By Brian Wheeler
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
The Charlottesville-Albemarle community continues to put its unique imprint on the plans for the future Biscuit Run State Park . A 27-member advisory committee held its third meeting Monday after spending two hours touring parts of the 1,200-acre site located south of Charlottesville between U.S. Route 20 and Old Lynchburg Road.
Janit Llewellyn, an environmental program planner at the Department of Conservation and Recreation, said the committee planning the park was generating “some really good input.” The committee’s recommendations will be shared at a public meeting on June 6.
“I am looking forward to a large public meeting,” said Llewellyn. “A lot of state parks are more rural, and we don’t get as much feedback.”
Previously planned as the largest residential development ever approved in Albemarle County, Biscuit Run’s 1,200 acres were acquired by the state to create a new park in December 2009 .
The committee has been refining a purpose statement for the park along with enumerating goals and objectives for park amenities and uses. In the audience, some of the special interest groups lobbying for inclusion in the park’s plans included dancers, musicians, and disc golfers.
“We have a lot of special interest groups here,” acknowledged Llewellyn. “It’s great to have that enthusiasm.”
John Clem, a member of the Blue Ridge Disc Golf Club , came to revive an idea for a disc golf course.
“Originally when they were going to make it a development, the developer approached us about designing a course,” Clem said in an interview. “We have a successful course at Walnut Creek and we would like to have one closer to the city so you don’t necessarily need a car to get there.”
The park’s proposed statement of purpose highlights the goal of engaging and learning from the “unique natural, scenic, historical and cultural resources” in the area.
As a state park in close proximity to the city of Charlottesville and Albemarle neighborhoods, like Mill Creek South and Lake Reynovia, the goals also include connecting “urban and rural recreational and educational opportunities.”
Lonnie Murray is a member of the advisory committee and chair of the Albemarle County Natural Heritage Committee that advises the board of supervisors on land use decisions. Murray has advocated for the park to be used, in part, to provide opportunities to experience native plants and wildlife.
One “invasive species” he hopes will be close to extinct in the new state park is recreational vehicles. Murray advocated for establishing tent camping and RV’s in separate locations, and noted a more natural experience could bring different customers.
“If you don’t include RV’s, we will attract an entirely different sort of person to the park,” Murray said.
The committee discussed eliminating RVs all together as a use, but ultimately landed on language that would recommend development of a “tent-only campground.” RVs might be allowed in a “limited and separate” area.
Johnny Finch is president of the Virginia Association for Parks and a member of the advisory committee.
“I am not opposed to separate facilities, but I do think it would be a travesty for a Virginia state park to discriminate against a very viable part of the park industry,” Finch said in an interview. “Some objections seem to be about generators, but here they would have electrical connections and water hook-ups.”
After the meeting, Murray said he hoped the state wouldn’t take a cookie-cutter approach to the park’s planning.
“I am pretty excited about the next steps that will actually create something that will pull people in,” Murray said.
One idea that got Murray’s attention was a proposal submitted by Rob Craighurst for a musical performance venue he is calling the Biscuit Run Community Stage . His plan depicted a multi-use covered stage that would be surrounded by an outdoor grassy amphitheater.
“It’s hard to say where this goes, [the goals and objectives] are so general,” said Craighurst in an interview. “I am going to keep pushing for the unique [amenities] that will make this park different.”
“We have all kinds of musicians here that could book a concert there several nights a week,” Craighurst added.
The committee agreed to include both an amphitheater and a multi-use pavilion as proposed objectives. However, neither athletic playing fields nor a disc golf course made the cut, though the latter was mentioned as a potential use in the proposed “activity areas.”
Bob Crickenberger, Albemarle’s parks and recreation director, was one of the officials who called for inclusion of new athletic fields at the committee’s March meeting .
“I still would hope they would take that into consideration,” said Crickenberger after the meeting. “I will encourage our user groups to attend June 6th as I think [the state] needs to hear that from the community.”
The DCR expects to complete a master plan by the end of the year. Implementation of the plan, and the ultimate opening of the park, will require new funding from the General Assembly.
A public briefing and public input opportunity will be held on June 6 at 7:00 PM in the Lane Auditorium at the Albemarle County Office Building.