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From Flood Plain to Town Park

Plans for 10 acre park in Clifton flood plain would link more than 17 acres of open space inside town boundaries.

A 10-acre parcel of land has been purchased by the Town of Clifton for the development of a passive recreation park, filled with trails that will link the area near the flood plain on Clifton Road to land owned by the Clifton Betterment Association and the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust.

“We’d like to transform the overgrown areas into some nature trails and a park-like setting,” said Jim Chesley, the current mayor of Clifton who secured the ISTEA [Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act] funds used to purchase the land.

“The area around the lot has Pope’s Head Creek meandering through it and a lot of different trees and species of animals,” Chesley said. “It would be nice to have it as an open space with some walking trails.”

Even though the plans for the creation of this park are only a few months old, community organizations are already lining up to help.

In fact, one Eagle Scout, Nick Whorley of Herndon, has already built an 8-foot-wide by 18-foot-long bridge over the creek as his Eagle Scout project, Chesley said.

“There are plenty of volunteer opportunities for people,” he said. “We’ll need to cut new trails, build bridges and take dead trees out.”

ONE OF THE PLANNERS of the park, Jim Fullerton, said the park will be built with the cooperation of the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust, which owns one-third of the park land, and the Clifton Betterment Association which owns another few acres including a historic barn that is in the process of being restored.

“There will be a total of 17 acres on the corner of Newman Road and Clifton Road that will be preserved,” he said. “Not too many towns have 17 acres preserved within their town boundaries.”

In addition to the walking trails, plans for the park include the restoration of two streams and some verdant pools for wildlife, including deer, frogs, insects and other creatures who will drink the water there, Fullerton said.

Restoration of the old barn is just beginning, he said, but some structural repairs have been made.

“We need to pull the money together to finish fixing the roof,” he said, “the barn project will follow the park.”

The park is expected to be completed within the next five years, Fullerton said, based on the amount of money raised through various fund raisers that have not yet been planned and contributions from Clifton Day, the annual festival that benefits the Clifton Betterment Association.

“When we have the money, it’ll be an ongoing process,” he said. “Everyone will have a hand in it before we’re done with the park. We considerate our mandate to preserve open space and architectural features.”

In the meantime, renovations are also underway at the Clifton Children’s Playground, where new playground equipment has been installed and some old favorites are being restored.

“We’re halfway done with the renovation,” said Trish Robertson, a current Town Council member who has played a major role in the park’s face-lift.

“The truck, a watermelon see-saw and a small metal spider are being restored and we’re hoping to have them back in place soon,” she said.

Families have begun to gather near the playground on Friday afternoons with picnic dinners, so children can play on the new equipment and parents can chat with their neighbors, she said.

“We really use our public spaces in Clifton,” Robertson said. “We like to get out and see our neighbors, whether it’s at the Children’s Playground or at the parks.”

Plans for the flood plain park are on display in the Clifton Coffee Mill on Main Street, Robertson said.

Because the park will lie in flood plain, precautions will be taken to ensure the habitats there are not compromised or destroyed, she said.

“The paths will be raised so people can walk on bridges over the path and read what the habitats are,” Robertson said. “This way, we can better understand and utilize what’s there. You could go for a walk there now but it’s a little difficult and there’s only one trail, so it’s not easily accessible.”

The trails in the flood plain park would be similar to the ones completed by Fairfax County as part of the Cross County Trail, Robertson said. “We just want something very natural with trail accessibility. I’d love to see this park happen because it’s a better use of natural space without being overdeveloped.”