Prince William County Park Authority (PWCPA)
|PWCPA 2008 Needs Assessment
The Prince William Park Authority (PWCPA) is updating its 2005-10 Strategic Plan. County officials are gathering public input now, and inviting citizens to submit comments and ideas on their website HERE. This is a good time to share your perspective. Be constructive, and tell them what you think.
At the public meeting on May 18 2009, about a dozen people highlighted the need for the PWCPA to create network of trails, establish more neighborhood parks close to where people live, and take action on protecting green open space before it’s all developed.
This feedback to the Park Authority matched the findings of the Park Authority's 2008 Needs Assessment, which verified that people are willing to invest in the future, so the quality of life makes it possible to “play” as well as live and work in Prince William.
Feeling cynical about the value of participating in another planning effort in Prince William? That’s to be expected, after a frustrating year of trying to establish “aim high” goals in a new Parks, Trails, and Open Space chapter in the county’s Comprehensive Plan. Why should we expect this Park Authority exercise to be any different from the charades of the past?
Still, if you don’t play in the game, you know you can’t win. So let’s explore an existing strategic goal where citizen input might push the Park Authority past “talk” and into “action.”
- Collaborate with others to increase active and passive recreation opportunities.
The PWCPAs current Strategic Plan highlights the need for "Synergy through collaboration," and noted that "the mission of the Park Authority cannot be completed without teamwork by and through a collaborative effort with the community."
The experience with Silver Lake has soured many people on trying to work with county agencies. In that case, a potential partner withdrew their offer to add 270 acres to Silver Lake, accusing the PWCPA of negotiating in bad faith.
In order to re-establish credibility for this "opportunity area," the PWCPA Board and staff will need to go out of their way to create and follow through on opportunities for collaboration. Despite recent experience, the Prince William Conservation Alliance supports existing Strategy 1.1.3, which calls for the PWCPA to identify agencies and organizations that would be beneficial partners and develop parameters for these partnerships. We encourage action that demonstrates the County has learned the lessons of Silver Lake.
In particular, the Park Authority will need to collaborate with HOA’s to provide neighborhood parks and trails that are open to general public use in areas that are now underserved by neighborhood parks, particularly in eastern Prince William County. Focusing on existing developed neighborhoods would help meet “service delivery goals.”
The PWCPA also has a great opportunity to establish a partnership with the City of Manassas, and open up Lake Manassas to public recreational use.
There's no need to revise the current strategies, which call for the PWCPA to develop partnerships with other governmental agencies such as the Cities of Manassas and Manassas Park, to increase recreational services/opportunities. However, the Park Authority needs to be more assertive and more creative, and to act on that strategy.
- Prioritize efforts to address unmet park and recreation needs, including land acquisition.
Neighborhood parks should provide for both active and passive recreation opportunities within walking distance of families. Ballfields, informal places to toss a Frisbee with kids and unspoiled patches of woodlands are important to our community – but watch out for proposals to buy parkland where it’s cheap, rather than convenient. If we make residents drive to their closest park, we increase traffic congestion and make it harder for kids to play outdoors.
It will not be easy to find places that meet park and recreation needs in the developed area – but there are some places where land could be acquired, including:
- The remaining undeveloped Hylton properties in Dale City, especially stream valleys that offer opportunities for trails and passive recreation;
- The American Legion property off Minnieville Road, where ballfields originally funded and now leased by the PWCPA are at risk of being developed. The Park Authority rents that site, but does not own it, and we know from Silver Lake that the Park Authority strategy is to own property.
- Prioritize efforts to ensure park and recreation opportunities in areas close to the population they will serve.
If the county develops new active recreation sites in locations that are accessible only by car (i.e., in the undeveloped Rural Area), then the PWCPA might claim it has increased the "supply" of recreation sites - but officials will not be meeting the needs and desires of Prince William citizens for near-to-home recreation opportunities.
- Inventory current park land holdings to identify rare, sensitive and high quality natural and cultural resources, as required in the County's Comprehensive Plan Parks and Open Space Chapter and the PWCPA current Strategic Plan.
The PWCPA's existing Strategic Plan states "Our land heritage (open space), is being depleted rapidly." It also calls for the PWCPA to provide for increased stewardship of the County’s natural resources, through the protection, enhancement and promotion of these resources on the lands that we own and manage.
Despite strong support from citizens, as demonstrated during the revision of the Comprehensive Plan Parks & Open Space Chapter, the PWCPA has not moved forward with any programs to identify or protect natural and cultural resources in existing parkland. The conversion of high-quality forests into active ballfields at Hellwig Park demonstrates the need for a natural resource management plan for existing parkland owned by the PWCPA.
- Add goals and actions that address passive recreation needs.
The current PWCPA Strategic Plan uses the term "passive recreation" only twice and includes no goals aimed at addressing these needs. Despite strong support from citizens, as demonstrated during the revision of the Comprehensive Plan Parks & Open Space Chapter, the PWCPA has not moved forward with any visible actions to designate areas in existing parks for passive recreation or acquire new areas for passive recreation (other than the potential transfer of Silver Lake where commitments to passive recreation are still a question).
The PWCPA needs to adopt a meaningful, public plan for managing its now-undeveloped areas, and to dedicate some land for trails and passive recreation. Otherwise, all areas in county parks that are currently open space will be viewed just as land banks for future development, once the funds become available.