The Prince William Board of County Supervisors recently voted to combine the Julie J. Metz Wetlands Park, the Rippon Lodge Historic Property, Kings Highway, the Neabsco Creek Boardwalk, the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail and Rippon Landing Neighborhood Park, and they designated the combined recreation and historic sites as the Neabsco Regional Park.
Combining the assets into a single regional park will allow the county to expand public awareness and attract tourism, said Brent Heavner, Prince William County Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism spokesman.
The public will have a chance to enjoy all the new park has to offer with the opening of the new Neabsco Creek Boardwalk at a ribbon-cutting ceremony and family-friendly event on Saturday, June 1, off Blackburn Road at Rippon Landing Park. The ribbon cutting will coincide with the grand opening of the regional park and celebrate National Trails Day.
"We will be hosting a grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Neabsco Creek Boardwalk at 10 a.m., with activities to follow through 4 p.m. at the boardwalk and Rippon Lodge. Family activities throughout the day will include guided tours, raptor demonstrations, live entertainment and food trucks," Heavner said.
The boardwalk connects Rippon Landing Community Park to the wetlands. The three quarters of a mile long, 10-foot-wide, elevated boardwalk has a two-story observation deck and will serve as a place where people can walk across the wetlands to get away from the hustle and bustle to see one of the natural settings of Prince William County.
Woodbridge District Supervisor Frank Principi said the boardwalk complimented all other trails and facilities in the area. "The Neabsco Creek Boardwalk is the crown jewel of the Woodbridge Pedestrian & Bicycle Loop, which includes 14 miles of Potomac Heritage National Scenic trail that runs through Woodbridge. The loop increases mobility for our residents, with 50 miles of connected living for exploring all that our community has to offer."
The boardwalk will also serve as an educational tool, Heavner said. The department's Science in the Park program partners with county elementary school students to get the children engaged in learning and connects classroom lessons to the outdoors. The educational aspect of the boardwalk will reach beyond children, as well. "We're going to have educational signage in place, and that's something that we will add to and change seasonally so users can engage in self-guided tours," said Heavner.
The completion of the boardwalk moves the county one step closer to completing the Prince William County section of the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail which stretches between the Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania to the Chesapeake Bay.
In Prince William County, the trail will connect from the Town of Occoquan down through Belmont Bay, Occoquan Bay Wildlife Refuge, Veterans Memorial Park, Featherstone Wildlife Refuge, and on to Rippon Lodge and Rippon Landing Neighborhood Park, before crossing the boardwalk over the Metz Wetlands. From Metz, the trail connects to Leesylvania State Park, Powell's Landing County Park and on to the U.S.1 sidewalk near Dumfries. Eventually, the trail will connect to the public trail system at Potomac Shores, and run down through Dumfries to the Museum of the Marine Corps and Locust Shade Park.
Parking for the new regional park and access to the boardwalk will be at Rippon Landing Neighborhood Park at 15125 Blackburn Road in Woodbridge.
More information about the new regional park and the event on June 1 is available at pwcgov.org/parks.