Planning for Horses, Garbage Trucks

Planning for Horses, Garbage Trucks

South County Federation hears updated plans for equestrian center, garbage truck facility.

The changing face of the Lorton area was evident during the Nov. 9 meeting of the South County Federation, as plans for a parking and maintenance facility for trash removal trucks were discussed following an update on an equestrian park.

Representatives from Fairfax 4 Horses gave a brief presentation of their plans to use a 70-acre portion of Laurel Hill Park, which used to be the dairy farm for the Lorton Prison, as an equestrian park.

An equestrian establishment would "support community programs, like after-school programs and summer riding camps," said Beverly Dickerson, vice-president of Fairfax 4 Horses. The group has already been approached by the George Mason University equestrian team for future partnerships, she said.

"This would be a synergistic endeavor with standard equestrian and therapeutic riding programs," she said. The park would have two barns, one with 10 to 20 horses dedicated to the therapeutic riding program and the other with up to 50 horses for trail riding and general lessons.

"Promoting open space and park venues is important to us," said Dickerson. Some of the riding trails planned for the park would connect with the cross-county trail and the county's trail network, opening up the equestrian park to other parts of the county and providing a range of trail destinations for riders.

The park has been approved in concept by Fairfax County but plans are still in the early stages, said Fairfax 4 Horses president Kevin O'Connor.

"The buildings have not been designed yet, but this is the master plan," said architect John Blackburn of Blackburn Architects in Washington. "Eventually, we will have two boarding facilities ... we've entertained the idea of using some of the existing landmarks short-term," he said, including silos from the dairy farm that would be the "signature architectural component" of the design.

Fairfax County does not currently have an equestrian park where horses are kept on site for public use, and only a few therapeutic riding programs are available. These programs use horses to help build muscle strength and flexibility in special needs children.

"I cannot begin to tell you what a fabulous program therapeutic riding is," said Theresa Champion, the mother of an autistic child.

Champion was concerned, however, over the separation of special needs riders from riders who do not need assistance.

"Some children may need isolation sometimes, but including kids as much as possible makes a big difference," she said.

Blackburn said the separate riding facility will be designed to include extra safety precautions, but the park as a whole will have "some cross over" between the two riding programs.

"We were working with one of the largest therapeutic riding programs in the county and they said some clients wanted to be set aside for the comfort of their riders," O'Connor said.

REPRESENTATIVES OF Republic Services also presented plans for a parking lot and maintenance facility for up to 100 garbage trucks, operated by AAA Trash Removal and Recycling Services.

"This would be a by-right development of a parking facility for garbage trucks near the Shell gas station on Gunston Cove Road," said Phil Auld, area president for Republic Services, the parent company of AAA.

Currently, AAA has a parking and maintenance facility on West Ox Road, where 200 trucks are kept, he said. Many of the trucks drive down Lorton Road to the county's incinerator on the former Lorton Prison site, so moving the trucks to Gunston Cove Road may actually reduce traffic.

"We have spent four years trying to find a facility that would suit our needs," Auld said. "This allows us to split our company into two locations, which would eliminate a lot of our trucks driving down Route 123 or I-95."

The development would be by-right and would not have to go through the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors or the Planning Commission for approval, he said. Additionally, the site is in a non-residential area and concessions have been made to minimize the visual impact of the facility from Route 1, such as the planting of trees all along the perimeter of the site, he said.

John Sabo, a real estate broker with MRIS who has worked with Republic Services, said the ground breaking for the new facility may be within eight to 10 months, depending on when permits are received from Fairfax County.

"This has been a long time in the making," he said of the facility. Industrial development is planned "all around that area," including a concrete company and a wholesale food distribution center.