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When Will Bolen Park Be Finished?

With developer out of picture, park is underfunded.

Ever since the middle of May, when developer Leonard "Hobie" Mitchel withdrew his offer to build Philip A. Bolen Memorial Park on another site in exchange for building rights on the original site, only one thing has become certain: the park will remain at its current 460-acre location southeast of Leesburg.

How the park will be funded, however, is another question.

Voters approved the establishment of Bolen Park in a 2001 referendum worth $16.2 million. The money was intended to partially fund phase one of the park's construction, which included ball fields, restrooms and trails.

Phase two construction includes a recreation center and trail improvements and was estimated to cost $27 million — an estimate that will change as the park sits unused and construction costs increase regionwide.

The money that's available for phase one is already coming up short. Phase one is $4 million over budget, and the only physical change at the park is new irrigation wells.

"We're going to be forever and a day just for phase one because of the cost," said Supervisor Jim Clem (R-Leesburg) at Monday's joint meeting between county supervisors and Leesburg Town Council members.

WHILE BOLEN Park is on county-owned ground, its establishment has become a priority for the Town of Leesburg.

At Monday's meeting, the council signaled its determination to extend town water and sewer services to the park site.

But the town's director of utilities, Randy Shoemaker, warned that extending water and sewer could take longer than 18 months because of the preliminary nature of the planning process.

"We had not even gotten to the point where we could define when we could bring the utilities," Shoemaker said.

Still, Loudoun County parks planning director Bruce McGranahan said there was a "contingency plan" to allow the park to open some facilities by spring of 2007.

"If we can get the initial construction going, we can get the ball fields up," he said.

Temporary toilet facilities could function in the place of sewer service, while the already-finished irrigation wells would water the fields.

While the completion date for Bolen Park's total services including the recreation center is unknown, the recent, very public flap over Mitchel's proposal to move the park helped shove Bolen Park to the forefront, noted Leesburg Vice Mayor Fernando "Marty" Martinez.

"We can't stop this momentum," he said.

LEESBURG is also wrestling with what to do with its southeast border. The area near Bolen Park is Leesburg's last undeveloped edge, and two recent development proposals — Mitchel's vast Creekside and a town center and residential proposal called Crosstrail — caused some council members to consider annexing the land in order to have more say in its development.

In May, the Town Council voted to make no move on annexation at the time, but it is expected to come to a vote again at another meeting.

Clem, a former Leesburg mayor, castigated the Town Council for not making a definitive move on annexation while it has the chance.

"It was a natural area for you to control your destiny," he said Monday.

Crosstrail, the 500 acres of land most eyed by council members as a site to annex, has already submitted a rezoning request to the county. That means the county is now on a timeline to make a decision on the rezoning.

If Leesburg were to annex the Crosstrail land, it should do it before the land is rezoned, said Clem.

"My concern about annexation is it's better to annex virgin land ... than to annex me after I'm in business," Clem said.

The Crosstrail property is inside an area known as the Joint Land Management Area, designed to be planned by both the town and the county.

The town and the county agreed Monday to meet twice a year rather than just once a year.