The Prince William Board of County Supervisors plans to unpave a parking lot and put up a little paradise at the unused Harbor Drive Commuter Parking Lot at the intersection of Minnieville Road and Harbor Drive.
Occoquan District Supervisor Ruth Anderson, whose district includes the 2.5-acre commuter lot, said there have been several public hearings with neighbors and local HOAs, and everyone seems to be on board with the park that will replace the commuter lot. "If you've got a lot of pavement sitting there for no good reason, it's good for the environment to turn it into park space," she said.
The lot, at 13020 and 13030 Harbor Drive, was built in 1987 and never used to capacity because of a lack of bus service and the expansion of the Minnieville Commuter Lot.
According to Anderson, the park is slated to include exercise equipment, a large pollinator garden, at the back of the park, and open space for parks programing. "There's going to be a trail with a big greenspace in the middle. On that trail around the greenspace, there will be workout type of equipment that you would find at other fitness trails. There's also going to be playground equipment for all ages. It going to be universal equipment, so even children with disabilities and seniors, who might have trouble walking, will be able to use some of this equipment. That's why we're calling it a 'wellness park.'"
Robert Boyd, the project manager for the park development, said county staff worked hard to make the park equipment accessible to all. "We worked with our recreation center staff to design a set of adult fitness equipment that will serve patrons of all ages and abilities. The recreation centers will be creating programs to utilize this equipment. The playground will be completely accessible with a safe rubberized surface and all ground level features, which will allow children in wheelchairs to interact with their friends throughout the playground area."
In addition to the health benefits of the park, Boyd said educational aspects will also come into play. "A large portion of the park will be dedicated to managed meadow areas and a native pollinator garden with interpretive signage and sculptures. These areas will provide educational opportunities for groups and individuals."
Now that it has abandoned the property for use as a commuter lot and designated the land as park space, the board must notify the Virginia Department of Transportation, or VDOT, of its action. The board will also hold public hearings about the proposed land use.
Boyd said VDOT favors the transaction. "County Department of Parks Recreation and Tourism staff have been in contact with VDOT throughout this process and VDOT is amenable to the abandonment and the project. The commuter lot at 13030 Harbor Drive has become a maintenance issue for VDOT as well as being redundant since the opening of the commuter lot at the intersection of Old Bridge Rd and Minnieville Rd."
Anderson said the county has $700,000 to get started on building the $1.2-million park, and she is searching for grants to help make up the difference. Kaiser Permanente awarded the county a $50,000 to complete the design for the park and cover the cost of consultants and community meetings. "We've got a great design ready to go and some engineering work has been done as part of the design process."
If things go as planned, Anderson said, work on the park should begin this fall.