Over a period of two and a half years, King George County engaged in discussions with the National Park Service (NPS), the General Service Administration (GSA), the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA), the Virginia Tourism Commission (VTC), and the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT). These discussions revolved around the loss of County parkland that would result from the Harry Nice Bridge replacement project.
According to MDTA’s plans, King George County stood to lose 2.86 acres of Wayside Park and approximately 1.071 acres of Barnesfield Park. Both parks were donated to the County through an agreement with NPS and have covenant restrictions that require the land be used for recreational activities into perpetuity. Since the lost acreage was going to be acquired for public right of way, VDOT (on behalf of the MDTA) was required to replace the acreage with “like land” of equal or greater value. The King George County Board of Supervisors (Board) and VDOT agreed to define “like land” as property that would deliver the general public the same access to water and water-related activities as Wayside Park offered.
In addition to securing like land, the Board established a requirement that VDOT procure market-available property (as the Board did not support the use of eminent domain). Therefore, the County selected twelve properties for VDOT to evaluate and consider for procurement and then transfer to King George County. Over the course of eighteen months, VDOT reviewed these properties with comprehensive evaluation criteria including land value, price points, traffic counts, and the potential number of citizens that would have to be relocated (if necessary).
One of the properties VDOT evaluated was the Machodoc Marina, prior to its purchase by a private party. The County felt this would be a great opportunity to revive one of only three marinas in the community. In addition, it would have been a great revenue generator for the Economic Development Authority. Unfortunately, VDOT declined the property because of its potential to generate commercial activity.
The Fairview Beach Trailer Park was another property the County asked VDOT to consider. However, VDOT balked at this site. We learned that the agency would have to pay to relocate any residents that were displaced by the property acquisition. This relocation service would come at a cost of approximately $75,000 per resident, thus making the project financially unviable.
A third option was to subdivide a portion of Mount Bethel. Mount Bethel is a 100-year-old historic site that was purposed with providing African Americans a place to recreate and gather. The site is in need of funding to maintain and restore some infrastructure on the property. This swap would have provided the operators of the site an opportunity to gain that funding. However, VDOT’s traffic counts determined that Mathias Point Road, the thoroughfare that accommodates Mount Bethel, would deteriorate to a point that it could not accommodate the park traffic and the residential traffic in the corridor.
Therefore, VDOT concluded by offering the County two properties. The first was The Point of Barnesfield Park, which is a 166-acre site that abuts the northern boundary of the current Barnesfield Park footprint. The second is the Roseland Property, located at 3321 Roseland Drive. This is a 2-acre residential site that is occupied by a two-story home with a waterfront view and associated amenities. These two properties met the Board’s vision to expand the County’s public waterfront access (as detailed in the King George County Economic Development Strategic Plan). In addition, this transaction increased the County’s parkland inventory by slightly over 164 acres.
To accept the two properties the Board had to take three actions:
1. Sign a Memorandum of Agreement: This is an agreement that listed the responsibilities of both VDOT and the County. These included a study period and the consent to address any environmental mitigation requirements.
2. Adopt a Resolution: This document further detailed the County’s understanding with VDOT regarding the transfer of property. Included in the resolution was the consent to assume the same NPS covenants on the newly acquired land as are currently enforced on the lost acreage.
3. Program of Utilization: This document laid out a tentative plan for the intended use of the newly acquired properties. Please note that the Program of Utilization is not binding. Future improvements to each property must be addressed by the Capital Budget. Therefore, the Board’s vision for and investment in the properties will not be executed without future Capital Improvement Plan budget cycles and public meetings.
However, the NPS needed a draft plan to ensure that the County is committed to using the acquired properties for recreational use. Therefore, the administration crafted a “back of the napkin” narrative that demonstrated the County’s intent to use the Roseland Property as a facility to accommodate recreational and water-related activities. In addition, The Point of Barnesfield Park was pegged to serve as an expansion of Barnesfield Park for additional ball fields and walking trails.
But what is the comprehensive plan for the development and use of these properties? Frankly, I don’t know. That answer will have to be developed first by our citizens, not the government. The community’s residents will be asked to actively engage in the future town halls and planning meetings dedicated to this initiative. In addition, the policymakers are relying heavily on the research and recommendations of the King George County Recreational Advisory Committee. This group of dedicated volunteer citizens is especially equipped with an understanding of the community’s recreational needs and how these newly acquired properties can be employed to address them. Though the future of these new properties is not yet written, I stand confident in my belief that they will afford our residents more robust services than those traditionally afforded them by the old Wayside Park.