Residents Express Concerns Over Proposed Park at Public Meeting

Residents turned out in force to discuss the proposed park. Photo credit - Mike Dowling

The social hall at the Blue Ridge Fire Station was packed Thursday evening as a large crowd of Clarke County residents turned out for the public meeting on the proposed Cool Springs Park. Attendees heard presentations from Natural Resource Planner for Clarke County, Allison Teeter and from the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority (NVRPA) Executive Director Paul Gilbert. Both presenters outlined the preliminary plans for the park as a baseline for the public question and answer session. The two and a half hours long meeting spawned dozens of questions and concerns about the proposal from residents who live near the property.

The conceptual park project is the result of a proposal received by the Clarke County Board of Supervisors from the Civil War Trust and NVRPA. The Civil War Trust was contacted in April of 2011 by an Atlanta lender who had received the Virginia National Golf Course property due to a bankruptcy filing. The historical significance of the site led to a discussion between the Civil War Trust and the NVRPA. Tom Gilmore, Director of Real Estate for Civil War Trust said at the meeting, “Knowing the NVRPA ‘s track record at running parks, we thought it would be a natural hit and an opportunity to create a nice destination park.”

The Trust has a contract in place to purchase the property with their funds and plans to put it in the NVRPA system, but it is all contingent on Clarke County joining the NVRPA system at an annual cost of $65K.

Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority Executive Director Paul Gilbert explains the project to the audience. Photo credit - Mike Dowling

While the plan was described as being in the very preliminary stages, many at the meeting felt like the process was being rushed through the system and expressed grave concerns over the speed at which the project was proceeding. Clarke County officials said they became aware of the project in December and have been addressing the possibilities since that time. There is, however, a deadline that has circulated regarding the Civil War Trust. Their contract offer to purchase the property expires in May and they are looking for a response from the county by March.

One speaker, Bill Garrett, a resident of Shenandoah Retreat asked “How can you take ten years to build a school and push this through in three months? I think you need to slow down.”

Chairman of the Board of Supervisors, Michael Hobert, answered this question saying,”There is not a set deadline for the decision. The Trust had the idea of purchasing the land. There is no drop dead date except for the contract the Civil War Trust has made. We are proceeding at our own speed.”

Support for the idea of a park was mixed, but all of it was hedged by uncertainties about how a Civil War Park would be run in Clarke County.

While dozens of topics were discussed, the most common concerns revolved around the following issues:

Pollution
Many residents took issue with the potential for trash from an unmanned park and cited the boat area under the Route 7 bridge as an example of what could be expected if a park with 2 miles of riverfront was built and left unattended. Wayne Brown, a resident of Shenandoah Retreat and founder of the Blue Ridge Wildlife Education Foundation said volunteers have taken 16 tons of trash off the river in the past, most of which has been left under the Route 7 bridge.

The issue of staff for the park has yet to be determined and the NVRPA said they hoped to find a way to have someone on site at the park.

Residents had many questions and comments about the proposed park. Photo credit: Mike Dowling

Roads
The complex nature of access to the Retreat and the property in question was a concern for many at the meeting. Primary access to the proposed park would be on Parker Lane from Route 7. However ,other roads connect to Parker and there are other access points that lead into the Retreat. Maintenance, security, and speeding were all raised by speakers.

Safety and Staffing
Comments about safety and trespassers were a persistent aspect of the discussion throughout the evening. Scott Friday characterized the idea of a free-entry park with no one on site as a “Free for all,” a sentiment that was echoed by several other citizens. There were also concerns over park visitors wandering off of the Civil War site onto private property and residents wanted to know if the park boundary would be fenced.

NVRPA said that there would not be a fence around the property.

Visitor Behavior
Many residents fear that people coming to visit will use the opportunity of river access more for recreational use than a Civil War park and that will attract an undesirable element that will bring litter, gang activity, and crime to the area.

In response, Paul Gilbert said that they operate several Civil War sites in their system and said that the nature of the park brings people who are interested in history and that this discourages those whose intentions are disruptive . He also said that the Cool Springs Park would be a no-alcohol facility which would further deter illicit behavior.

Fire Safety
A serious forest fire that occurred years ago in the Retreat that started at Virginia National was referenced by several residents that expressed concerns over camp fires and other unmonitored activity. They expressed fear that additional fire calls would be placed on volunteers who already are stretched thin.

Camping
Many residents of the area believed that the park would allow camping. NVRPA ED Paul Gilbert said, “We are not proposing this as a campground at all.” He added that the the possibility of a group camping on a special occasion was mentioned in an earlier meeting, but the park would not be a campground.

River Access
Retreat property owners have a right of way to access the river at an existing beach area. There were several comments that expressed concerns as to whether they would retain that access if the property is taken over by NVRPA. Paul Gilbert said, “It is your right as a property owner in the Retreat to have access to the river and you would retain that.”

Retaining a Golf Course
Some speakers said they would prefer that the property remain a golf course commenting that there are other golf courses already in the NVRPA system and suggested that this could be another. The response from Paul Gilbert made it clear that was not an option. He said if the property was purchased by the Civil War Trust it could not be used a golf course. He also said that golf is an industry in decline and the NVRPA has seen declining revenues from the courses in their system. Even if the Virginia National property could be used as a golf course, he indicated they would not be interested in operating a golf course there.

Control of the Property by Clarke County
Several discussions arose over the issue of ownership and control of the property.  The current land deal would be a purchase by the Civil War Trust, that would then place the property into an easement and then transfer it to the NVRPA for public use. This would put the property under the control of the NVRPA which is a multi-jurisdictional authority. Gilbert said that every member jurisdiction is represented by two members on the twelve member board. Citizens were concerned that once the land is transferred to NVRPA Clarke County would only have a minority say in the decision pertaining to the park. Residents expressed a desire to have the details finalized before the property was transferred.

Relating to the control issue, one speaker thought that the project should not be decided by the Board of Supervisors, but should instead be decided by a referendum. Chairman of the Board of Supervisors Michael Hobert, responded, “As I understand it we can request a referendum. The BoS could decide, if there was significant objection to the park, to proceed with a referendum.”

While the project is in the every early stages, it was clear from last night’s turnout that many residents of Clarke County are very concerned about the details of the proposed park and the potential impact it will have on their lives. After the session NVRPA ED Paul Gilbert commented, “I think tonight was a great meeting.” He added, “One of the great things about tonight is we got this wonderful list of issues to start addressing. Half of the battle is knowing what the issues are and we got that half tonight.”

 

Comments

  1. “it is all contingent on the Clarke County joining the NVRPA system at an annual cost of $65K”

    ok, am I the only one that read that? We have to pay annually to let them put in a park? Sure, let me come to your house and build a garage, and then you pay me every year for it….

  2. Birdonawire says:

    I attended the meeting last night and thought it was very informational. The Retreaters (residents of the Retreat) were out in force and took the opportunity to voice their concerns. I look forward to the replies from NVRPA on how they will address the Retreaters and other CC resident’s concerns. As a fellow Retreater, I’m still on the fence about the park and once these concerns are addressed, I can make a decision as to whether the park will be positive or a negative for our community.

  3. I too attended the session last evening.While some what informative, the questions that were presented to BOS and NVRPA were clear cut and yet I never heard a clear cut answer to any of them. None of the questions should have come as a surprise as these very same issues were mentioned in previous meetings and I find that troubling.If the NVRPA folks are ill prepared for Q&A from citizens what does that say about their ability to operate a park that will be a known money loser and is at least 60 miles from the home office.
    While all BOS members were in attendance I did notice one left after 30 minutes or so, just enough time to be present and counted for.That tells me one of two things.This person’s mind is already made up and needs no further information or it wasn’t important enough to be bothered.Which ever it happens to be neither is acceptable.

  4. Good meeting last night.

    As I see it what we have at risk is:

    Loss of exclusive river access
    Crowds coming for free picnics, river access, and boat launching
    An ustaffed park inviting rowdyness, drinking, night time bonfires & parties, and trespass
    Heavy use of the access road
    Added expense to the county for annual park authority dues
    Loss of all the tax revenue from the course business and property tax
    Loss of jobs for local residents who work at the course
    More demand for county fire & emergency support and policing

    What we get:

    One more historical park, amidst the many other more significant ones nearby

    If the place stays as agolf course, nothing changes.

    If it gets sold for houses, they can only build a small number (5 or 6?) on the little land that isn’t floodplain. More real estate tax revenue, while most of the land stay open
    More river access for those who do not live in the Retreat

    • Marge,

      This is not just about retreat residents. You will have access just like the rest of us, which is fair. You don’t pay anything extra to have access. Golf Course? Do you even begin to comprehend what’s going on here? The land is in foreclosure. The golf course is a losing business. They can’t afford to stay, that’s why the land is for sale.

      If done right, the park is good for all.

  5. BJB

  6. I was unable to attend the meeting last night but was wondering if anyone expressed concern about this park having some of the same issues as Watermelon Park? WP is manned and supervised but still has its fair share of “incidents” with its guests. Those looking for river access won’t care about the park’s historical significance.

    • That is just the point they dont care about a battle field park as much as wanting a place to acess the river not like the rt 50 boat ramp, Lockes Mill rd ramp, rt 7 ramp or Watermellon Park. What isgoing to stop this from turning the same way without staff that would need more than just 1 person for almost 200 acres more like 4 to over see that much area.

  7. “In response, Paul Gilbert said that they operate several Civil War sites in their system and said that the nature of the park brings people who are interested in history and that this discourages those whose intentions are disruptive . He also said that the Cool Springs Park would be a no-alcohol facility which would further deter illicit behavior.”

    If he wasn’t so sincere, this statement would be funny. Let’s see: create a park along a scenic river, open it to the public, don’t fence it, don’t staff it, and hope it’d stay alcohol free and not have a bunch of rowdys down there regularly? LOL! Yeah…that’s a great plan.

  8. Tony Parrott says:

    The list of issues brought up are a lot of the same questions I have but the one missing here is $$$$$$
    We have too many other county government agencies’ that could use $65K a year.

    • Dave Zuleger says:

      Exactly Tony! 65K a year could fund improvements at Clarke County’s Chet Hobert Park. Perhaps lights on more than just one Little League Baseball Field. It could also go a long way to putting lights on the High School Baseball Field. We have have better things to spend the Tax Payers hard earned dollar on than this proposed crime magnet.

  9. Bill Lukens says:

    Very good turnout for the meeting. Thanks to the SRLC for sending out the postcards to let everyone know, as a quite a few people don’t read the local news papers or websites.

    I am still on the fence also, but leaning more toward “No Park”. I think the possibilities of a riverside free-for-all is much greater than the Battlefield people anticipate. The comparison to Ball’s Bluff in Leesburg is not that useful as the Ball’s Bluff site has steep access to the river, a National Graveyard for Veterans, and is not as remote as the golf course. Those differences contribute to the problems that are speculated for the Cool Spring site.

    There are still way too many questions that were raised at the meeting that don’t have answers. While some of the posters above seem to be irritated that they don’t have the answers, I did not expect them to have many answers. That is what the questions are for. Now when they have time to research and find some answers, then I may start to get irritated. Until then, I am willing to let the process continue.

    I did note that there were several questions that raised the eybrows of both Mr. Hobart and Ms. Teeter and the other speakers. That is why public meetings are so important, to ask the unknown or uncertain.

    The question about restoring the battlefield to farmland or agriculture was one of those. What does it mean to ‘restore” the battlefield to the original condition? (No one asked if it is to be ‘before’ or “after”)

    Otherwise, I really appreciate that our neighbors were engaged and interested in what is happening in our neighborhood. While there were a few “off-the-wall” questions and “left-field” statements, many other concerns were raised that need much consideration.

    Keep up the good work…

    • John,

      I have a very good idea of what is going on! I run my own business.

      Businesses get foreclosed all the time and come back stronger. The improvements to that property cost millions. It has a lot of value as a golf course. The lender will take a hit and sell the place for much less that the amount put into it. A buyer at $1M will find it easier to turn a profit than the foreclosed owners who were carrying a $3M note to pay off. With lower debt, the golf course can succeed as a business, providing jobs and tax payments to the county.

      We need jobs and tax revenue, not a revenue outflow for the county to pay for an un-staffed public park to attract night time beer parties and crowds to what was once a nice riverfront for Resort residents.

      Do you know what is going on, John?

  10. Lifetime Resident says:

    I look forward to a park that is for passive recreation, not focused entirely on sports. It has been stated that money to cover the 65k fees will mostly come from existing budgets, i.e. the Clarke Park and Rec. is willing to give 20k from their existing capitol budget. Hopefully the existing budget for purchasing property easements in Clarke will contribute a large portion as well. This is money already on the books and will not show up as tax increases to the public. I have no idea if ALL of the money can be found within existing budgets, but it sure worth a try. Hats off to the Park and Rec board for voting to cut into their budget for 20k towards the payment of these fees.
    Regarding bad folks, gang activity etc… Watermellon Park is a PRIVATE campground that has sole athority as to what is allowed to happen over there, and when they wish to call the authorities on their paying customers when unsavory activities are observed on their private property.
    This Park will be public land, and hopefully loved and cared about by the citizens of this County, Patrolled by both State officials AND our local Clarke County Sheriff Dept. If illegal activity is found, it will be delt with acording to the letter of the law. Also… Citizens of Clarke AND the Retreat: Be proactive! If you see suspiciousor illegal activity at this new park, report it immeadiately!! Let it be known to the bad element that this will not be tolerated and arrests will be made. After this becomes the norm, the bad folks will not want to hang there anymore.

    • Yes, but what happens next year when Clarke Park and Rec dont have the funds to give up. Will they raise their yearly budget 20k next year to make up the difference that comes from county taxes. And the same goes for the other departments that are giving up funds for this, Then what about the 25k that is payed in taxes that will be lost, who is paying that?
      Watermellon Park is PRIVATE but open to the public and anyone can call authorities if there is illegal activity going on there not just their staff and there is still problems.

      • Lifetime Resident says:

        Though attempting to make a valid point, you are only showing your lack of knowledge about how and where annual funding in the Clarke County budget process is handled / allotted. I agree with the concern of taxes lost from a golf course, but I think the data is in, and a golf course at that location is destined for failure. We could always look forward to using the existing building rights at that location to fill the void. More homes, more people, equals need for more infrastructure and tax dollars to feed it. Then once again, you could have a new cause to attack. Try going through life viewing the glass as half full. Always viewing the glass as half empty is sad.

    • Clarke Co Anne says:

      With the duties our law enforcement already have I’m almost certain they would not be driving around looking for suspicious or illegal activity in this park. In fact, they could not patrol except on foot for most of that area – 194 acres. They would respond when their services are requested but again we are relying on OUR TAX based services. As their responsibilities increase so would the need for more personnel therefore higher taxes. Domino effect.

  11. A Neighbor says:

    Was nice to see such a strong turn out. I fear that this is all lip service though and that the deal has already been made.
    They mentioned upcoming meetings and discussions. My question is simple: if everything is transparent and above board why aren’t ALL of the meetings and discussions open to the public?
    There is a lot at stake that will impact many families that will last in perpituity. Last time I checked that means forever.
    Why would we want to turn over control of our land to a board on which we are a minority? I moved here so that I wouldn’t have to deal with Loudon. Maybe the Board will decide that it’s in the Park’s best interest to have a McDonalds overlooking the Shenandoah, or a Tace Bell. Next thing you know we’ll need a Walmart SuperCenter instead of the Hilltop so that all of these Civil War buffs can have convenience coming and going.
    Seems like the county could buy the parcel out of bankruptcy and set it aside as a corserved floodplain for $65K/year. At least there’s a completion date that way and not simply paying 65K/year forever.

  12. Castleman trash cleaner says:

    The fire issue needs to be addressed. We have rules and restrictions on open fires that vary all year long. Like the no open fire rule until after 4pm.
    When we get red flagged during hot dry windy weather, whos going to tell the Tourists No fires today.
    NO FIRES, period!
    If youre there to learn history why would you need a fire?

    I’m wondering what this is going to cost us 10yrs from now?

    No fee, gate, fence or security there is asking for trouble.

  13. Many thanks to the Blue Ridge VOLUNTEER Fire Department for hosting last nights event and the SRLC for getting the word out.

    The meeting was informative for all and although I understand that NVRPA has experience running parks they do not know the unique attraction of the Shenandoah River in the Summer months. Hopefully, they will seriously consider our concerns and return with some viable solutions at the next public meeting.

    I agree that a Battlefield Park with walking trails would be a wonderful addition to our county, but as it’s currently proposed there would be no way to enforce the “no drinking”, “no camping”, “no campfire” etc. rules they think they will put in place. Our volunteer fire department and understaffed and overworked Sheriff’s department would be unduly burdened. Concerned citizens would not have the right to tell “visitors” that this is a Battlefield Park not a river park and you have to leave. This will be a public park and everyone, no matter what their agenda will have a right to be there. So if we witness drinking, we would have to call the police, campfires the Fire Department, etc. This facility would HAVE to be manned and possibly gated at night. There are also unresolved issues regarding trash and bathroom facilities.

    And I agree – it is a matter of cost! $65,000 plus a year for what. The tourism $’s generated from park visitors who are going to spend their money where? I moved to Clarke County to escape Northern Virginia. I proudly tell people I live in the Shenandoah Valley. It might be predjudicial but I don’t want Clarke to be a part of anything Northern Virginia.

    My final advice to the BOS is don’t get rushed into a decision. What is the worst that can happen if this deal falls through, the Civil War Trust get an extension, the land sits vacant for a while as it has before or perhaps another golf course invests in it. Maybe CC could purchase and run the park ourselves. There are always other options to explore. Please let’s move cautiously.

    • So who’s going to run people out of there when the golf course folds and the land sits empty with basically no owner? You people are being so paranoid about this. Fires, trash, trespassers etc. Deal with it. It’s not your land, not your river. For as long as this river is through Clarke, the citizens are very limited as to where they can enjoy it. All the private lots are posted, under the bridge is a self created mess because there’s no other places for people to go. Open this park. There will be no concentration of people like under the bridge. Staff it, post rules etc.

      If this land becomes abandoned, and it will if this proposal is rejected, have fun enforcing no trespassing rules then.
      OPEN THE PARK!

      • Clarke Co Anne says:

        John
        No owner? I’m thinking you meant with no owner present.

        The self created mess under the bridge is not created by respectful Clarke residents.
        It is being created by non-residents and majority are people that have a different culture than ours. Been there and see that. And by the way, thanks to all of those that take their personal time to clean this area!

        Apparently you were not at the meeting as you would have heard the gentleman that works at Watermelon Park tell of the challenge and costs they have at that, open to the public, riverside business. Of how much they pay to clean up after some of their clientele. They have rules, they have signs, they have staff and fencing. Yes, their funds pay to keep it clean but whose funds will pay to keep the proposed park clean? Clarke Co residents will. The NVRPA has the option to raise the annual $65000 fee each year and no doubt they will to cover costs of the “Park”.

        In the above report – The issue of staff for the park has yet to be determined and the NVRPA said they hoped to find a way to have someone on site at the part. Someone. One. They hoped to find a way…this is what is being presented. Read between the lines. “They” will then come back and say they couldn’t find a way, sorry. But most likely could if they raised the fee to pay for personnel.

        You further state “If this land becomes abandoned” It certainly would not be an eighteen hole Golf Course that was open this past year and pays taxes.
        Taxes that will not be paid to Clarke Co in future as NVRPA is not for profit status.

  14. Bill Lukens says:

    Here is a National Park Service webpage describing the battle and associated information. I hope we can find photgraphs. It is mentioned in the battle description that the west side of the river was fought in a wheat field, but nothing I see so far says what was on the east side.

    http://www.nps.gov/hps/abpp/shenandoah/svs3-10.html

  15. Bill Lukens says:

    The website listed before is from the 1992 National Park Service Study of the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields and their prospects for the future. It is very intersting that a lot of the issues mentioned are still relevent and current today…

    http://www.nps.gov/hps/abpp/shenandoah/svs0-1.html

    This is the title page of the study

  16. Bill Lukens says:

    (I wish I could edit before they get posted, but….)

    Photos of the main areas

    http://www.geocities.com/cok11wv/csprghouse.htm

  17. I attended the meeting and was a little set back that the county is looking into a project that will cost them money instead of generating money. $65,000 a year membership to NVRPA is a lot to ask for a small county. What disturbs me most is the fact that the Clarke County Parks and Rec is willing to give up some of their Capital Improvement Budget to help fund a project that would NOT generate ANY revenue to go back into their budget. We could have a great park in Berryville if they used their budget to improve what we already have. Something as simple as adding lights to more of the baseball and softball fields would allow more tournaments and or regular games to take place. This alone would bring in more revenue to the park And local businesses than the few Civil War tourist that may or may not stop in Clarke county to purchase anything. Another project that would benefit the county is to expand our own rec center. An indoor pool could generate revenue year round as wall as a larger fitness room.
    I am not against trying to protect a historic landmark, but this is not the time to be so wastefull with our tax dollars.

  18. This is a business killer.

    Destroying the golf course business there will cost jobs, tax revenue, and business for local suppliers to the golf course.

    Left alone, there will always be a gold course there, generating business and tax revenue.

    The bankruptcy was due to a very large debt loan taken for the course. Once the bank resells the property at a much lower cost (like they offered to the park trust), a new course owner will be able to run a profitable business with lower debt load.

    The county and nation needs more jobs and more private business, not less. The government can’t own & run everything.

    • That is an interesting assessment but it is simply speculation.

      The reality is that no one is beating down the door to operate a golf course in that location. You can speculate on the business model that may make it workable but it is thin at best given the demographics of the area when considered against the cost of purchasing the property and the ongoing operational costs. A simple look at the population density would scare away most investors just like it prevents large retailers from looking at Clarke County as a business location.

      There is a lot of resistance voiced from residents of the Retreat and I can certainly understand that change is uncomfortable, but the reality is, what is the alternative?

      It sounds like the consensus coming off the mountain is “Leave it the way that it is,” however that is not a static position. It is only a matter of time (and it may be years from now given the economic realities we all face), before someone does buy it and you will have no say other than existing zoning regulation on what is done with the property.

      The Retreat’s access to the river is provided by the property owner and can be taken away. NVRPA said they would honor that access. Some wealthy buyer looking to scoop up the manor house and their own private golf course may not be so generous.

      So why not at least hear this out? They have said it is preliminary and they now know what the concerns of the citizens are. Why not see where it goes?

      I think it is a good idea if it is done right. Can it be done right is the big question.

      • For your information it is a legally recorded deeded easement to all Retreat Property owners and that is not the total issue for those residents.

      • I came to the meeting hoping the reaction to the park would be positive. We’d then have a natural park in the eastern part of the county to complement Chet Hobert in the central county and Blandy farm in the southern.

        The problem with the site is that it is seen as being very attractive to people–a good problem for prospective park to have! But that also is the basis of the problems that the Retreat folks see. Now I’m 50-50 on the park after hearing what they had to say.

        One key issue is the type of user for the park. If the great majority of users fit the profile of Balls Bluff users (Leesburg), then I can’t see a problem. Strollers, CW buffs, and picnickers don’t create problems.

        If significant numbers want to use it for boating and fishing or would attempt to congregate for parties and camping, that’s a problem for which controls aren’t planned. With a good facility for boat launching just up the river, I would guess that an unimproved area in the park with little parking wouldn’t be attractive. As for fishing or swimming, the banks are generally steep, and the ruggedness of them could even by enhanced to discourage access to the river.

        There would likely need to be monitoring and enforcement at this park (i.e., paid personnel). If that can’t be assured, I would go along with the Retreat and vote against it. (That raises the matter of whether we could indeed vote on it in a referendum)

  19. I couldn’t help but notice the lack of coverage in the local newspaper.Would that be because the recent meeting was less than in favor of the park ? When BOS , NVRPA and the EDB are in the majority and have the floor the paper’s reporter is in the front row. Is this by design by those elected or appointed who are in favor of the park ? Don’t underestimate the connection between the media and the BOS.

  20. Just For all of you wanting a park close by did you know that NVRPA has a park just up BLUE RIDGE MTN RD that part of it is in Clarke County. Do you visit this park?

    • Sage of the Mountain says:

      Correct me if I am wrong but the BRM park is indeed owned by NVRPA, however it is not open to public. Only use on occasion buy BSAs and Astrology club, both from Fairfax. Seem that not enough money or population to justify their spending any money.

  21. cheap shot says:

    one question-for $65k per year, why don’t WE as a county just buy the park?; for that amount of $ each year, we could finance a heckuva lot, and how much could it really cost? Half of its in flood plain, and land seems to be selling for $6-8k per acre for large tracts; at 190 acres that about $1.4M at 4-5 pct thats about the same cost per year, the county controls it. and who knows, there may be grants available, or help from the PEC to help buy it, but none of those to help pay park membership fees. I know-maintenance-but a gate, a fence, a tractor and gang mower arent exactly show stoppers, and might be better supported if we controlled it.

  22. The Virginia National Golf Course is owned by Textron Corporation and managed by Love Golf out of Greenville, S. C. Textron is based in Providence, Rhode Island and one of the largest corporations in the U. S. To name a few of their subsidiaries Bell Helicopter, Cessna Aircraft, Ex-Z Go Golf, and Textron Financial.

    There is no indication that Textron plans to abandon the Golf Course. I doubt they want to let their investment go to seed without trying to recoup some of their money. They have not been in business 88 years making poor financial decisions.

    If NVPA comes back with a plan then more of us would favor a park. So far all I have heard is we may or may not allow camping. We may or may not allow boating. We may or may not have personnel on site. These are just a few of the maybe’s. The only definite answer was the 194 acres would not be fenced or gated. How can our BOS make a final decision by March? Do the taxpayer’s want to spend $65,000 that the county will not recoup on a bunch of maybe’s.

    I believe Shenandoah Retreat Community is the largest property tax payer in the county. Therefore the protection of our community should be given some consideration. The biggest County Improvements to our community in the last 38 years was paving Retreat Road and approving the formation of the Blue Ridge VF&RC.

    I am sorry the CDN neglected to include comments by Mr. Capanelli of Watermelon Park from the meeting on Jan. 26th. Thank you Mr. Capanelli for your honest comments.

    • Castleman TC says:

      “Paul Gilbert said, “We are not proposing this as a campground at all.” He added that the the possibility of a group camping on a special occasion was mentioned in an earlier meeting, but the park would not be a campground.” He also said groups like Boy Scouts.
      There will be no boat ramp put in but people would be able to drop in a canoe or kayak which is what he called a roof top launch.
      The maybes were about the staffing of personnel and trash cans. They heard what folks had to say so hopefully they understood the issues that goes on along the river with unruly people and trash.
      Both were taken into account to be considered.

    • Good companies stay in business by making the right decisions. If you have a money losing effort, your sever it, cut the losses. They are too smart of a business to continuue sinking money into a loser. That being said, why is the bank offering the land up for sale. Why are the payments not being made? Let’s face reality here.

      ” Therefore the protection of our community should be given some consideration.” Is the Retreat in danger? What are you talking about?
      Also, not everyone in the Retreat is opposed to the park. It is the opinion of many that this would improve the place.

    • Textron is also on the hook for a number of other golf courses in our region, as well as nationwide. They do not, however manage golf courses. This will be the 3rd unsuccessful attempt for a golf course at that location to sustain itself. And, it’s been for sale for a substantial period of time (since the private owner defaulted on their obligation to Textron) without any serious offer. And you think it’s a viable golf course?

  23. Bill Lukens says:

    A lot of interesting comments from a lot of different people. The Winchester Star did have coverage of the preliminary meeting and I am sure that they will continue the coverage, but the Winchester paper is all agog about the potemtial baseball team and stadium. That news blasted our ‘little’ $65K park right off the front page.

    One thought I have, to continue what I mentioned on Thursday night, is how the Manor House and the Park/Golf Course could or would interact. If someone put up the money to restore and modify the mansion as a meeting place, resturaunt, Bed & Breakfast, or even just a very nice big historical house, the presence there would be a huge plus to the park operation and having people in and out of the Parker Lane would provide some oversite and interactions to help keep out trouble makers….

    It’s still for sale, and there is even more uncertainty in that undertaking, but it would mesh nicely with the Battlefield Park.

    Still more questions to be answered…. If I only had a couple of million in my hip pocket, I could fix these problems real quick…

  24. Castleman TC

    My understanding of what Mr. Gilbert said was currently there is a roof top launch and not planning to make a change at this time. My take on “at this time” means he is not sure about the future.

    John

    Either you do not own property bordering the golf course or you have not lived in Retreat very long. Maybe you do not live in Retreat. Ask someone who lives on Parker Lane about some of the night activities now and it is not a Public Park.

    Textron is the owner of the golf course and they can do anything they want with the property. The issue is not how or why they own the course. The issue is a public park without personnel on site and NVPA does not have a definite plan of what will be offered.

    You and I could argue this issue but we do not make the decision and I think the BOS needs more information before spending $65,000 to join NVPA.

  25. Knowswherethebodiesareburied says:

    Textron Financial owns the property after foreclosing on ownership group in 2009. Property was set to be sold on the court house steps when that group filed bankruptcy When property was offered for sale Textron was not comfortable accepting the bid,hence their ownership of the property.Textron owns golf course properties from VA south to FL and west to CA with total courses in the family around 25.Textron hired a management firm to oversee day to day operations as they do at all of their properties.Several potential buyers have surfaced over that time frame some serious some just tire kickers.The serious ones are waiting in the wings to swoop in and buy it for pennies on the dollar not dimes on a dollar.These potential buyers all want to continue using the property as a golf course.

    • Mr. Knows……..,

      please read.

      “Other opponents of the park were adamant that the existing golf course was viable and would continue operations despite the property being in foreclosure. Mr Gilbert addressed this and said he had participated in a conference call with the property owner who said the course consistently loses money and that they did not have plans to continue operations.”

  26. Just want to clear up a few misconceptions:

    Retreat residents have DEEDED river access. No future owner of that property can take that away. Although it is Deeded, it is not exclusive. Therefore, if a park is built we as residents will have to share that access with the general public. If another golf course opens, we will share it with them and if a private buyer purchases the property we will share it with them. Some of the comments above lead me to believe that the public thinks the Retreat residents are whining because we might lose our access. This is not the case. I have lived in the Retreat for 20+ years and have not once used this access, however I did buy my home because it had a lovely view of the river. Some of you sound like the whiners – if you wanted a home on the river you should have bought one and if you really want access, many riverfront landowners rent out lots for a reasonable seasonal fee.

    Our concerns are for our roads – are you aware that Parker Lane is Private. Our road maintenance fees maintain this road and while the NVRPA says they will pay their share of maintenance, it never seems to be enough. You may not know that there are 4 private access roads/sites off of Parker Lane that lead directly to residences. We are concerned that park visitors may feel the desire to go exploring. We fight a constant battle against speeding, trespassing, litter and protecting our children.

    Our concerns are for our privacy. This property abuts many of us and with no fencing and no clear boundaries we are concerned about trespassers and our peace being disturbed.

    Our concerns are for our property values. While a wonderful Civil War park would certainly enhance those values – the strong possibility that this will become a free-for-all park (if it is not properly supervised) will diminish those values. Maybe you don’t get to the river much in the summer, but I do and it’s not at the Retreat Access. My brother manages a farm that has exactly two miles of river frontage (the same amount proposed here). This property is fenced and posted in two languages against trespassing. We spend an extraordinary amount of time and effort evicting trespassers, who park along the road, climb the fence and commence to partying and a lot of time cleaning up the litter they leave behind.

    One last misconception to clear up as to the question of how we protect the land if it stands vacant. This property has been abandoned before. For most of that time there was a caretaker who vigilantly watched for trespassers. We as a community can do this again if necessary. It is very simple, you post the property and if anyone doesn’t have a permit to be there, you tell them they are trespassing and they have to leave. We as citizens cannot do this if it is a Public Park – everyone will have the right to be there. Also, if there isn’t a big “Public Park” sign hanging out on Route 7, most people won’t realize the land is abandoned.

    Like Bill, I am not against a Park. I just want to know that safeguards are in place to keep it as what it is proposed – “A Civil War Battlefield site”. Just don’t get me started on the costs!

  27. Tony Parrott says:

    Is the golf course operating in the black or in the red? They are still paying $25K in taxes to the county. Also my understanding is they are scheduled to open up in April. My point is the place isn’t vacant; its operational.
    The only two variables to this equation that are known are the cost and loss of local jobs.
    The unknown variables are many; free public access to people, land values, need for more law enforcement to patrol the site, pollution, etc…
    Its interesting that at least one supervisor seems to be sold on this. Willing to pull $65k out of a flat budget for a park when little is known about the impact. Sorry, if you look at the money alone the ROI just isn’t there.

    • Clarke Co Anne says:

      How can any supervisor be sold on this proposal?
      Another open meeting is to be scheduled so the NVRPA can address the issues raised at the meeting at Blue Ridge Fire Dept. Many VALID questions.
      If you can share which Board member that is sold I’m certain there are many CC residents that would also like to know.

  28. If you play at the golf course then I do understand why you want to keep it. If not then let it go. You’re lucky if the parking lot is full. It’s not the best place for a course. The road is horrible. I can’t say a park would be best, but keep an open mind.

  29. The reason that the previous owners of the golf course failed was the large debt payments on the $3+ M load that they had.

    Now that that debt is erased and Textron has shown willingness to sell at a much lower price, any new owner of the golf course business stands a very good chance of success, with the much reduced debt load.

    Running a business there is much preferred, as it pays taxes, buys goods & services from local suppliers, and provides much needed paychecks to local employees.

    A park adds nothing to the local economy. The supposed revenue from “tourists” is a lot of wishful thinking to make the park look good. How much revenue do you think that Balls Bluff park adds to Leesburg? Zero at best, and negative if you count the cost of town services like police.

  30. Knowswherethebodiesareburied says:

    In response to Robynne’s statement about the parking lot not being full I will agree it’s not always filled but does she think for one moment that a park will have any where near 19,000 visitors a year ? If the parking is less than filled now it will look like a ghost town if the park opens.
    Regarding the road ,it is bad but has the NVRPA agreed to repair or maintain the road ? NO . They won’t commit to even having a person at the park other than on weekends.I personally have seen the golf course staff filling holes,removing leaves from drainage areas etc will the park do that ? Not a snowballs chance in ………
    As far as jobs lost it is my understanding there were 41 employees on payroll during the season with many living in Clarke County.,Those who live else where spent dollars while in or driving to and fro the course,but no more. Those laid off will seek work in neighboring counties which will reap the rewards of Clarke’s foray into a known losing venture.

  31. Now I understand!! 19,000 golfers @ $30 each = $570,000
    Minus $25,000 county tax = $545,000
    41 employees $545,000 / 41 = $13,292 each (includes employer matching costs)

    Red Ink Short List
    Course Maintenance Equipment & Supplies
    Loan Payment
    Fuel
    Electricity
    Insurance
    Improvements
    Equals Bankruptcy

  32. Knowswherethebodiesareburied says:

    $30.00 rounds of golf went extinct about the same time as cheap fuel.$39.00 weekdays, $49.00 weekends , $48.00 per dozen balls, $18.00 six packs,$100.00 golf shoes, sunscreen,bug spray handicap service,$6.00 cheeseburgers,I could go on .Rounds of golf are far from the only income source for golf courses. If 50% of those 19,000 bought just 1 cheeseburger = $57,000.

  33. Knowswherethebodiesareburied says:

    Using the formula above:
    Battlefield visitors 1,000 x 0.00 fees= $0.00
    Minus tax revenue $25,000
    Minus NVRPA fee $65,000 =
    $90,000 RED ink for the county
    $90,000 is roughly 1.5 teachers in Clarke and when did they last have a raise ?
    Was it PT Barnum who said a sucker is born every minute ?

  34. Clarke Co Anne says:

    Wonder what the Monastery is thinking.
    Golf is a quiet game. But an unsupervised park will attract large gatherings all along the river with many playing different music.
    Plus, the battle actually took place on their land. Civil war artifact hunters manned with metal detectors will ford the river looking for long lost items.
    So much for their peace and solitude if this goes thru.

    • Has anyone noticed the people from in Town aren’t even commenting like they usually do.
      Perhaps its because it’s not “The” Park, nobody seems to care when its out of town limits.
      So believe me its not just the retreat anyone living where what I call ‘out here” is never important to them.
      Since I’ve lived here I have felt there is a divide between us and them. I support and/or comment on everything that goes on in Town and our County, I wish we got the same respect and support.
      I also believe a good amount of Folks in town have never been down to the river nor believe the goings on there. Being in denial will just make it go away, I guess.
      I’m sure if any of them picked up as much trash as I have along the river they would understand! This park will effect all of us.
      They will complain after the fact when they recieve their next tax bill.
      Sorry but thats how I feel.
      Now watch me get attacked!

  35. CC TaxPayer says:

    Supposedly our BOS representative was at the meeting Thursday. Why didn’t we hear from him? I have noticed he is usually absent when it comes to the support of Retreat residents (except 2 weeks before an election). I too am undecided about the Park. I have lived in the Retreat for 26 years, and in that time I have noticed the BOS pays little attention to the needs of the residents east of the river. That is why I have a hard time believing this arrangement is not benefiting someone on the Board. Possibly “bragging rights” for the county….Clarke County, members of the Civil War Preservation.

  36. n3utr0nRU says:

    If this were about adequately building/renovating a school facility, we’d have 10-15 years to discuss the impact. Funny how that works out isn’t it?

    • Clarke Co Anne says:

      Even more strange that it never went thru planning first.

      But I fear, it will not be funny how this plays out.
      Higher taxes for all Clarke residents is clear with $90k annual costs. Borrowing from Peter to cover Paul will fade sooner than later.
      Castleman Trash Cleaner…I agree with you…what will it cost 10 years from now?

  37. Sally,

    Your numbers are a bit incomplete.

    Greens feees are much higher that $30. $50+ at this course on weekends & $40+ on weekdays. (Other local courses are much higher, so there is updside potential – $110 at Raspberry Falls)

    Add to that the revenue from hosting corporate and other golf outings.

    Add to that the food & beverage revenue. A golf course can generate $10-$20 per person there.

    Add to that sales from equipment, apparel, and lessons.

    The course generates upwards of $1 million in gross revenue. Other local courses generate significantly more, so with better ownership there is more potential.

    That revenue gets returned to the community in the form of salaries, property & sales tax, and revnue for local businesses who supply the course.

    What’s the finaicial contribution to the community of a free park?

  38. Why are most NVPA”s Parks gated and/or manned? Just curious!

  39. knowswherethebodiesareburied says:

    Clarke Co Anne’s comment about planning is right on point.I may have the answer,one of the most ardent supporters works in the planning dept.
    I have to assume all members of the BOS are successful business people..If it were their business spending $65,000 on a project with zero ROI would they be so quick to spend the money ? It’s easy to spend other people’s money.
    It’s my understanding that NVRPA has yet to advise the BOS what the cost to escape the contract would be.Are they with holding the information or has the BOS failed to inquire? If BOS have inquired and NVRPA has not responded,red flags should be at full mast.

  40. Well, I took a nice long hike thru the upper nine today, and it was lovely. I wondered how all of this land could be returned to the way it was in 1864. Was the land full of crops or was it wooded? If it is maintained with crops, would the land be leased to farmers and how would that effect Parker Ln.? If returned to woods, how in the world would that be done properly. What sort of trails would be created in the park thru corn fields and newely planted wooded lots? I invisioned a few nice spots to stop and roast a few hot dogs before continuing on my hike thru the new unmanned park. Of course I would take a trash bag in leave no foot print behind!

  41. Birdonawire says:

    If the land was to be converted as how it was in 1864 and it was farm land, they certainly aren’t going to farm it with tractors. That wouldn’t be in keeping with how farming was done back in the 1800’s. There wouldn’t be any modern weedkillers or pesticides used either. Fertilizer was manure. Which in large amounts is a pollutant, e.g chicken farms in Maryland polluting the Bay.
    Obviously 65 – 90K a year to pay the NVRPA is a lot of money that could be used to fund more important projects in the county. I’m not convinced letting the NVRPA run a park in this location is the way to go. But I am obviously concerned with what happens with the property.
    I’m still waiting for the NVRPA to come back with a written proposal to the County and it’s residents stating what their intentions are for operating and maintaining the park.

    • knowswherethebodiesareburied says:

      Has the Federal Government been consulted ? Don’t they have to approve any time excavation takes place in a flood zone ?

  42. I urge the county to GO SLOW with any decision taken. There is no need to rush anything.

  43. Let the NVRPA pay me the $65K per year. I’ll be the caretaker, gate it every night. Call the law when needed. We can use court ordered Community Service recipients for clean up.

  44. Clarke Co Annie says:

    Please check the main page of Clarke County Government.
    Under News is “Cool Spring Battlefield Park proposal – updated 2/3/12”

    Following to Next Steps: “If the responses are received by Thursday February 8th, , the Board will determine if a second Public Information meeting could be held at the Board of Supervisors regular meeting the evening of the 21st”.
    …If the responses…If a second Public Information…

    Too many “If’s”.

    There is great concern for costs to all Clarke residents for now and the future as well as the impact to neighboring property owners. Including County response resources. All of the concerns are valid.

    “The fee will cover all costs associated with the restoration, interpretive displays, and continuing administration and promotion of the Park”.
    Administration. A Park this large will require Management and Staff.

    The time line for Clarke BOS’s decision is way too fast to make a comprehensive decision.

    • There’s no need for another public meeting. The BOS are elected to make decisions on all the “ifs”. If there was a public meeting for every “if” nothing would ever get done. If you don’t like the decision they make, don’t vote for them next time. This is our government. Deal with it.

  45. Sorry John, but I think you’re out of touch. Our eleceted officials contine to make poor desicisions and we bare the brunt of them. If yo’ve noticed, the congress is at its lowest approval rating since our first congress. To bad John Adams isn’t around to inform you of the pit falls of our elected officials. The if’s are to many and to important to just let them make the decision and then cast a negitive vote latter on if we didn’t approve. We need several public meetings to see how things are progressing. We need to be able to review plans, site drawings etc. and then be able to voice our concerns. Until I see a comprehensive plan and drawings of the proposed park I will not be in fovor of it. I like most Americans (at this time) do not hold any confidance in our elected officials.

  46. Clarke Co Annie says:

    John
    Please re-read the last paragraph of the above well written article by Mike Dowling.

    The public meeting presented many viable questions that Mr. Gilbert of NVRPA was unable to answer. From the turn out at that meeting its apparent there is great concern.

    Those attending that meeting along with other Clarke residents are looking forward to his answers. The answers should assist the BOS in making an informed decision.