Fredericksburg and Richmond protect their parks; now it’s our turn…

Fredericksburg and Richmond have decided to permanently protect key parkland owned by those local jurisdictions, by establishing conservation easements on their public land.

The two jurisdictions own key parcels along the Rappahannock and James rivers.  Current elected officials are ensuring the land will remain undeveloped, so future officials won’t build roads, low-income housing, golf courses – or sell the land in a future budget crisis.

Prince William should follow that example, starting with Silver Lake.

Fredericksburg is now celebrating its 2006 decision to establish a conservation easement (see May 26 Free Lance-Star article).  Richmond is just signing the deed.  According to the Times-Dispatch on May 30, “No one is currently proposing to develop parkland. But river lovers feared a cash-strapped city might someday sell off an island here or a piece of shoreline there to raise money.”

Silver Lake is intended to be used for passive recreation – and now is the time to establish that horse trails won’t be replaced by future tennis courts and open fields won’t become future middle schools.  Hey, we’ve seen Long Park transform from a passive recreation site into an active recreation park.  We will need to create even more ballfields to meet the demand for baseball/soccer as population continues to increase – but let’s not repeat the Long Park development experience at Silver Lake.

The Board of County Supervisors can start the process of protecting Silver Lake by including a deed restriction in the transfer of the land to the Park Authority.  Don’t be surprised if you hear the Park Authority object to deed restrictions, and suggest that we should trust in the agency’s master planning process for Silver Lake.

Yeah, right. The Park Authority priority in acquiring Silver Lake was to grow their “turf” rather than partner with others.  As a result of the grow-the-bureaucracy focus, an offer to donate 270 acres next to Silver Lake was withdrawn.

Based on that track record, the only way to ensure Silver Lake will be managed appropriately in the long run is to establish a permanent conservation easement.  Elected officials in Fredericksburg and Richmond have shown the way.


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