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Widewater park plans progressing

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The initial phase of amenities for public use at Widewater State Park could be ready by spring of 2016.

That’s according to a state park planner, who adds that the improvements on the Potomac River property in northeastern Stafford depend on the park’s master plan being approved and funding becoming available from the General Assembly.

Meanwhile, a public meeting to discuss the updated master plan will be held Aug. 27 at 6 p.m. at the Hilldrup Moving and Storage Training Facility at 4022 Jefferson Davis Highway in North Stafford.

“A major focus of Phase One would be facilities to get people access to the water,” Bill Conkle, a park planner with the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, said this week.

The first phase calls for

a day-use area overlooking the Potomac, with parking, restrooms, a playground, picnic shelters, a fishing pier and structures for bank fishing, canoe launch, landing and campsites, a boat launch on Aquia Creek and trails.

The initial plan for Widewater was drafted in 2008 with the help of a local advisory committee. A meeting was held in Widewater Elementary School in December 2007 for area residents to weigh in.

Roads, water access, boat launching and trails for horses, bikes and walkers were among the suggestions. There are a few existing trails on the property, but it’s not yet open to the public. Staff at Leesylvania State Park in Prince William County has assumed caretaking duties for the property, for now.

Conkle said there is money available for Phase One items. DCR spokesman Gary Waugh said Thursday that funding was included in a capital outlay budget last year, but the amount that will be needed has not yet been determined.

Future development would include a visitor center, environmental education center, campground, cabins and expanded trail system. All of that would depend upon additional funding from the state legislature.

The cost of all the improvements is estimated at about $43 million.

The state purchased the 1,100 acres on the Widewater peninsula between the Potomac River and Aquia Creek in 2006 from a Dominion Virginia Power subsidiary for $6.1 million.

Of Virginia’s 36 state parks, several of them, including Widewater, are considered “land bank” parks that have yet to be developed. The others, Conkle said, are Biscuit Run near Charlottesville; Seven Bends, along the Shenandoah River near Woodstock; and Mayo River, on the Virginia–North Carolina line.

The Widewater tract is one of the few large, undeveloped swaths of land left along that stretch of the Potomac so close to Northern Virginia.

At the Aug. 27 meeting, “We’ll introduce the [updated] plan, talk about the map and where things will be located, a little history about the park and why we bought it” and take questions.

After the meeting, “We’ll come back and make changes, reflect on the public comments,” Conkle said.

An updated park map and summary of the work will go to the DCR board, which meets in September. If the master plan is approved, it then goes before the General Assembly for review, and then back to DCR Director David Johnson for adoption.

Master plans guide the phased development of all parks and are reviewed every five years.

“We can’t spend a dollar on a park until we have an approved master plan,” Conkle said.

Rusty Dennen: 540/374-5431