The Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority appears to be a very good listener when it comes to hearing the voices of citizens. On Thursday, NVRPA submitted its operational plan for Cool Spring Battlefield Park. The NVRPA plan attempts to address not only concerns voiced over park supervision, road maintenance, litter and river access, but also promises to deliver a comprehensive plan for dealing with failing septic systems, wells and underground tanks located on the property. In addition to the proposed solutions to meet community concerns, County officials say that a combination of budget re-programming and private contributions can cover NVRPA membership fees for the first two years of operation.
The nine-page Cool Spring Battlefield Operations and Facility Management plan promises to address most, if not all, of the concerns voiced by County residents over park visitor management and safety. One major concern, the need for 24-hour on-site park supervision, is addressed through a combination of park personnel including a full-time park manager, a night watch park ranger, park attendant and a volunteer park host that will live at the park when park staff is not present.
“This management structure will provide consistent coverage of the property year round during both daylight and evening/overnight hours” the plan states in boldface, underlined print
The plan also proposes proper inspection and repair of property septic systems and drain fields as well as a better understanding the property’s existing wells and well systems. NVRPA also says that it will inspect all bridges and culverts throughout the property and locate any underground holding tanks used for heating oil or propane.
But while park operating details have been a major point of concern for some County residents, the ongoing cost of the facility to the County has also been raised given other budget needs like a County-wide employee pay adjustment, a $750K County-wide enterprise resource management software system and a $500K proposed recycling convenience center.
However, County officials say that the first two years of NVRPA’s $65K annual membership fee can be covered by a combination of existing budget funds that will not require any new County revenue and are already programmed for open space initiatives. The Clarke County Parks and Recreation Department has agreed to re-program $20K of its budget toward the Cool Spring Battlefield Park while the County’s Open Space Easement committee says that it has another $25K that can be contributed.
Two private organizations that promote open space and public easements are said to be ready to offer an additional $80K to the County if the park is approved.
While park supervision and cost have topped the list of issues voiced by citizens, the NVRPA plan addresses other concerns as well.
In the plan, NVRPA promises to contribute to Shenandoah Retreat Land Corporation’s the annual road maintenance fee and to work with the Virginia Department of Transportation create a defined entrance to the park property. NVRPA says that the new entrance design will provide the control to limit access to the park, when needed, and to discourage entry after hours by using posted signage or a gate system
that would still allow access to the property by Retreat residents.
NVRPA also says that it will work closely with the Clarke County Sheriff’s Department and fire officials to establish appropriate plans for the operation of a safe public park. Park safety plans will include best practices with regard to emergencies within the park and on the water including a safety audit program that will involve local officials, park staff, residents and user groups. NVRPA says that concerns about potential fire risk to the Shenandoah Retreat will be handled by prohibiting brush burning unless it is coordinated with the Shenandoah Retreat and local fire officials. Brush burning, if undertaken, will only be done in an area that is at least 250 feet from any wooded area, with park staff and fire suppression on hand according to NVRPA.
The NVRPA plan also emphasizes that no regular overnight camping will be allowed but special event camping is possible. However, no special event camp fires will be permitted during drought conditions.
While the NVRPA Cool Spring Battlefield Operations and Facility Management Plan appears intended to calm the concerns of Shenandoah Retreat residents who fear the possibility of negative impacts in their area of the County, the plan also voices NVRPA’s vision for the positive impact that the proposed park will could have on the broader region.
According to the NVRPA document, although the Cool Spring Battlefield Park will focus on the historic features of the area, the park will seek to leverage the available infrastructure already in place including creation of a trail network of both paved/graveled and natural surface trails, rental operations for kayaks and canoes, public boat launch operations including shore launch and carried craft only from existing beach area for the general public. The plan emphasizes that Retreat residents will maintain their right to launch carried or trailered crafts from this same beach area with no paved boat ramp envisioned.
Last, but not least, NVRPA plans to promote fishing both in the river and potentially in the existing ponds located on the golf course as well as family picnicking, using the existing shelter and additional picnic tables.
The next public information meeting concerning the Cool Spring Battlefield Park will be held on Tuesday, February 21, 2012 at 7:00pm at Enders Fire Hall in Berryville, Virginia. Paul Gilbert, executive director of the Northern Virginia Park Authority, will be present to present his Cool Spring Battlefield Operations and Facility Management plan.
The Cool Spring Battlefield Operations and Facility Management plan can be viewed here: Cool Spring Battlefield Operational Plan