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Back to Parks, Trails & Open Space RESOURCES Why are Parks, Trails and Open Space Important?

Talking Points

Citizen Presentation to the Planning Commission Timeline of Events

Parks, Trails and Open Space are Smart Investments that increase property values, create stable neighborhoods and produce economic opportunities.

Show me a healthy community with a healthy economy and I will show you a community that has its green infrastructure in order and understands the relationship between the built and the unbuilt environment.  
~ Will Rogers, Trust for Public Land

Attracts Home Buyers

Hike the Occoquan Trail!According to a 2002 survey conducted by the National Association of Home Builders and the National Association of Realtors a majority of consumers want:

  • Single-family detached home in a pedestrian friendly community;
  • Shopping within walking distance;
  • A mix of open space, including parks, recreational facilities, playgrounds, farms, nature preserves and undeveloped areas.

Protects Homeowner Investments

"A number of empirical studies have shown that proximity to preserved open space enhances property values, particularly if the open space is not intensively developed for recreation purposes…"    -
~ Lincoln Institute of Land Policy

Attracts Businesses

  • Small company owners say recreation, parks and open space are the highest priority in choosing a new location for their business.
  • Corporate CEOs report that employee quality of life is the third most important factor in locating a new business.
    ~2007 Virginia Outdoor Plan

Good for Prince William County

Carl Guardino, president of Silicon Valley Manufacturing Group, said his group strongly supports green-line policies, because the only way to attract top level employees and their families is to protect the region's open space and environment. ``We want to build a community that is demonstrates smart growth rather than a model for L.A.-type growth,'' Guardino said. "These green hills are gold."
~ San Francisco Chronicle

We Need All the Help We Can Get!

To successfully attract public and private partnership opportunities, secure federal and state grants, and attract business investments, we need a Comprehensive Plan that:

  • Demonstrates local commitment;
  • Sets high standards;
  • Encourages partnerships;
  • Encourages community involvement;
  • Takes advantage of existing opportunities;
  • Includes metrics to measure success.

Local Commitment:
If we are not willing to invest in ourselves, why should others care?

2008 – 2013 Capital Improvements Program
Item Projected Costs to 2013
Road Construction
$311 million
$450 million
$26 million
Fire and Rescue
$22 million
$20 million
Parks and Open Space Land Acquisition
$4.7 million

High Standards: 25 Parkland Acres per 1,000 Residents

Comparison of Existing Parkland Acres/1,000 Residents
Localities with Populations Between 300,000 and 550,000 Residents
Comparison of Parkland Acres - PWC with Comparable Localities

Fairfax County's proximity to Washington, D.C., is a clear advantage over Prince William. In addition, the Fairfax County Park Authority has already secured nearly 25 parkland acres/1,000 residents. Stafford County, competing with Prince William for economic investments through Base Realignment and Closure opportunities, has established a standard of 20 parkland acres/1,000 residents.

Comparison of Parkland Acres - PWC and Fairfax

In order to attract quality economic investments, Prince William County must have the capacity to compete successfully with surrounding jurisdictions. Parks and open space play a key role in ensuring the high quality of life we need to accomplish this goal.

The PWC Planning Commission and the PWC Park Authority Board have both recommended a standard of 25 parkland acres/1,000 residents.

Nevertheless, PWC's Planning staff is recommending the low standard of 15 parkland acres/1,000 residents based on their concern that the County cannot afford a higher standard...despite the fact that it is a 30 year plan in which costs are not usually considered.


Protected Open Space: Land that is permanently protected from development with a perpetual conservation or open space easement or fee ownership, held by federal, state, or local government or nonprofit organization for natural resource, forestry, agriculture, wildlife, recreation, historic, cultural, or open space use, or to sustain water quality and living resource values.

According to the Planning Dept., approximately 25% of the County is currently protected as Open Space.

High Standards - Develop & Implement a Countywide Trail Network

  • Staff Recommendation: 1.00 trail miles/1,500 residents
  • Citizen Recommendation: 3.25 trail miles/1,500 residents, includes standards for specific types of trails (we want more than VDOT-constructed bike trails)

Trail Standards Proposed by Citizen Coalition

Trail Type Standard *
Multi-Use Trails 1 mile per 3,000 residents
Hiking Trails 1 mile per 4,000 residents
Nature Trails 1 mile per 2,500 residents
Equestrian Trail 1 mile per 6,250 residents
Bicycle Trail 1 mile per 2,600 residents
Jogging Trail 1 mile per 2,000 residents
Exercise Trail 1 mile per 7,500 residents
TOTAL TRAILS 3.25 mile per 1,500 residents

Encourage Partnerships - Public/Private Opportunities

Silver Lake Aerial

Which would you choose? 500 acres of parks at no cost to taxpayers OR 230 acres of parks at an initial investment of $1.6 million + $255,000 tax dollars each year.

  • Ensure that text allows partnerships such as offered by the Bull Run Mountain Conservancy at Silver Lake to be counted in the inventory of County Parkland.
Featherstone National Wildlife Refuge
The Featherstone NWR is currently closed to the public. With more than 300 acres of bottomland forests and freshwater tidal marshes, the Refuge is a great spot to watch wildlife that should be open to the public for passive recreation uses.
  • Partner with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to ensure full public access.
Potomac National Heritage Scenic Trail - PWC Map POTOMAC NATIONAL HERITAGE SCENIC TRAIL:
Partner with the National Park Service, nonprofit organizations, homeowner associations, businesses and others to ensure a high quality trail that highlights the Potomac River and connects existing public parkland and historic resources.

Ensure that the County Can Compete Successfully for State and Federal Grants

Federal, state and private agencies, organizations and individuals are interested in working with localities to support local goals. Prince William County's Comprehensive Plan creates a vision for the future of Prince William and provides a vehicle for the County to communicate our goals to potential investors. In order to attract a wide range of investors, the critical role parks, trails and open space play in protecting our quality of life must be accurately represented in our Comprehensive Plan.

For example, the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation eligibility requirements include:

  • The applicant demonstrates other evidence of commitment to protection of local natural open space including recreational and forestal resources and historic resources. Such evidence shall include, at a minimum, recognition of such resources in the comprehensive plan.

  • The property is within an area identified in the local comprehensive plan as important for open space, Agricultural/Forest District, biological preservation, etc.

Take Advantage of Existing Opportunities

Dove's Landing Aerial Dove's Landing - Confluence of Bull Run and Cedar Run
Hike Dove's Landing

Dove's Landing is a 235-acre undeveloped property located along the Occoquan River, upstream from Lake Jackson. The Prince William County Board of Supervisors acquired the property in March 1996, after winning a lawsuit (a developer tried to force the county to purchase increased public access rights). Since that time, the property has remained vacant, with a “Public Land - Keep Out” sign posted at the boundary.

Public officials concerned about fiscal impacts associated with parkland acquisition should act to ensure full public access for passive recreation to Dove's Landing and other properties that are already owned by Prince William County and:

  1. Place a conservation easement on the 235-acre Dove's Landing site owned by the Board of Supervisors.

  2. Replace the current sign saying “Public Land No Trespassing” with a sign that says “Dove's Landing Natural Area – Enjoy Your Hike!”

Encourage Community Involvement -
Create an Independent Trails Commission

  • Appointed by & reporting to the Board of Supervisors;
  • Membership includes individuals and organization representatives with expertise and interest in trails;
  • Supported by government agency representatives.

Successful greenways grow out of the grassroots. They depend on local enthusiasm, local money, local leaders, local priorities, local agreements and local governments. They depend on highly motivated volunteers including individuals, groups and businesses. They are dependent, in short, on a strong sense of community responsibility and on the willingness of each community to link its destiny to that of its neighbors.
David Burwell, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy

Include Metrics to Measure Success

  • Clear definitions for protected open space, county parkland and trails;
  • Review county-owned properties and determine what county-owned lands should be protected as open space;
  • Complete and maintain an accurate inventory of protected open space, parkland and trails in Prince William County.
  • Make this information available on the County Mapper;
  • Complete and implement management plans for all property owned by the county;
  • Map and adopt a green infrastructure overlay district.

Pay Now or Pay More Later

  • Escalating land costs;
  • Loss of competitiveness with surrounding jurisdictions for economic development;
  • Loss of competitiveness to attract state and federal funding support;
  • Loss of competitiveness for homebuyers.
Share Your Views with Supervisor

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
nothing is going to get better. It's not.
— Dr. Seuss, The Lorax