By Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Monday, August 1, 2011

When asked what facilities the public favored for Biscuit Run State Park , about 50 percent of the comments received by the Department of Conservation and Recreation indicated athletic fields should be a priority. The second-largest block of votes, about 19 percent of the total, favored equestrian trails.

Click image for larger version of August 1, 2011
Biscuit Run State Park concept plan

However, when state officials unveiled the first draft concept plan Monday, it said no athletic fields would be included in the park and that the opening of Biscuit Run, for any use, appeared to be a long way off, given state funding limitations.

The 140 public comments were reviewed at Monday’s final meeting of the 27-member advisory committee planning Biscuit Run State Park on a 1,200-acre site located south of Charlottesville between Route 20 and Old Lynchburg Road.

“We got a lot of comments, which is really great,” said Janit Llewellyn, an environmental program planner at the Department of Conservation and Recreation. “We had a lot of leagues and folks … comment on active recreation, and that included soccer, athletic fields and the types of active sports that are not really typical for a state park venue.”

“There was some discussion internally as to how to handle that,” Llewellyn said. “At this time, we are not going to propose the athletic fields as part of the park. We are not changing our paradigm.”

Albemarle County officials have encouraged community members to provide feedback in an effort to secure a state commitment to new athletic facilities. Bob Crickenberger, Albemarle’s parks and recreation director, serves as a member of the Biscuit Run advisory committee and was one of the officials who has called for inclusion of new athletic fields.

“I find it disappointing,” Crickenberger said after the meeting. “If 87 comments support athletic fields, all I would ask is that the proposal be moved forward. It appears, however, that a decision has already been made.”

DCR’s concept plan did reflect a number of other community priorities. Biscuit Run State Park is slated to include a multi-use pavilion and an outdoor amphitheater; 10 to 12 miles of trails for hikers, bikers and horses; and campgrounds and cabins. The park’s only vehicular entrance will be on Route 20 just south of the Avon Street intersection.

“The one thing that makes this park different are the trails,” Llewellyn said, noting that most state parks have a significant water feature. “Given the proximity of Charlottesville and nearby neighborhoods, we also heard the need for external trail connections.”

Llewellyn said the park would have up to three community trail connections, one along Old Lynchburg Road, one near where Biscuit Run Creek leaves the property in the middle of the Mill Creek neighborhood and a third at the park’s entrance along Route 20.

Lynn Crump, a DCR environmental planner, described how state parks are typically built in phases as funding is made available.

“Most of our sites are done such that the first phase has to do with ‘day use’ [facilities],” Crump said. “It takes a little less infrastructure, less land development and it doesn’t cost as much money.”

“There are external influences that may change the order of how this development may be done,” Crump added. “Right now, without a bond referendum for park facilities, and without an increased budget, none of these things are going to be happening anytime soon.”

Rob Craighurst, an advocate for a musical performance venue he is calling the Biscuit Run Community Stage, said he was pleased with the planning process and its incorporation of both an amphitheater and a multi-use pavilion in the park’s second phase.

“I am pleased and I think we have gone as far as we can,” Craighurst said. “Now we need to barrage Richmond with design suggestions, and I would encourage everyone interested in music to do the same.”

DCR will hold one final public input session Sept. 19 at the Albemarle County Office Building. In advance of that meeting, the state will share the latest version of the Biscuit Run State Park concept plan, as well as projected cost estimates.

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Charlottesville Tomorrow

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