By Chris Clarke

In the heart of King George County, hidden behind the Purkins Corner Convenience Center, you will find a treasure. Cedell Brooks, Jr. Park is one of the gems of the King George County park system but was not always the picture of beauty that it is today. For 20 years the property served as the county landfill when regulations on landfills were not as stringent as they are today. As the landfill reached the end of its lifespan, then Supervisor Cedell Brooks, Jr. led the drive to move the trash to a safer, more environmentally friendly facility, and establish a park on the property instead. “One of my goals (in serving on the Board of Supervisors) was to get the old landfill dug up and moved and put in a park in that place.” The goal was to move the trash to a facility with modern environmental protections including liners and proper fill to protect the groundwater and in turn the citizens of not only the Shiloh District but also King George as a whole.

In 1996, King George opened the regional landfill near Sealston and in doing so began removing the two decades worth of trash from the now park. After a variety of environmental studies and nearly two years of planning and construction, Mr. Brooks dream came true as the Shiloh Park opened to the public in 2014. In 2017 to recognize his 26-year career as a member of the Board of Supervisors, the park was renamed in honor of Mr. Brooks.

Today, the 33-acre property hosts a variety of recreational amenities. There is a playground, picnic tables, a baseball diamond, two soccer fields, and a mile-long walking trail. It has become one of, if not, the most popular park in King George. KGYAA football, King George Little League, and King George Parks & Recreation soccer are among the users of the park for practices and games. In the spring and fall, it is not uncommon for the parking lot to be filled with cars as kids are at practice and other neighbors are out enjoying a walk or run in the park. Travel baseball teams and the King George Sherriff’s Office softball team also practice at the park.

For those looking to learn a little while they recreate, the park is home to several educational projects. An Eagle Scout built observation deck overlooking the wetlands is one such venture. Two Eagle Scouts lead the project to build the deck and the access ramp. The deck area includes educational signs and two binoculars to allow a closer look into the marshy area below. A grant from the Duff McDuff Green Foundation provided the funding used for much of the project including the binoculars and educational panels. There are plant identification markers with QR codes throughout the park to allow you to learn more about the trees of our region as well.

The most colorful part of the park is the Native Plant Demonstration Gardens. These gardens were planted between October 2018 and April 2019. Over 70 native species and nearly 1000 plants showcase the different types of gardening possible in the Central Rappahannock Region. The five sections of garden, roadside, hillside, pollinator, meadow, and raingarden showcase what can be done on your property. This $24,000 project was funded by a grant from the Virginia Coastal Zone Management program which purchased the plants and educational signs. The garden’s design was done by Artwood Gardens and brought to life by countless volunteers from the Master Gardeners, Master Naturalists, the Rappahannock Valley Garden Club, and King George High School. A guidebook to native plants is available at the King George Citizens Center for those interested in adding a garden to their home or business.

In the fall of 2020, the Friends of the Rappahannock and the King George Garden Club partnered with King George County to plant nearly 100 trees throughout the park. Included in this planting were Swamp White Oak, River Birch, Red Oak, Bald Cypress, and Swamp Chestnut. These trees, mostly along the walking trail, will grow to provide shade during the hot summer months to walkers and runners as well as improve the water quality of the Chesapeake Bay.

Mr. Brooks continues to advocate for the park and the citizens of King George. His next goal is to have a picnic shelter constructed near the playground. This addition would allow for family gatherings, parties, and special events to be held right in the center of the county.

If you have never visited Cedell Brooks, Jr. Park you are missing a jewel of King George County. For Mr. Brooks and others having a park in the Shiloh District that serves so many is a great blessing for the county. It is the hope of the Parks & Recreation Department and the Board of Supervisors that the park will bless you in many ways as well.