The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Stafford to add parks, new indoor pool
BY KATIE THISDELL
Stafford County residents could enjoy more sports fields, an indoor pool and a renovated outdoor pool in 2014 under an ambitious plan to use bond money.
County voters approved the $29 million parks bond issue in a 2009 referendum, with specific uses for the funds. Little work has been done to this point, but the Board of Supervisors approved three projects this week that could be funded with some of the bond money.
These include renovation of the 38-year-old Curtis Park Pool in the Hartwood area and acquisition of land east of the courthouse currently owned by the Stafford Area Soccer Association.
A new addition would be Embrey Mill Park in North Stafford, with 12 rectangular fields for youth soccer, lacrosse, field hockey and football. A 65,000-square-foot indoor pool could be built through a private-sector partnership, but no plans are finalized.
“This makes a big dent” in the need for more fields and park space, County Administrator Anthony Romanello said.
Designs are already under way for Chichester Park, next to Stafford High School. It will be home to five baseball and softball fields with lights. Construction bids are being sought, with a goal of the park being ready for the spring 2014 season, county officials said.
Master plans for Musselman Park off Enon Road in southern Stafford have been put on hold based on priorities identified by the board.
PROFFERS TO SEE CHANGES
The planned Embrey Mill subdivision was stalled for years because of the economy, but a joint venture with one of the nation’s largest private developers revived the project in January.
Newland Real Estate Group and North America Sekisui House purchased 831 acres off Courthouse Road west of Interstate 95, where they plan to build about 1,800 houses over 10 years.
Proffers on the 2001 rezoning of the property called for two parks, two schools and a fire station.
This fall, the board will ask the developer to sign off on amendments to the proffers to combine the two park areas, creating space for a 12-field sports complex and indoor pool in a central location in the county.
Newland will give the county $2.8 million toward the development of what would be a county-run park. Stafford would also manage the construction.
The irrigated fields with lights would be built in four sizes and the site could have nearly 1,000 parking spaces, according to county maps.
Costs are estimated at $11.8 million, or about $9 million of the bond when accounting for the developer’s payment.
Romanello called it a “great value.”
Grading work is being done now in the development.
“They’ve made great strides—they’re moving along,” Deputy County Administrator Keith Dayton said.
He said having a cluster of fields opens up the possibility of regional tournaments—bringing in revenue for the county through fees, and money that families may spend on lodging and meals.
Over the past few months, negotiations fell through for other sites for the complex.
The proposed indoor pool would not be part of the bond referendum, which limited money for pools to Curtis Park.
‘NO PLANS JUST YET’
In 2000, what is now the Stafford Area Soccer Association purchased 112 acres behind Stafford Middle and Brooke Point High schools for $500,000.
Because the elongated tract is hilly and wooded with power lines overhead, it is not suitable for traditional development but could be used for athletic fields or a park. Altogether, the three parcels are assessed at nearly $700,000.
The organization had originally hoped to build its own sports complex there to meet the growing need for fields, since the county did not have plans or money to add more.
But SASA, then known as the Stafford Recreational Soccer League, wasn’t able to get the several millions of dollars it needed to do that.
The county is negotiating with SASA to buy the land.
“There are no plans just yet for how to use the land,” Romanello said. “It could be used for park space but we just haven’t gotten that far yet.”
SASA president Sean Harrigan said the league is excited about the county’s plan to build more fields.
“We have no official agreement with the county concerning the purchase of our land, but we are more than willing to work with the county on the development and improvement of fields for the residents of Stafford,” Harrigan wrote in an email.
If the county does decide to build a park there, bond money could be used for the purchase. Otherwise, other financing or cash would be required.
The land is “sufficiently large enough” to hold fields, Dayton said. Parking areas could go underneath the power lines.
Supervisor Bob Thomas voted against the SASA-related resolution this week, suggesting the land acquisition be deferred until there is more detailed information.
SASA could dedicate the proceeds of the sale to the Embrey Mill Park project in exchange for preferential use of one field by its travel soccer teams, Romanello said.
Harrigan said SASA is dedicated to providing fields for its entire player roster.
“If an agreement is reached with the county, proceeds will be used to develop and renovate facilities throughout the county for ALL of our members,” Harrigan wrote.
NO LAPSE IN POOL TIME
Curtis Park Pool was built in 1974, the first of the county’s two public pools. Woodlands Pool was added in 1996.
Over time, heavy use has taken its toll on Curtis Park Pool. Renovation costs are estimated to be $1.5 million, and the work should extend the life of the pool another decade, Romanello said.
It could cost twice that to build a brand-new pool, so staff and supervisors identified a renovation as more cost effective than a rebuild.
The pool closed for the season on Labor Day, but will open in its current condition next summer. Work will proceed during the next offseason, with plans to open the renovated pool for summer 2014.
Katie Thisdell: 540/735-1975