The land use attorney and former state delegate who helped facilitate the land purchase for Loudoun’s planned state park said he is optimistic the General Assembly will sign off on the plan.
Randy Minchew, managing shareholder at the Leesburg office of law firm Walsh Colucci Lubeley & Walsh, helped put together the transactions that brought assembled 1,000 acres in Loudoun near Harpers Ferry. Now, he said, he is pushing his former colleagues in the state legislature to accept that land for a new state park. And he said he’s optimistic about the results.
Currently, five lawmakers from each chamber of the General Assembly are behind closed doors hashing out the differences between their respective chambers’ versions of the state budget. Gov.Ralph Northam’s proposed budget included a line that would allow the state—at no cost—to accept land for a new state park in northwestern Loudoun. But the state Senate’s adopted budget bill did not include that line, throwing longstanding plans for a park in Loudoun into doubt.
Minchew, who served in the General Assembly from 2012 to 2018, said he, Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel (R-27), and Del. John J. Bell (D-87) have been working those conferees to make sure the final version of the budget allows for Loudoun’s own state park. He said an analysis that it would cost $14.3 million to bring the land up to fully-developed state park standards may have spooked some lawmakers.
“I think we’ve got that turned around, because that $14 million number was a maximum, full bells-and-whistles number, and I frankly don’t think that’s what Loudoun County wants up there,” Minchew said. He said this may be the state park “where we leave it more natural and more open-space than we have in other state parks.”
Minchew said he and other lawmakers worked to impress upon budget conferees that, in fact, the state won’t need to spend any money on the park if it doesn’t want to—since the Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship has already agreed to continue maintaining the existing facilities and trails on the land.
“I made the point that we’d like to see them invest in our park, don’t get me wrong, but even if they don’t give one red penny this year, the Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship is doing a great job,” Minchew said.
Minchew said the committee may unveil a budget proposal as soon as Friday.