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Master Planning Starts for Sully Woodlands

4,000 acres of parkland examined in Bull Run and Cub Run watersheds.

In the largest planning process ever undertaken by the Fairfax County Park Authority, work is now starting on plans for some 4,000 acres of parkland in the Bull Run and Cub Run watersheds.

THIS INCLUDES the Sully Woodlands Regional Master Plan, dealing with about 2,150 acres of parkland in western Fairfax County, plus another 2,250 acres of existing parkland encompassing the Cub Run Stream Valley, and Ellanor C. Lawrence and Richard W. Jones parks.

"This is taking a holistic view of the resources out here and how best to use them," explained WFCCA President Ted Troscianecki at Monday night's WFCCA quarterly meeting. "And I encourage you to participate in it."

He was addressing citizens attending that meeting where Angie Allen, Park Authority project manager for the Sully Woodlands Master Plan, gave an overview of the whole thing. Also on hand was Kirk Holley, the Park Authority's manager of park planning.

The Park Authority has also held two workshops relating to this project. One was on natural and cultural resources and another was on recreation opportunities on this land. A third, focused on trails, will be held Tuesday, July 26, at 7 p.m. in the Rocky Run Middle School cafeteria.

In addition, detailed information about the project may be found at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/sullywoodlandsplanning.htm. If all goes well, the master plan should be finished and approved by the end of the year.

THE STUDY area covers most of the Sully District and a bit of the Springfield District, and the Park Authority wants to create a system of park areas joined by green space and trails. But whatever's done, said Allen, will "coordinate with ongoing Cub Run and Bull Run watershed planning efforts to protect and restore the county's streams and watersheds."

She said the goals include identifying areas containing natural and cultural resources to be protected and managed, as well as places appropriate for development. The Park Authority will also determine specific elements — such as pedestrian connections, wildlife corridors and vehicle access points — that will tie together the individual parks.

"Research and site analysis are well underway," said Allen. "We're now in the midst of a public-workshop series."

Eventually, a draft master plan will be developed, followed by a public hearing and a public-comment period. Then, any fine-tuning of the master plan will be done, based on citizen input; and, finally, the plan will go to the Park Authority Board for approval.

Noting that Sully Woodlands is within the Occoquan Watershed — the 41,000-acre area downzoned by the Board of Supervisors in 1982 to protect the county's water supply — Allen said the land will be planned within the context of other projects in the same area.

These include the development of comprehensive, watershed-management plans for all 30 of the county's watersheds, as well as potential transportation projects, such as the Tri-County Parkway, the Manassas National Battlefield Bypass and road improvements already on the county's Comprehensive Plan. Also taken into consideration will be the explosive growth of Loudoun County in the area next to Sully Woodlands.

NEARLY 80 percent of Sully Woodlands is forested, and less than 10 percent of it is developed. The project area contains 27 parks — 13 of which are currently developed. Major highlights include the Cub Run Rec Center, Sully Historic Site and E.C. Lawrence Park, as well as various parks, schools and golf courses.

An estimated 118,795 people will live in this area in 2015 (compared to 104,060 in 2002), so the Park Authority is looking at both active and passive recreation uses on this property. Said Allen: "There'll be a deficiency of 15 rectangular and 10 diamond fields in this area by 2015."

She said Sully Woodlands is unusual in that is has so many "large, contiguous landscapes with few roads and little human disturbance." And she mentioned its "unique plant communities" and oak/hickory forest which is "globally rare." In addition, it's a haven for a variety of wildlife, as well as rare birds, hawks, owls, turkeys, mink and river otter.

Its headwaters and stream corridors have been preserved, along with its large floodplains, and not much impervious surface is found there. Also within the project boundaries are Native American, historical and prehistoric sites, with the richest ones being along Cub Run and its tributaries.

"There's an extensive network of existing trails, and we want to create a trail network between the parks — a mix of pedestrian, bike and equestrian trails," said Allen. "This will be discussed at the July 26 meeting." This part of the process also includes identifying critical gaps in the current trail network.

Written comments on any part of the master-plan project may be sent to: Angie Allen, Planning & Development Division, Fairfax County Park Authority, 12055 Government Center Parkway, Suite 421, Fairfax, VA 22035. Or send e-mails to parkmail@fairfaxcounty.gov.

Worried about Loudoun County development's effects on Fairfax County's streams in this area, Rocky Run's Terry Spence asked Allen if the two counties were coordinating things. Supervisor Michael R. Frey (R-Sully) replied that "there's interaction between the counties and Loudoun has sediment- and erosion-control measures."

"You're calling it a regional plan," said WFCCA Land-Use member Chris Terpak-Malm. "It really disturbs me that people from outside the county are getting equal input to people who live in the county."

"When the service area exceeds the boundaries of the land we're trying to plan, we desire the input of all those who might participate," responded the Park Authority's Holley. "Your safety valve is that ... the Fairfax County Park Authority Board, Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors will ultimately say yes or no to the planning that guides this park in the future."

ALLEN STATED that the Park Authority will be examining the master plans for all its parks in this area, and Terpak-Malm asked if Quinn Farm Park would be included. Allen said it probably would, along with E.C. Lawrence's master plan which dates back to the 1970s.

Describing the Sully Woodlands Regional Master Plan as "a big framework for this huge area," she said it will contain guiding principles and development priorities for the next 10-15 years or more. Said Allen: "We'll pick off the pieces and deal with them, one at a time."

Summing it all up, WFCCA's Troscianecki said, "Participate in the process, help it be a good plan and help these folks get it on line as soon as possible."