Roads Leading to Widewater State Park a Concern
– June 13, 2014 3:00 pm
NORTH STAFFORD, Va. – The quiet and serene beauty of the confluence of the Potomac River and Aquia Creek will soon be changed with the construction of a new state park.
Widewater State Park is to be built on the Widewater Peninsula in Stafford County. It will become the county’s first Virginia State Park.
Most residents who live in homes on private lots on the peninsula’s Widewater Beach, and along the Potomac River, say the park is the best possible use of the land, opting for it rather than letting developers have it for waterfront homes.
But the narrow, winding, downright dangerous roads that will lead to the park need to be fixed.
The land where the state park will eventually sit remains heavily wooded. To get there, drivers must turn off U.S. 1 onto Telegraph Road at North Stafford’s Boswell’s Corner then turn on Widewater Road which will take them nearly to the Potomac River’s shoreline. The road then becomes Arkendale Road and runs alongside heavily used railroad tracks used by Virginia Railway Express, Amtrak, and CSX trains.
“Along the railroad tracks, I’ve learned to stay to the right as far as you can get with those hills,” said Stephen Beauch, a Widewater Beach resident of 30 years who is describing his drive to his home along the narrow road. “…I’m over to the right as far as I can, and as soon as I come up over the hills, there’s a state trooper coming right at me going 50 mph in the middle of the road. I had to go into the ditch.”
The trooper wasn’t chasing anyone, said Beauch. The speed limit is 45 mph along the road.
The park will be built in three phases, the first of which includes boat launches, a fishing pier, as well as trails. Later phases will include a visitor center and campgrounds. Residents fear the roads are an accident waiting to happen.
“Don’t come down here and do the park infrastructure and forget about the roads because you’re going to have a lot of safety issues to deal with,” said Nan Rollison, a Widewater Beach resident who retired from a career with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Rollison is very familiar with the plans for the park and seems to serve as the unofficial mayor of Widewater Beach. She says there are two sources of state funding to build the park — a pot for construction of the actual park infrastructure and a pot for road improvements.
She’s unclear what monies, if any at this time, are have been made available by the state.
Bill Conkle, a spokesman for Virginia’s Department of Conservation and Recreation in Richmond is also unclear. He referred Potomac Local News to someone at Leesylvania State Park in Woodbridge — the park that Widewater State Park is modeled after — to answer questions about road funding but they did not return our request for comment.
Those who do drive to Widewater Beach usually end up asking someone where the park is.
“It’s right here. You’re parked in front of it,” said Beauch. “But There’s no facilities. Not even an out house.”
The land for Widewater State Park was purchased in 2006. Neighbors said a water treatment facility was going to be built along the river until someone came up with idea of making it into a park.
Last year, officials presented a master plan for the park — a comprehensive document that is required before anything can be built on the land. They held a public meeting in North Stafford to show residents the plans for the park and get feedback.
On June 19, state parks officials will return to North Stafford to discuss changed to the master plan. They want to gather feedback from the public the proposed changes:
The amendment calls for the relocation of several facilities that are proposed in the master plan. To protect underwater vegetation, a boat launch and fishing pier that were to be built on Aquia Creek would instead be built on the Potomac River side of the park. In order to balance development, the visitor center and offices would be built on the Aquia Creek side of the park rather than the Potomac side.
The amendment also calls for a reconfiguration of roads, relocation of a proposed contact station and canoe launch, and construction of an additional fishing pier.
Conkle said aquatic vegetation is common on the Aquia Creek side of the park. Hyrdilla, which is commonly found in creeks along the Potomac River, is rampant here, neighbors said.
The meeting will take place at 6 p.m., at the Hilldrup Moving and Storage Training Facility, 4022 Jefferson Davis Highway in North Stafford.