The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Residents offer up Widewater wish list
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People living near Widewater State Park had one last chance Tuesday night to weigh in on the final master plan for the property.
As in a previous public meeting six years ago on the initial draft, many of the comments touched on similar issues: better roads leading to the property, access, amenities, buffer areas and the like.
“Roads, roads, roads. They’re one of our major concerns,” Nan Rollison, who lives on Shore Drive, said during the meeting in a conference room at Hilldrup Moving and Storage on U.S. 1. She was among about 25 people who showed up to talk with officials with the Virginia Department of Natural Resources, and look at updated plans and maps. Bill Conkle, a park planner with the agency, and Karen Lambey, manager of Leesylvania State Park, made short presentations before half a dozen residents spoke.
“We understand that there’s the potential for some good improvements on Brent Point [Road]” Rollison said. That road leads to, and through, the 1,100-acre park along the Potomac River in southeastern corner of Stafford County.
Richard Nageotte, an attorney who lives at Arkendale Crossing, said park planners were “putting the cart before the horse” in planning for the amenities at the site before upgrading the narrow roads leading to it.
“If this park is built before the roads are fixed, I’ll see a lot of you at a funeral, perhaps someone in my own family,” he said, turning to the audience. “These roads are unsafe and unfit from the fire department to the intersection of Arkendale and Widewater.”
Nageotte said visitors unfamiliar with the roads, and towing campers and boats, would have serious problems navigating the highways as they are.
“The railroad crossing” at Widewater “is the most dangerous place,” said Joyce Arndt, a Brent Point Road resident who is also concerned about shoreline erosion and asked to be informed when construction begins.
Suzanne Wilson, whose property abuts the park, said she wanted buffer areas to keep visitors from walking across her property. And some trees on the park side “are in danger of falling on our house.”
Whit Overstreet, program manager with Potomac Riverkeeper, said the park will provide much-needed access to the Potomac River.
“It’s hard to find legal, safe, canoe-in camping,” he said.
The first phase of development 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, trails, and a boat launch on Aquia Creek. DCR officials have said funding is available for the Phase One improvements, but the amount that will be needed has not yet been determined. Stafford Supervisor Jack Cavalier said at the meeting he was told that figure was $7.5 million.
The initial master plan was drafted in 2008 with the help of a local advisory committee, following a public meeting in December 2007.
Roads, water access, boat launching and trails for horses, bikes and walkers were among the items on residents’ wish lists. There are a few existing trails on the property, but the park is not yet open to the public. Leesylvania State Park staff in Prince William County is overseeing the property for now. 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 $43 million.
The draft master plan can still be tweaked; an updated park map and summary of the work goes to the DCR board, which meets next month. Master plans guide the phased development of all parks and are reviewed every five years. If the plan is approved, it goes before the General Assembly for review, and back to DCR Director David Johnson for adoption.
The state bought the land 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, including Widewater, are considered “land bank” parks that have yet to be developed. The others are Biscuit Run near Charlottesville; Seven Bends along the Shenandoah River near Woodstock; and Mayo River, on the Virginia–North Carolina line.
Rusty Dennen: 540/374-5431