A large group gathered on Saturday, National Trails Day, for the long-awaited opening of the Neabsco Creek Boardwalk. The boardwalk — which is three quarters of a mile long, 10-feet-wide, and elevated with a two-story observation deck — is part of the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail and the newly formed Neabsco Regional Park. The new park includes the Julie J. Metz Wetlands, the Rippon Lodge historic property and the Rippon Landing Neighborhood Park.
Woodbridge District Supervisor Frank Principi spoke at the ceremony saying that he worked to bring the boardwalk to the Woodbridge District since 2008, when a small group of residents suggested the idea. It was worth the wait, however. "Good things come to those who wait. A decade later, we stand here today and celebrate the opening of … the Potomac National Heritage Scenic Trail, Neabsco Creek Boardwalk and Neabsco Regional Park."
Principi went on to say that the boardwalk will join people with the environment. "The boardwalk connects us to both our nature and our history. The boardwalk connects us to our tidal wetlands and the wildlife habitats of fox, deer, muskrat, beaver, herons, egrets, ospreys, eagles, haws, snakes and an assortment of fish and birds. As we embarked on this journey, we knew we needed to strike a balance between our desire to be one with nature and the need to protect and preserve it for generations to come."
"The boardwalk, regional park and the Potomac National Scenic Trail also connect people to history," Principi said. "Whether you want to explore a trail used by Native Americans or Civil War embankments at Leesylvania State Park, or the Colonial and Civil War history at Rippon Lodge, you've come to the right place. We have something for everyone."
Principi also said that the boardwalk will serve as an educational tool for county students as part of the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism's Science in the Park program. "The step downs along the trail will allow our school students to engage with the aquatic life and learn about ways humans can both harm and heal our environment. Interpretive panels will highlight delicate ecology and encourage conservation."
Virginia Senator Jeremy McPike also spoke at the opening and talked about the importance of the county's wetlands "Places like this connect to the Chesapeake Bay and they connect all through Virginia. Places like this are the foundation for a healthy ecosystem everywhere. This is just a perfect place where we can experience it firsthand. This is an important place to teach our future generations how important it is to treat our environment right and enjoy it."
Tanya Gossett, the superintendent Prince William Forest Park, said National Trails Day was meant to raise awareness about the importance of trails to communities and a day to encourage everyone to venture out on a trail close to home. She said the boardwalk and the new regional park helped in the effort to get people out to the Potomac National Heritage Scenic Trail. "It winds its way from the historic town of Occoquan through two national wildlife refuges, four county parks, one state park and one national park, and to this string of pearls, today we add the stunning Neabsco Creek Boardwalk."
Susan Conklin, former Prince William County school teacher, was visiting from Texas and took some time to visit the boardwalk. Conklin, who taught ecology at Woodbridge Middle School for 30 years and retired in 2002, said the boardwalk was "tremendous."
"Friends of mine know how interested I am in ecology. This is better than anything else I could do today. It's beautiful," she said.
Cynthia Stanley and Judy Hopper, both teachers at Swann's Creek Elementary School, came to see the new board walk. Stanley said she looks forward to visiting the place daily. "I look forward to coming every morning and walking. I love the peace and quiet and the scenery."
Hopper said she heard about the opening a month ago and marked her calendar. "I couldn't wait. I'm looking forward to bringing my students out here for field trips."
Hope Cajayln, a Northern Virginia Community College student, also enjoyed her time on the boardwalk. "I really like how it's open. It's really scenic and a pretty place to take pictures."
Joan Gifford drove from Gainesville to see the boardwalk. She said the visiting the park was worth the drive across the county. "It was an important trek because this boardwalk connecting the trail is such a great idea. I love the idea that it connects the parks together as part of the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail."
More information about the boardwalk and the Neabsco Regional Park can be found at pwcgov.org/parks