Loudoun Supervisors Approve Bles Park Work

County supervisors this week unanimously approved a plan for Bles Park that had sparked ecological concerns from environmental groups, neighbors and the Planning Commission.

The 132-acre park follows the Broad Run almost to Rt. 7, widening at the mouth of the stream at the Potomac River and hosting four soccer fields along with the wetlands, trails and playground. The county now has plans expand the park and its amenities with more playgrounds, skate spots, a canoe and kayak launch, dog park, tennis and pickleball courts, and additional parking. The park may also see a boardwalk through the wetlands in the future, although that is not yet funded.

The county’s plans for the park had sparked concern among environmental groups and some neighbors. Those concerns also got the proposal a no vote from the Planning Commission, which found it goes against the county’s 2019 comprehensive plan and would destroy the habitats for rare and sensitive plant and animal species found in the park. Following those concerns, the commission also took the unusual further step of voting the recommend that the Board of Supervisors work to develop in-house expertise on wildlife biology, natural ecosystems, and native plant and animal communities, and to look into alternatives for the plans for parking and other facilities.

Following that vote, county staff members revised their plans, slightly decreasing the impervious surface area and planned structures, adding one more acre of trees conservation area, a removing a proposed maintenance facility and five pavilions and relocating planned multi-purpose courts closer to existing construction and parking.

Environmental concerns remained, however, with some people coming to the Board of Supervisors’ Jan. 18 meeting to speak in opposition to the project. One pointed out the irony that that same night, supervisors voted to approve new tax on single-use plastic bags, which proponents on the board described as an environmental measure.

Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy Executive Director Michael Myers called the Bles Park decision “a big mistake.”

“Since Loudoun is undergoing so much growth, there is a possibility that our growth can have a tangible positive impact for wildlife. Our vision is for Loudoun to be a place where people and wildlife thrive together,” Myers said. “Bles Park is one of those places.”

One neighbor, John Henschel, asked supervisors to consider environmental impacts such as increased runoff into the stream.

“To the board members that don’t go out the parks, I submit that you also get to see nature, you just don’t think about it,” he said. “So when the screensaver comes on your computer or on your TV, is it a picture of a pickleball court? Is it a picture of a dog park, or a soccer field? No, it’s a picture of a river, a meadow, and why? Because we as humans find that to be relaxing and meaningful.”

Some members of the county’s Parks, Recreation and Open Space Board also came to speak in support of the project.

“One of the things we’ve learned in the last two years is the importance of having safe, healthy ways to recreate outdoors,” said Erik Scudder. “To me, the Bles Park program to refurbish the park really does a great job of that.”

But supervisors defended the project, approving it in a unanimous vote, pointing to remediation like a plan for two-to-one tree replanting, removal of invasive species, and an agreement to find a new route for the boardwalk if a future review finds it would impact endangered species.

Endangered species have already been reported on the property, including the white trout lily nearby and the wood turtle on site.

“My constituents are tired of having to drive to other counties or across town to take their kids to practices, to access a dog park, and to find courts to play the very popular game of pickleball,” said district Supervisor Juli E. Briskman (D-Algonkian).

County Chair Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) said some of the work was needed to address safety concerns, with people parking along the street and walking across the street to access the park. And she wondered about making wild spaces handicap accessible.

“I do think one thing that we are not doing well in this county when it comes to our natural environment, we’re not doing a great job making it ADA-accessible,” Randall said. “The one reason and the only reason I like the boardwalk area is, if you have a different ability, it’s hard to really enjoy our nature preserves in this county. … I don’t know what the answer is to that, because you wouldn’t want to destroy the environment while making it accessible to people with different abilities.”

She invited groups like Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy to engage with the county Board of Supervisors and Disability Services Board to come up answers.

Supervisors approved the park 9-0 on Jan. 18. Afterward, the county government published a press release through official channels promoting the decision.

“The thorough scrutiny given to the plan by the Board, the Planning Commission and county staff assure that the natural setting of the non-developed sections of the park will be maintained and that the adopted enhancements reflect the best possible options for a park that was built nearly 30 years ago with both active and passive recreation opportunities in mind,” the press release reads.

More information is at loudoun.gov/blesparkimprovements.

9 thoughts on “Loudoun Supervisors Approve Bles Park Work

  • 2022-01-21 at 4:51 pm
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    I disagree with the supervisors’ unanimous vote. But I’m afraid we’ll have to live with it. Bles Park is fine as is, IMHO. I don’t buy the argument that we need more parking to acccommodate the crowds. If anything, park “amenities” should be scaled-down so an influx of visitors doesn’t occur all at once. This might be an unpopular opinion. But I’m a strong supporter of wilderness protection & wildlife preservation. P.S. — I don’t agree with those who choose to demonize Chair Randall & Supervisor Briskman for their votes. Sometimes we have to make compromises in life. At least the majority of Bles Park will remain relatively undisturbed.

  • 2022-01-21 at 5:19 pm
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    I’d be thrilled with a drive-up launch for kayaks, canoes, standup paddle boards and small boats. I fish there, and reaching the river trib by foot is no problem, but it’s a bit far to haul a canoe. I get jealous of the HOA members who use the boat launch on the property adjacent to the park, and zoom by as I’m wade fishing, leaving me in their wake.

  • 2022-01-21 at 5:54 pm
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    Now is the time for all you eco-warriors to set aside your keyboards and go and chain yourselves to trees and rocks. Don’t let these evil, anti-environmental Democrats on the board destroy the planet. This is a call to action. Whatever happened to Greenpeace, Earth First and Earth Liberation Army?

  • 2022-01-21 at 6:13 pm
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    Take an energy drink I already told you phase 1 is 150, 2000 square feet homes with 75 more to follow in phase 2. That is 225 homes worth of impervious surface. They are changing a park into a playground bad for the hosts! Actions speak louder than words Juli ran as a green first candidate and emphasized it to show the contrast between her and Volpe. Her big chance and she screws the pooch. Briskman is to parks what roundup is to humans, a cancer!

  • 2022-01-22 at 12:48 pm
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    There is no more corrosive and divisive element in Loudoun County than the Board of Supervisors destroying our green spaces. All of them Chair Randall, Saines, Briskman, Turner, Glass, Kerchner, Buffington, Umstaddt and Letourneau should be on a wanted poster for crimes against the environment and humanity!

  • 2022-01-22 at 4:42 pm
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    I don’t remember this project being on the BOS commitment list of priorities. Oh Yeah – there never was a list of published priorities just pet projects. Is it really that hard to put out a list of priorities and manage resources to accomplish them? Perhaps registered voters should actually vote in local elections next time! 🙂

  • 2022-01-24 at 1:17 pm
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    Loudoun County Board of Supervisor also known as Loudoun County Environmental Terrorists!

  • 2022-01-25 at 8:31 pm
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    Briskman stated “The Algonkian community has been asking for a dog park and more pickleballcourts for years”. Then put them in Algonkian regional park. Don’t be so lazy, walk your dogs in your neighborhood. Leave Bles Park alone, there is no need to destroy this beautiful area so self important BoS members can look back and think they left behind a good legacy for Loudoun.

  • 2022-01-30 at 3:39 pm
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    Go to Franklin Park and enjoy the pickle ball courts, and dog park. Plenty of room to also walk dogs and burn some calories too.

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