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Virginia State Parks

Planning a Park

Beach activities here, a campground over there, and cabins in this part of the park. Most people don't realize there is an official process involving public meetings that determines what facilities will be developed in a Virginia State Park and where they will go. This is our Master Planning process.

The Recreation Planning Division in our Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) manages the development and review process for Master Plans for all of our Virginia State Parks. This process was mandated in 1998 by the Code of Virginia (§ 10.1-200.1). You can learn more about the process and see copies of the Executive Summaries of existing plans on this web page.

The development of hiking trails is an important part of Phase I park development. These park goers enjoy the trails at our newest Powhatan State Park on this year's First Day Hike.
The development of hiking trails is an important part of Phase I park development. These park goers enjoy the trails at our newest Powhatan State Park on this year's First Day Hike.

If you check out the list of Master Plans you will see plans for parks that are not even State Parks yet. These are parks that we own the land but to date no money have been provided for development or, in the case of Widewater (Stafford County), we are now in the process of first phase development. These "land banked parks" currently include Seven Bends in Shenandoah County, Mayo River in Henry County, Middle Peninsula in Gloucester County, and Biscuit Run in Albemarle County. Obviously for new parks, the Master Planning process is more involved with three public meetings scheduled during the various planning stages.

The process does not stop after a new park has its initial Master Plan. Every five years a review is conducted to determine whether there have been changes impacting the existing plan including the stage of current development. Just because a development plan has been outlined doesn't mean that we have the money to actually implement the plan. Even our original six state parks have facilities suggested in their master plans that have not yet come to fruition. If it is determined that the current plan needs to be reviewed, there will be a Public Meeting advertised to get the input of users and members of the community as part of that process.

The Green Hill pond area at James River State Park provides accessible fishing and a meandering walk along the pond
The Green Hill pond area at James River State Park provides accessible fishing
and a meandering walk along the pond.

In fact, we have two public meetings scheduled this month for Master Plan reviews for James River State Park (a park acquired by funds from the 1992 bond) and Staunton River State Park (one of our original state parks). We would love to have your input in these meetings. Information about the James River State Park public meeting on March 13, 2014 can be found here and information about the Staunton River State Park on March 19, 2014 can be found here.

If you can't make the meeting, you can email any comments for either plan's review to Bill Conkle.

Staunton River State Park is located at the confluence of the Staunton and Dan rivers and is one of our original six parks opened in 1936
Staunton River State Park is located at the confluence of the Staunton and Dan rivers
and is one of our original six parks opened in 1936.

While our parks are considered important components of the local community, we do, surprisingly, have detractors that think State Parks should have only minimal features. We know from the surveys conducted by the Virginia Outdoors Plan that a majority of Virginians believe recreational facilities in our Virginia State Parks are important even when similar facilities exist in the public sector. The development of public lands in the Commonwealth is mandated in Article XI of the Virginia Constitution joining Education as the only two program related mandated activities of Government. So if you love our parks and want to continue to have our parks developed to include campgrounds, cabins and other recreational facilities, please take the time to send your comments in person or by email.

The development of equestrian camping and parking facilities like the campground at Staunton River State Park is a good example of user generated comments impacting park design.
The development of equestrian camping and parking facilities like the campground at Staunton River State Park is a good example of user generated comments impacting park design.

We will likely be getting the initial Master Planning process underway on the new land we have received in Loudon County and at Natural Bridge. I will let you know about those public meetings when they are scheduled as well as any plans up for review. 

One overriding goal is that we develop the bare minimum of land in a Virginia State Park. The "development footprint" is small so that our visitors can enjoy and explore nature and the aspects of the land that made it worthy of being a State Park.


Published: 03/04/2014


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