We spent one Friday morning in June chatting with Rachel Lane, York County’s new waterfront ambassador, as she made her rounds along Riverwalk Landing to talk to beach goers and fishermen. She shared with us some of the top questions she gets from guests, and educated us about her role in helping locals and tourists alike navigate our town.
Hands down, the number one request for information she gets is about the Trolley. “They want to know when it runs, what exactly it’s for, where the stops are, and how much it costs. A lot of them don’t even know it’s free!” she shared. And while Rachel says most visitors know about all the museums and businesses by the beach, a lot of them don’t realize all there is to do up the hill, on Main Street. That's why she encourages them to start at the Gallery at York Hall where volunteers are on hand with even more information, and you can purchase unique souvenirs created by local artists. She also recommends Grace Church, On the Hill Gallery, and all of the historic sites run by the National Park Service.
The next biggest question she gets is whether dogs are allowed on the beach. The short answer is “no” – at least not in the main beach area, but you can walk or jog with your pups along the brick-paved Riverwalk. Dogs are permitted in the sand and water farther down, past the restaurants and shops, on the other side of the Coleman Bridge.They can also sit with their owners on the patios of Water Street Grille and Ben & Jerrys. Yorktown Market Days, our weekly Farmers Market, and almost all of our outdoor special events are also pet-friendly! That includes our Thursday night Sounds of Summer concerts.
Think of Rachel and the other waterfront ambassadors as mobile information centers—pointing you to the public restrooms, water fountains, bike repair station, ATMs, and where you can buy ice and beach gear. They are there to tell you more about all of the ADA features and inclusions like the Mobi-Mat and Mobi-Chair; handicapped-accessible section of the fishing pier; and the wheelchair lift on the Trolley.
Their job is to also offer friendly reminders to folks who may be breaking rules and don’t realize it—like standing or sitting on the rocks, bringing glass bottles on the beach, and fishing outside of designated areas.
Speaking of fishing—we walked with Rachel as she went out to chat with some locals on the pier. When one angler mentioned not much was biting, she asked what he was using for bait. Then she offered up a suggestion she’d gotten the day before—bloodworms.
Another man nodded his head in agreement at the advice and said he’d heard the same. But then he warned to watch out because "they'll get you." That's right. Apparently those worms have TEETH! He was there with his two young boys who were celebrating the first official day of summer. While they hadn’t reeled in any good keepers, you could tell they were just happy to be finished with school.
In just the couple of weeks since she’s started, Rachel has seen flounder, Northern puffers, blue crabs, croaker, and even some stingrays. One of the more memorable catches she saw in the York River was an Oyster Toadfish. She laughed as she described what “looked like a dinosaur.” You may remember when we shared her picture on our Facebook page to see who could identify it correctly.
As the tourism office for York County, we think it’s pretty safe to say that we know quite a bit about Yorktown, but even we learned something during the hour we spent with Rachel! She talked about how she always recommends the French Toast at Beach Bakery Café for people who are hungry for breakfast… and then we switched gears to her suggestions for lunch. Are you ready? It turns out Larry’s Alehouse and Deli takes a pickle, cores it, stuffs it with a hot dog, dips it in beer-batter, and then fries it! How did we not know this was on the menu until today?
In addition to all of the options for where to eat, Rachel can pass along information about the Schooner Alliance sails, Segway tours from Patriot Tours (which she did and loved!), and she also carries around docking information and fees for visiting boaters.
Working on the beach must be hard when you can’t actually get in the water. We all know how relentless Virginia summers can be and how inviting that cool river must look. Rachel says the key is to stay hydrated. In addition to occasional stops by the water fountain, she drinks up to five big bottles of water a day, plus a bottle of Gatorade for good measure!
Before we parted ways, we asked our waterfront ambassador one final question—her favorite thing about Yorktown. Without hesitation, she replied... "The history... it’s fascinating how much has happened right here. There aren’t many places in the world that are this rich in history.”
So the next time you’re down at Yorktown Beach and you see Rachel's smiling face, be sure to say hello! She hopes to spend her summer getting to know many of you a little better. With your permission, she may also ask to snap your picture, like this mother-daughter duo we caught enjoying a beach day together. We'll share the images on our Visit Yorktown Facebook page!