County nears addition of a 10th park

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County nears addition of a 10th park

With a Planning Commission ruling on October 3, Albemarle got one step closer to adding a 10th park to the County park system. A 452-acre, County-owned parcel located on the north side of Route 641, off of Route 29N, was deemed to be in compliance with the Comprehensive Plan should the Parks & Recreation Department take steps to turn it into a park. The total property, including an additional 104 acres in Orange and 15 acres in Greene, is already used unofficially as park by people in the neighborhood. Were it to become a genuine park, it would increase Albemarle’s recreational acreage, currently at just over 2,000 acres, by about 20 percent.
    Albemarle has owned the wooded parcel, known as the Preddy Creek Trail, since 1969. It was purchased as a possible location for a “water supply impoundment,” as planning documents put it, but never put to that use, and it became an informal hiking area.
And that has suited many people just fine. Albemarle Parks and Recreation Director Pat Mullaney notes that a recent assessment of recreational needs in the county points to natural areas and trails as a high need among residents. “Sixty-two percent of households use natural areas and trails,” he says. “We’ve got opportunities out there with Preddy Creek. That was the impetus for us.”
    When it comes to planning and development, however, there are many steps along the road, and Preddy Creek is probably a couple of years away from being a full-fledged park, Mullaney says. The project has been written into the Capital Improvement Plan that the Board of Supervisors will consider next April, so that’s a start. Mullaney anticipates that work to create parking and a turnaround and basic toilet facilities would cost about $198,000 (“a lot of trails can be developed by volunteer labor,” he says). Still, there’s the matter of a site plan and then site plan approval, and Mullaney says it could be well into 2008 before Preddy Creek becomes a true County park. In the meantime, it is still open for the informal use that made it such a viable candidate for parkland to begin with.—Cathy Harding