last detail was intentional and well thought out. Take the restroom building. It looks super nice at first glance, but if you look deeper, you’ll see it kind of looks like a train station. And that’s because it was designed to. Take a look at Basic Union Train Station that, once-upon-a-time, sat right below Sunset Park. The park’s 40’ x 50’ shelter is also a throwback to rail structures from the 1800s, with post-and-beam trusses that give it a historic feel. The shelter was prefabricated in Michigan and assembled by a team from North Carolina. Not your average park bathroom and shelter, amiright?

Sunset Park also has nine ADA-accessible picnic tables that seat up to 72 people and three sun-shaped bike racks that were purchased with help from a Virginia Tourism Corporation DRIVE Outdoor Grant.

Another cool thing about Sunset Park is, well, the sunsets. Sunset Park is the first Waynesboro city park designed to be open past dusk so you can enjoy the city lights and the sunset. There are also lights to guide you back to your car after dark, and dimmer lights at the overlooks to keep the vibe just right and not overpower the sunset. The pavilion even has lights that can change color with the seasons or be customized for events.

Sunset Park is a true labor of love from Waynesboro’s Parks and Recreation department and, with over 4,000 cars making the trip to the park in the first week of opening alone, a resounding success. Take a trip up to see the magic and tag us in your sunset pic! #LoveWaynesboro