Draining Great Waves
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Draining Great Waves

The death and rebirth of Cameron Run.

Great Waves Waterpark at Cameron Run Regional Park at 4001 Eisenhower Ave.

Great Waves Waterpark at Cameron Run Regional Park at 4001 Eisenhower Ave.

— In 2028, the water will turn off at Cameron Run, the end of a deal that started in 1981 between Alexandria and the Northern Virginia Park Authority (Nova Parks) that created the Great Waves Waterpark.

The lease was set to expire in 2021 with Nova Parks hoping to extend for 40 years, but at the Nov. 14 City Council meeting, the lease was extended until 2028. According to City Manager Mark Jinks, the suggestion to close the city’s agreement with Nova Parks was born from concerns that a warm weather park only in use half of the year was not the best use of such a large piece of park land along the increasingly developed Eisenhower Avenue.

“This park holds the same importance for Eisenhower Avenue as Ben Brenman Park has for Duke Street,” said James Spengler, director of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities. “We’re concerned with how fast this corridor will develop … and that [Nova Parks] hasn’t shown any interest in features other than a water park. They haven’t indicated an interest in any other type of investment.”

Councilman Paul Smedberg said he personally would have gone for less than 10 years, but that like the rest of the council he was comfortable with the proposal put forward by Jinks.

Jinks said that a 10-year timeframe gives Nova Parks 10 years to work the loss of Great Waves Waterpark revenue into their future plans, but is primarily due to the city’s CIP structure.

“The [10-year] CIP is fully subsidised,” said Jinks. “Conversion for Cameron Run would cost an estimated $30 to $34 million. The city is not in a position to take on something like that immediately. This gives everyone advance notice to make the transition in 2028.”

But while most of the council was in agreement about the time frame, Vice Mayor Justin Wilson expressed concerns that the proposal doesn’t go far enough to detail the city’s plans for what comes next.

“I’m concerned that even with a decade we’re going to come back and not be in a better place [financially],” said Wilson. “The question is basic; do we want a water park here or other uses? We need to first decide what we want to see on that site and then we can have a discussion about how we get there.”

Wilson said the focus of the discussion at this point should be what the city sees as the vision for this park more than who runs it, but Smedberg said the two are tied together.

“I do not see a decision like this as stopping the process,” said Smedberg, “this could kick-start a great conversation about what goes there.”

“Just what we have here today is a pretty bold change,” said Mayor Allison Silberberg. “I think we can discuss what our options are in the months ahead. This is a pretty big step in and of itself. People need time to absorb this.”

Silberberg noted that more of the discussion about the park’s future could take place after the first public hearing, scheduled for Dec. 16.