Widewater State Park Presented as Top Priority along Potomac River
NORTH STAFFORD, Va. – Stafford residents, local park staff and elected officials gathered on Tuesday to discuss the development plan for the 1,100-acre Widewater State Park. The land, a peninsula surrounded by Aquia Creek and the Potomac River, has been marked for the placement of a new state park since Virginia bought the land in 2006.
State parks officials call Widewater it’s top priority, and presented their final master plan to the public this week, created by Virginia’s Department of Recreation and Conservation and pushed forward by Delegate Mark Dudenhefer, R – Stafford, Woodbridge, who’s been a longtime advocate of building the park.
It includes three phases would cost an estimated $43 million to complete. Much of the development is to take place on the shoreline of both Aquia Creek and the Potomac River, with boat and canoe launches, fishing access, a 150-foot fishing pier, picnic shelters, a playground, trails, two staff residences, a 50-space parking lot, and pay-to-access the park stations as part of the first phase.
Later phases are slated to campgrounds, cabins, history exhibits to showcase a nearly 90-year-old ship wreck off the shoreline, and a visitor center, and an area that would host weddings and other special events overlooking the bluffs over the Potomac River.
Officials don’t have projected visitor numbers for the park, but did compare it to nearby Leesylvania State Park in Woodbridge which has adequate boat launch space and access to the Potomac River – more than Widewater State Park will have once completed. They also compare it to First Landing State Park on the confluence of Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean in Virginia Beach, which sees 1 million visitors each year.
Developing the park will require state officials to work with residents who live on the Widewater Peninsula, as there is a “considerable amount of private property” on the land that is divided among five separate parcels, according to the state’s master plan report. The land is secluded, and residents like it that way, Dudenhefer said.
About 15% of the land slated for the state park will be developed, and small portions of land for the parking lot and other park amenities will be clear cut. Dudenhefer and other state officials say it’s better than having the land purchased by developers and then turned into home sites.
“We walked the property and it’s beautiful in its natural state, and we don’t want to do much to take that away,” said Bill Conkle, with DCR’s master planning office.
Brent Point Road – the main access road to the land – would be widened to have 12-foot lanes to accommodate 2-way truck traffic , and be repainted for safety when the park is built.
Conkle, and Leesylvania State Park Manager Karen Lambey took questions and comments from several area residents Tuesday when the master plan was presented to the public.
“If they develop or turn over one shovel of dirt in that park and bring people into Widewater before those roads are put up to standards, you’re going to have serious problems – head on collisions,” one resident stated about his concern for the road quality within the Widewater parcel.
Many of the residents also voiced concerns about construction buffering, the disturbance of wildlife habitats, parking issues and criminal activity. Others came out in favor of the coming development and benefits that Widewater will bring to the community, which has limited water access.
Stafford Griffis-Widewater Board Supervisor Jack Cavalier voiced his support for Dudenhefer’s involvement in funding the park and moving its development forward. Cavalier also commented that the Virginia Department of Transportation could have a potential role in funding road improvements in the park, in an effort to abate concerns about road safety.
Conkle anticipated one year to 18 months would be needed for the design of the park, estimating that the park would be fully developed by spring 2016. A funding request for the initial design phase made on July 26 is “still sitting there,” said Conkle told Dudenhefer, and it’s holding up the design process.
The completed map and Master Plan for Widewater State Park will be presented to the Stafford Board of County Supervisors on Sept. 11.