Dan Mahon points out features of a tree at Totier Creek Reservoir Park in Scottsville. Credit: Ryan M. Kelly, The Daily Progress

Hidden down a gravel road, deep in the woods north of Scottsville, lies a hidden gem of the Albemarle County parks system. Totier Creek Park, with its shaded trails and fishable waters, provides a respite to visitors from the bustle of their daily lives.

Totier Creek, dedicated in 1967 and subject to vandalism and misuse during the 1980s, has often been considered the “stepchild” of the parks system, according to parks and trails planner Dan Mahon.

“The park has been threatened before during economic downturns or budget concerns,” Mahon said. “But it’s one of those diamonds in the rough that I think the community should know about.”

In the past several years, the park has seen a shift in its users. Caring neighbors and Scottsville residents worked together to build hiking trails within the park, giving it a much-need facelift and opening it up to new users.

“Before, there were only a few reasons to be down there — say, fishing and drinking,” Mahon said. “When you open it up to other uses, you start getting legitimate, responsible folks out there and it starts maintaining itself.”

The park features three miles of shaded trails along the lake shore and in the woods. The White Pine Trail is built on the footprint of an old logging road, giving hikers a sense of what it might have been like to travel beneath the pines on a horse-drawn cart.

Stocked with sunfish, bass, bluegill and catfish, the reservoir makes for great fishing with little competition from other boaters. Picnic spots dot the lake shore and provide a great location for basking in the sun and letting children play.

But the highlight of the park is the creek itself, which cascades over the dam onto a slope of brilliant, iridescent rocks. This landscape feels more like something out of the Wild West, not the foothills of the Blue Ridge. Here, adventurers can watch frogs, snakes and minnows dart between pools of water. Farther down, the creek flattens out and quietly meanders through the forest floor.

“This landscape is unlike any other park we have in the county,” Mahon said.

Along with its natural features, the park has a rich cultural history. Ownership of the property can be traced back to 1751 to one of the first families of Albemarle. Legend also has it that a signer of the Declaration of Independence once owned the property.

Mahon, a landscape architect, said placemaking is key to a vibrant park system and the communities that surround it. He sees Scottsville beginning to brand itself as a destination for recreation and history.

“Scottsville is constantly looking for ways for revitalizing their economy,” Mahon said. “Heritage tourism and nature recreation are perfect things to consider for that area. There are so many places that have been transformed by these activities.”

Scottsville Town Council member Dan Gritsko already is working toward this end. He chairs the town’s tourism committee, which has done intensive work to complete a master plan for the Van Clief Nature Area around Scottsville Lake.

“Within 15 miles of Scottsville, we have a number of wonderful places, like Walnut Creek, Totier Creek and Van Clief, for someone to go and enjoy the outdoors,” Gritsko said. “These parks make an interconnected block of green space.”

Gritsko said he also hopes to link nearby national historic site Pine Knot, the retreat cabin of President Theodore Roosevelt, to the parks in southern Albemarle.

“These natural and historical sites will make a great corridor,” Gritsko said. “They will draw visitors and locals alike. My hope is that 20 years in the future, Scottsville will seem like a very green, active and family-friendly place to live.”