Gov. Ralph Northam, along with help from area politicians, officially opened Widewater State Park during a visit and ribbon cutting Nov. 8.
The 1,100-acre park in North Stafford County is Virginia’s 38th state park. The park includes two miles of water frontage along the Potomac River and Aquia Creek, 46 acres of tidal wetlands.
The property was originally purchased by Dominion Energy as a site for a proposed power plant, according to a news release. The property was later approved for development of 700 residential units, a resort conference center and extensive infrastructure. Dominion sold the property for $1 million less than the assessed value in 2013. The Trust for Public Land and Stafford County assisted in the transaction.
Northam told a gathering of about 100 people that parks are good for the state’s economy since they drive tourism, which brings in dollars.
He noted that visitors can expect more amenities, such as a fishing pier and cabins.
The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, which manages Virginia State Parks, will be adding a transfer station near the existing visitor center for persons with disabilities to board watercraft.
“The development of a low-impact state park on waterfront property significantly reduces the possibility of increased water quality degradation,” said Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew Strickler. “More than 73,000 acres of Virginia are protected as state parks, and only a small fraction of the property is ever improved or developed. We are pleased that this land will be protected for generations to come.”
Stafford’s Supervisors Chair Meg Bohmke, R-Falmouth District, welcomed guests and elected officials on a chilly morning under a tent overlooking Aquia Creek.
“We have had a wonderful working relationship with DCR on our beautiful Crow’s Nest Natural Preserve,” said Bohmke. “We are delighted that Governor Northam came to Stafford to help us kick off our next partnership and we are grateful to the Commonwealth of Virginia for helping us to preserve this incredible resource.”
Funding for the $6.1 million property was from Virginia Public Building Authority bonds and a federal appropriation of $225,000 secured by Virginia’s congressional delegation through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program.
Stafford Supervisor Jack Cavalier, R-Griffis-Widewater District, who said he spent years getting the park, which is in his district, to become a reality, thanked fellow representatives and government officials. He also thanked the Friends of Widewater State Park for their work on the park.
Sen. Scott Surovell, D-36th District, noted there are three state parks in his district and that area residents who have such long commutes deserve the kind of recreation that the parks can provide.
Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy, D- 2nd District, who is the area’s most recent addition to the General Assembly, also thanked her predecessors in state government for make the park a reality.
Before the official ribbon cutting to open the park, a campaign was launched to ask doctors to write prescriptions for the great outdoors. Dr. Robert Zarr, dressed in a lab coat, extolled the benefits of being outdoors and visiting a state park. Parks’ mascot Parker Redfox was the first recipient of such a prescription.