Park Progress: Efforts to Open Loudoun’s First State Park are Advancing on Two Fronts

The trail to Loudoun’s first state park has been a long and winding one, but this year it comes one step closer.

Leesburg Del. J. Randall Minchew (R-10) this year proposed a state budget amendment that would allow the Department of Conservation and Recreation to use state capital construction funds to acquire state park property in Loudoun County.

The state has planned a park in far northwestern Loudoun, near Neersville, since 2014. The park won’t have a name for a while yet, but people involved with the project have informally referred to it as Loudoun Between the Hills.

Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship, Neersville
Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship, Neersville

There’s no dollar figure attached to Minchew’s budget amendment, but it’s probably a good deal for the commonwealth—most of the land will be donated to the state, and much of the rest can probably be bought at fire sale prices.

“Basically, I was leaving it to the DCR and Virginia State Parks to decide what that dollar figure is, because really, I don’t even know what is the possible price for buying this land,” Minchew said. Depending on how many landowners decide to donate or sell at low prices, the park could be anywhere between 600 to 1,500 acres with the mountainside trails, ponds, and streams.

Roughly 600 acres of land in the western part of the Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship will form the backbone of the park. The land was owned by the Robert and Dee Leggett Foundation, which put a conservation easement across the land to protect it from development and donated the land to the Old Dominion Land Conservancy. Now, the Blue Ridge Center operates the land as a private park, with hiking trails, camping, horseback riding, and an education center.

“If all the people donate who have expressed an interest, we would be close to 1,500 acres,” said Henry Stribling, executive director of the Old Dominion Land Conservancy. That land would stretch along the Blue Ridge and Potomac River.

The parkland is working its way through legal technicalities before the state can take possession. Recently, the Board of Supervisors approved a change to the easement rules which would allow the state to put up a sign and meet other state land rules, such as those dealing with legal indemnity. Two of the holders of the conservation easements on the land, the county government and the Potomac Conservancy Inc., have now agreed to that change in its terms. Stribling said the third, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is expected to agree soon.

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