The lack of consideration given by the Prince William Park Authority for anything other than active recreational uses of Prince William County parks is not meeting the needs or expectations of residents or visitors. Natural areas within the parks have been reduced or eliminated to make way for golf, soccer, and other such active uses.
As an example, the clearing of woods, fields, and thickets at Veterans Memorial Park to create soccer fields in the early 1990s resulted in the loss of some of the most productive finch and sparrow habitat in the area. Prolific numbers of native birds found winter food and shelter on this site, and, because of the loss of habitat in the surrounding area, it was a magnet for rare or accidental species like the Lark Sparrow that was observed there for several days in January, 1992. It was the first record for Northern Virginia of this species, but its return is unlikely since the area is now a parking lot.
The changes that affected this piece of wildlife habitat received, as far as I could determine at the time, no deliberate analysis or public discussion. That, unfortunately, is the net result of the planning so far for Lake Ridge Park. The public has a right to expect that more than active recreational uses are considered when decisions are being made about their parks. If the Park Authority solicits information and opinion from the interested public it will find that passive uses involving open space and wildlife are genuine and broad-based concerns that need to be given greater weight. If the Prince William County Park Authority is to ever properly manage its holdings, it needs a professional naturalist added to its staff. This is probably the only way in which natural resource concerns will be considered from first to last in the planning and decision making process for Prince William's parks.
- James Waggener, Chairman