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Parks growth means more places to play

MORE: Read more Stafford County news

Nyah Stevenson (center), 10 and her sister Sasha Stevenson (right), 8, practice handstands while waiting for their brother to finish soccer practice at Pratt Park. Stafford County is adding parks throughout the county in the next several years. (SUZANNE CARR ROSSI / THE FREE LANCE STAR)

Nyah Stevenson (center), 10 and her sister Sasha Stevenson (right), 8, practice handstands while waiting for their brother to finish soccer practice at Pratt Park. Stafford County is adding parks throughout the county in the next several years. (SUZANNE CARR ROSSI / THE FREE LANCE STAR)

As current Stafford County park projects finish up over the next year or so, residents could enjoy more sports fields and swimming pools.

And those improved facilities could also mean more economic activity for the county.

“We build parks, first, for the residents,” said Cathy Vollbrecht, a county spokesperson. “We look at the opportunities we have with these parks to draw other visitors here, mainly along the I–95 corridor, which provides easy access to visitors to our parks as well as to the hotels, restaurants and stores in Stafford.”

A visitor to Pratt Park in Stafford looks over the information board while visiting the park. (SUZANNE CARR ROSSI / THE FREE LANCE STAR)

A visitor to Pratt Park in Stafford looks over the information board while visiting the park. (SUZANNE CARR ROSSI / THE FREE LANCE STAR)

Over the next two years, Chichester and Embrey Mill parks will be completed, as well as the renovations to the Curtis Park Pool. They will give Stafford 19 park sites, up from 10 in 2005.

The money for the new additions and renovations was authorized by voters in 2009 in a bond issue that provided $29 million in bonds.

Chichester Park is scheduled to open next fall. Located next to Stafford High School, it will feature five diamond fields for baseball and softball, as well as a concession stand, picnic tables and jogging trails.

Four of the fields will be able to easily transition to between softball and baseball, while the larger field will be for baseball only.

“The park will bring in economic development opportunities,” said Brion Southall, the county’s superintendent for parks and facilities.

Current baseball and softball fields in the county are so spread out, organizations find it difficult to hold competitions that would bring teams outside the region into Stafford.

At Chichester, everything is in one central location, said county Parks and Recreation Director Jamie Porter. That should help bring in visiting teams and fans who will eat, shop and perhaps stay overnight in Stafford.

Booster clubs and other groups will also be able to rent out the amenities for fundraisers.

The county is also planning to add 11 rectangular fields at Embrey Mill Park, which is set to open in the summer of 2015. The lighted fields can host soccer, lacrosse and field hockey games.

Six of the fields were funded through the bond package. However, two of the fields are an “add alternative” if the bid comes in below budget, and the remaining three may be built as funds become available, according to Vollbrecht.

The county will also be building a 76,000-square-foot recreational facility in Embrey Mill, across from Colonial Forge High School. It will be run through a private-sector partnership and should open around the fall of 2015. The county is currently reviewing bids to operate it, but no decision has been made.

Helen Teaster and her husband, Curt Teaster walk on the track around Pratt Park on a beautiful sunny day.  (SUZANNE CARR ROSSI / THE FREE LANCE STAR)

Helen Teaster and her husband, Curt Teaster walk on the track around Pratt Park on a beautiful sunny day. (SUZANNE CARR ROSSI / THE FREE LANCE STAR)

The facility will include a weight room, aerobic room, basketball courts, locker rooms, and three indoor pools and seating for competitions.

“It will be wonderful for our swim teams because we haven’t had enough lanes to accommodate them,” Porter said.

The renovation of the Curtis Memorial Park pool, first built in 1974, will be finished by this Memorial Day weekend.

The Parks and Recreation Department is also holding an event called “Stafford, Pick your Sport” at Curtis this year in which residents will be able to try activities offered by the county and meet coaches.

“I’m not certain folks are aware of all you can do,” Porter said.

The department is also looking into athletic trends to see if there are any sports the county is not currently providing.

“We are trying to figure out what we need to bring in to keep families happy and to not have to leave the community,” said Vollbrecht.

Jessica Koers: 540/374-5444

jkoers@freelancestar.com

STAFFORD PARKS

Abel Reservoir: Kellogg Mill Road; boating, fishing, picnic shelters, picnic tables, walking track/trail.

Aquia Landing: 2846 Brooke Road; beach, concessions, fishing, picnic shelters, picnic tables, restroom facilities, volleyball.

Autumn Ridge Park: 900 Eustace Road; baseball fields, picnic shelters, picnic tables, playground, restroom facilities, soccer fields.

Belmont–Ferry Farm Trail: 120 River Road and 80 Butler Road; interpretive signs, walking track/trails

Civil War Park: 400 Mount Hope Church Road; historic markers, interpretive signs, picnic tables, walking track/trails.

Curtis Memorial Park: 58 Jesse Curtis Lane; amphitheater, baseball fields, boating, concessions, fishing, golf course, horseshoe pits, outdoor pool, picnic shelters, picnic tables, playground, restroom facilities, skateboard park, softball fields, tennis courts, volleyball, walking track/trails.

Duff McDuff Green Memorial Park: 75 James Ashby Parkway; baseball fields, concessions, football field, picnic shelters, picnic tables, playground, restroom facilities, soccer fields, softball fields, walking track/trails.

Government Island: 191 Coal Landing Road; interpretive signage, walking track/ trails.

Gymnastics Center: 500 Nelms Circle; activity room, gymnasium, restroom facilities, can do birthday parties.

Historic Port of Falmouth: 401 River Road; beach, fishing, picnic tables, restroom facilities, rugby field.

John Lee Pratt Park: 120 River Road; baseball fields, basketball courts, concessions, Frisbee golf, horseshoe pits, picnic shelters, picnic tables, restroom facilities, soccer fields, tennis courts, walking track/trails.

Little Fall Boats Ramp: 952 Kings Highway; boating, fishing.

Patawomeck Park: 25 Chopawamsic Parkway; football field, picnic shelters, picnic tables, playground, restroom facilities, soccer fields, softball fields, walking track/trails.

St. Clair Brooks Park: 80 Butler Road; baseball fields, basketball courts, football field, horseshoe pits, picnic shelters, picnic tables, restroom facilities, skateboard park, volleyball, walking track/trails.

Smith Lake Park: 370 Doc Stone Road; baseball fields, concessions, football field, horseshoe pits, picnic shelters, picnic tables, playground, restroom facilities, soccer fields, walking track/trails.

Willowmere Park: 21 Willowmere Pond Road; baseball fields, picnic shelters, picnic tables, playground, restroom facilities, soccer fields, walking track/trails.

Woodlands Pool & Splashpad: 2 Northampton Blvd.; indoor pool.

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