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vanessa-newVanessa Remmers covers Stafford County government and schools for fredericksburg.com and The Free Lance-Star.

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What about Widewater State Park?

Crow’s Nest  isn’t the only piece of land that’s been preserved but waiting for money.

Widewater State Park, a peninsula between Aquia Creek and the Potomac River, is also closed up, stuck while state lawmakers sort out budget issues. But that could change sooner than later.

In 2006, the state acquired the 1,100 acres from the Trust for Public Land for $6.1 million. This came after a lengthy tug of war that pitted the former owner, Dominion Lands (a subsidiary of Dominion Virginia Power), and its preservation partners, against local developers who envisioned luxury waterfront houses, a marina, golf course and conference center there, according to a 2006 story in our archives.

At the time, officials knew that it could be years before the park was open for public use because of lack of state funding. Today, nearly seven years later, that hasn’t changed, said Gary Waugh, spokesman for the Department of Conservation and Recreation, which oversees state parks.

Widewater State Park, along with a handful of other sites purchased in Virginia in the same time period, were designated with a “land banking status.” The state wanted to still save the pieces of land, while they were undeveloped and affordable, rather than waiting until it was too late, Waugh said. Leesylvania State Park staff have oversight of the land, such as checking for trespassing.

A master plan was drawn up in 2008 for what the park could look like at buildout, done in three phases, at a total of $53 million.

The land is home to a rich collection of aquatic and plant life. Like nearby Crow’s Nest, it also has historic significance–a Civil War cemetery is located at the tip of the peninsula and there are wartime trenches scattered through the property.

But, here’s the new part of the story.

At the request of Del. Mark Dudenhefer, of Stafford, DCR is taking another look at that master plan to see if there are amenities that could be offered much sooner, at a lower cost, for day use activities, Waugh said. This could include moving up the installation of a picnic area and boat launch for kayaks and canoes, rather than focusing on infrastructure improvements, Waugh said. DCR will look into the possibility at the beginning of 2013. At least one public meeting would be held.

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