This is a real disappointment. Back in April we hoped that the Prince William Park Authority and Bull Run Mountain Conservancy could reach an amicable agreement with respect to the Silver Lake parcel, apparently those discussions have failed.
The following is an email from the Prince William Conservation Alliance:
Silver Lake: Opportunities Lost
October 21 2008 — The Bull Run Mountain Conservancy (BRMC) today announced the withdrawal of their proposal to partner with Prince William County to open Silver Lake as a park for public use.
* County taxpayers will now pay all costs to develop and maintain the 233-acre Silver Lake – $1.6 million + $215,000 each year, according to the Prince William County Park Authority (PWCPA) plans;
* An additional 270 acres next to Silver Lake will NOT be opened to horse trails, hiking, and other public uses (BRMC had a commitment from an adjacent landowner to make an additional 270 acres available for public recreational use).
The Silver Lake property was donated (as a “proffer” for County approval of 420 additional houses in Dominion Valley) to Prince William citizens, through the Board of Supervisors, to provide much needed land for public recreation and open space.
The County has kept Silver Lake closed while debating who should manage it. The core issue was land ownership, with some insisting that PWCPA ownership of the entire site was non-negotiable.
The BRMC proposal required transfer – with deed restrictions that pre-determined recreational uses, guaranteed public access and prohibited any resale or transfer – of the land they would manage in order to raise the matching funds required by their $500,000 grant for Silver Lake.
Non-profit organizations like BRMC are unable to attract donations for building a visitor center or other improvements on property that is owned by a government agency. Transferring County land to non-profits is not a new concept. For example, Prince William County donated 135 acres for the Marine Corps Heritage Center.
In the most recent negotiations, the PWCPA would have received the southern portion of the property, including Silver Lake itself. The northern portion would have been transferred to BRMC, with restrictions that guaranteed public access for recreational use. The northern portion would have reverted back to the Board of Supervisors, should BRMC not honor their commitments.
However, after two years of discussion, Prince William Supervisors appear hopelessly deadlocked and, on September 17, the PWCPA Board adopted a resolution by a 6-2 vote rejecting all compromise proposals at Silver Lake.
By rejecting such a compromise, the County will lose the opportunity to develop a 500-acre park with equestrian and hiking trails. Instead, County taxpayers will have to pay 100% of the cost to open up a 233-acre Silver Lake park.
The PWCPA has been struggling to maintain existing recreation amenities, even before the coming budget cuts. In a worst case scenario, Silver Lake could be locked up tight like Dove’s Landing, with signs saying ” Public Land – Keep Out.”
The 270 acres and $1 million in private funding to develop and operate Silver Lake for public use is now lost. The property that could have been added to Silver Lake won’t be developed into townhouses; it is permanently preserved in an open space easement. However, that private land will stay private, closed to the public.
With only 9 acres of parkland/1,000 residents, Prince William is facing an uphill battle to acquire enough new parkland to meet community needs. By rejecting the BRMC partnership, county officials will not acquire new parkland to meet the standards set in the newly revised Parks & Open Space Chapter of the Comprehensive Plan.
In fact, since that plan was adopted, the county has acquired no property for public parkland…. and now has rejected 270 acres of free land.
The Prince William County Park Authority has promised to open Silver Lake to the public in less than a year, with some areas open within six months – so long as the Board of Supervisors provides additional funding.
Will the County find the additional funding needed to open and operate a park at Silver Lake? Or will we see yet another “Public Land – Keep Out” sign?