Park Facilities Etched Out, But Not Funded

Park Facilities Etched Out, But Not Funded

As the bulldozers smooth out the fairways of the future Laurel Hill Golf Course on the former Lorton Prison land, the Fairfax County Park Authority tweaks the map for the rest of the parkland, with facilities ranging from equestrian and bike trails to a sports complex.

The only things open now or under construction at the Laurel Hill site are three interim ballfields; the 18-hole golf course, which is scheduled to open in May 2005; and the Greenway Trail System. Though the rest of the plans are only on paper for now, they remain consistent with the federal mandate issued when the property was handed over to Fairfax County after the prison closed. A "2232" meeting on Wednesday, June 9, examined the location, character and extent of the plans.

"We can't build anything on the property until we have a meeting with the planning commission," said Kelly Davis, Fairfax County Park Authority project manager.

The letter "N" on the FCPA'S map, for example, signifies a landfill park that may be 20-30 years away, due to the procedure for developing a landfill. For the sports complex, the Park Authority is speaking with several area sport groups to help fund the complex, though Davis didn't remember the names of any particular sport groups.

A regional bicycle group is trying to incorporate the bike trail into the East Coast Greenway trail system, which runs from Maine to Key West, Fla. Approximately 10 percent of the trail is completed thus far, said David Brickley, chairman of the Virginia East Coast Greenway.

"We'd like it very much to be part of the East Coast Greenway," Brickley said. "We have to have support of the Fairfax County government."

The only portion of bike trails in the area that was officially designated as part of the East Coast Greenway is the Mount Vernon Bike Trail, which runs from Old Town Alexandria to Mount Vernon. The Laurel Hill portion would contribute in linking that to the Town of Occoquan.

Rob Robertory represents the Barrington community on the South Springfield Alliance and the South County Federation. Both are groups of homeowners that are taking part in a continual set of meetings with the county, making plans for the Laurel Hill property. At the last meeting in early May, opposition arose regarding a proposal for camping at the Giles Run Meadow facility, letter H on the FCPS map, which is fairly close to the high-school site, Robertory said.

Neal McBride is the Newington Forest representative on the Springfield District Council and has watched the plan evolve.

"It's basically a concept plan, a framework reference," McBride said, "I've tried to caution people to focus on the big picture."

So the map continues to be in wish list form only.

"Right now, we don't have funding for anything," Davis said.

The golf course is funded under a public-private partnership with Pulte Homes, according to park spokesperson Judy Pederson.

Bill Love, a noted golf course designer, designed Laurel Hill.

"It's a huge project," Pedersen said of the whole 1.600 acres. "There are going to be many phases."

THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT transferred ownership of the former prison site to Fairfax County on July 15, 2002. That's when the planning process began. As a condition of the transfer, Congress instructed that 1,600 acres be utilized for park purposes, which included the golf course, a new south county high school, and a senior residential campus, plus land for the Cross County Trail. On April 8, 2003, citizens got the first introduction to master planning for the park, at a meeting with county planning officials at Mount Vernon High School.

Transportation is another factor county officials are looking to improve regarding the Laurel Hill development. The main thoroughfares in that area are Lorton Road, Silverbrook Road and Ox Road, but only Ox Road is being widened. Construction was halted recently because the original contractor was unable to finish the job.

"They're working on a transportation plan right now." Davis said.

Robertson is concerned with the traffic as well and said that Silverbrook Road has no planned improvements right now.

"Silverbrook is going to be a mess. It is not on the docket to be widened," Robertson said.