After decades of planning and a year of labor, the opening of Town of Round Hill’s Sleeter Lake Park was formally celebrated Saturday.
Among those attending the ribbon cutting ceremony were current and former Town Council members, volunteers who helped build facilities at the park, Loudoun County Parks, Recreation and Community Services Director Steve Torpy, and children of Frank and Elizabeth Sleeter, who created the lake in 1963 by damming Simpsons Creek to irrigate the family’s surrounding orchards.
The 11-acre park has been in the plans since 1990, when Oak Hill Properties proffered the land to the town when it set out to build The Villages at Round Hill development. Substantial planning didn’t pick up until recent years, however, when the town received a $75,000 grant from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fishery in 2014 and $425,000 from the county government in 2016. Physical work on the park didn’t start until last September.
After eight months of labor, the park prepared for a May 1 opening, but that was delayed when the town and the Round Hill Owner’s Association, which oversees the 1,100 homes in The Villages at Round Hill and owns the 100-acre lake, couldn’t reach an agreement on the rules to regulate public activity on the lake—something the 1990 proffer required the two parties to etch out before the park opened. In August, the town and owner’s association reached an agreement on the rules, which limit the number of boats on the lake at any given time, establish guidelines for fishing, and prohibit swimming. The park opened Aug. 15.
“We’ve been talking about this since the late ’90s,” Mayor Scott Ramsey said, recalling is first bid for office as a write-in Town Council candidate in 2004 when the council’s longest serving member, Mary Anne Graham, was campaigning with just one goal—to complete the park.
“We’ve been through a lot of dips and valleys since that time, but the momentum really picked up when we started to get into a good relationship with the county,” Ramsey said, noting not only the grant support, but also the having the county’s parks staff manage the park’s operations. “They been such a fantastic partner.”
Torpy said the partnership with the town is “phenomenal opportunity.”
“I like to say that we are in the business of creating memories and that is really what this is about. This is about having the opportunity to come here and catch your first fish. It’s a about the opportunity to come here and hike and experience nature as an ossia, to get away,” he said. “This is a unique gem we have in Loudoun County.”
“This is really a big deal for Loudoun County because this is the only publicly accessible lake right now,” Supervisor Tony Buffington (R-Blue Ridge), said noting the temporary closing of the Beaverdam reservoir as Loudoun Water completes dam repairs.
John Sleeter said his parents moved to a stone house west of town in 1942, after his father was brought to the Pentagon to build penicillin plants during World War II and they sold the Illinois turkey farm his mother had been managing. The 50-acre Round Hill property had a small, neglected orchard and Elizabeth Sleeter went to work building a new family business. A decade later, they built cold storage and a packing plant. In 1963, they created the lake to provide irrigation to the orchard operation that had grown to nearly 1,000 acres. Sleeter said his mother envisioned family picnics and water skiing on the lake, but did not live to see its completion.
“I know that dad and mother would be very happy today to see the lake become a public park for all to enjoy,” he said.
The park, located at the end of Lakeview Road east of town, is open daily from 7 a.m. to dusk. It will close for the season on Nov. 1.