It was Saturday morning. I like an alfresco lunch on the water now and then, so I stopped by the Oak Hill General Store at Purcell and Kahns roads, picked up a chili dog, a bag of chips, and a Coke and headed for Lake Ridge Park. The park was really busy.
After lunch, I took a stroll along the beach. The dock was filled with parents and children fishing. The water was covered with people in canoes and kayaks. Eventually, my stroll took me to the Oxford boathouse, which supports the local high school crew teams. I like watching crew. It is perhaps the most graceful of all outdoor sports.
The Prince William County Department of Parks and Recreation completely remodeled and rebuilt the boathouse last year. In the news release published by the county, Pat Williams, president of the Prince William Crew Association, said the refurbishment — which included reinforcing the footings, floors, ceilings and walls — will extend the life of the boathouse, home to six high school teams. “It’s a much stronger boathouse. It means 30 more years of rowing at least,” Williams said.
It’s been suggested we spend $15 million more to perhaps replace it. The parks and recreation folks will have to explain that one to me.
At the other end of the county, Silver Lake Regional Park is a great escape to a waterfront. Its 230 acres of woods and 23-acre lake offer plenty of places to explore. I like to stop by Haymarket to pick up lunch on the way. Eugene’s Sausage and Fries is my “go to” place. Eugene’s makes a great sweet Italian sausage with onions and peppers on a bun. If you are really hungry, go for the cheddar cheese fries as a side. I always take a walk around the lake if it’s not too hot.
Leesylvania State Park on the Potomac River is perhaps my favorite. I usually stop by the park store for a hamburger and something to drink. There are several great places to sit in the picnic area to watch the birds and boats and enjoy the scenery. For those who want to soak up a little local history, I recommend a walk on its trails to check out the remains of the Lee and Fairfax ancestral homes. Eagles are a common site. The park gets really busy on weekends during the summer. Park officials will close the gate on weekends when it fills up, so get there early.
I also like to fly fish for trout. Locust Shade Park is the only place in Prince William (that I am aware of) that regularly stocks its 8-acre pond with trout from November to April courtesy of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries urban fishing program. I pack my lunch for any fishing trip. Although nothing beats the Blue Ridge back-country, where I normally look for brook trout, Locust Shade offers a chance to practice my cast and landing techniques closer to home and try out new fly patterns.
FYI, the Oak Hill General Store is under new management. They have expanded their menu, but they still make the best BLT in Prince William. Their chili dogs are pretty good, too.
For more suggestions on where to go in Prince Willian, check out Prince William Parks and Recreation, Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, or the National Park Service.
Get outside and play!
Al Alborn is a political and social activist in Prince William County. His column appears every other week. You can learn more about Al at www.alborn.net.