1,100 Acres Will Be State Park on Widewater Peninsula (VA)

In one of his final acts in office, Governor Mark R. Warner signed the deed to a 1,100-acre portion of a Stafford County peninsula with two miles of Potomac River and Aquia Creek water frontage today. The property, located 40 miles south of Washington D.C. on the Widewater peninsula will become a state park managed by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR).

The Trust for Public Land (TPL) negotiated the purchase from Dominion Resources, one of nation’s largest producers of energy. Dominion originally planned to build a power plant on the property, and later developed plans for a 700-unit residential development and resort conference center. TPL, a national nonprofit land conservation organization, signed an option with Dominion in 2002 to purchase the property, and has held on to that right even as the real estate market boomed and development pressures intensified.

This is the third acquisition that The Trust for Public Land has made for new Virginia state parks in the last year and a half. Middle Peninsula State Park, 438 acres on the York River, and Seven Bends State Park, 1,066 acres on the Shenandoah River, were announced last fall.

“The Widewater peninsula is one of the most significant, undeveloped properties remaining on this stretch of the Potomac River,” said Governor Warner. “This new state park will be an outdoor haven for Virginians and will preserve a significant portion of some of the Commonwealth’s most impressive natural landscape.”

“Developers were waiting in the wings if this deal didn’t go through,” said Debi Osborne, senior project manager for The Trust for Public Land. “The fact that over 1,000 acres of waterfront property are available for conservation during this era of rampant development is practically unheard of. Were it not for the leadership of Governor Warner, the commitment of Dominion and the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, and the tenacity of The Trust for Public Land, this never would have happened.”

The $6.1 million purchase price represents a significant savings as the land has an appraised value of $11 million. The primary funding for the purchase came from Virginia Public Buildings Authority bonds. In addition, a federal appropriation of $225,000 was secured by Virginia’s congressional delegation for the project through NOAA’s Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program.

Studies have repeatedly shown that access to water is the top recreational need in the Commonwealth. This is particularly true in the northeastern part of the state where a majority of the state’s population resides. The low-impact development of the riverfront land as a state park will also lessen stormwater problems, greatly reducing the potential for increased water quality degradation.

“The Potomac is really America’s River and it is fitting that this land will now belong to the people, for all to enjoy as a new Virginia state park,” said Osborne.

“This has been a dynamic partnership of state and county governments, the private and nonprofit sectors, resulting in an outstanding acquisition,” said Joseph Maroon, Director of DCR. “Future generations will have Governor Warner, Stafford County, The Trust for Public Land and Dominion to thank for protecting this site for their use. DCR will work diligently with the people of Virginia to plan and develop a state park befitting this tremendous piece of property.”

The first step to establish the state park will be to develop a master plan. This is a public process facilitated by DCR that will guide development of the park over the next 25 years.

The Trust for Public Land is a national nonprofit land conservation organization that conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and natural areas, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. Since 1972, TPL has helped protect more than two million acres nationwide, including more than 16,000 acres in Virginia. TPL has been working for decades protecting land throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia by creating and expanding state parks and natural areas, establishing the Rappahannock River Valley National Wildlife Refuge and adding thousands of acres to Virginia’s national forests.