Efforts to get the state government to accept ownership of a 280-acre addition to the 600 acres of state parkland in northwestern Loudoun County have paid off. Yesterday, local leaders received confirmation that the project had been restored to the budget by House and Senate conferees.
County supervisors worked with the Leggett family last year to acquire the property for the purpose of expanding the planned state park. In October, the board agreed to pay the Bob and Dee Leggett Foundation $2.9 million for expansion land. The Leggett Foundation previously donated 604 acres for the park, located near Neersville and Harpers Ferry. Gov. Ralph Northam’s introduced budget bill included a line that authorized the state to accept land, but it was deleted from the Senate version of the budget.
Randy Minchew, a Leesburg attorney and former delegate who has been working with the Leggett family on the transaction, said the concern seemed to stem from a staff report that pegged the cost of developing a state park in Loudoun at $14.3 million in a 2018 report. Lobbying work over the past week had focused on ensuring legislators that little initial state investment would be needed to get the park up and running.
Supervisor Geary Higgins (R-Catoctin) said he met with budget conferees last week and was told there was a concern that Loudoun’s not-yet-operational park was receiving priority over existing needs.
“We were able to explain that the 280-acre parcel provides public access to the existing 600-acres and already contains critical infrastructure such as roads, camping facilities, established equine and hiking trails, education center and parking and will have limited operational impacts due to a partnership with the Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship,” Higgins said. The nonprofit center currently manages the 600 acres as no cost to the state and also is managing the 281-acre county-purchased parcel, which is held by the Old Dominion Land Conservancy.
Higgins said local leaders also pointed out that the region is the most underserved area by the state park system and park’s proximity to the Appalachian Trail and Harper’s Ferry National Park, would help preserve significant natural and historic resources, support the rural economy, and would provide important trail connectivity and economic benefits. He noted that the closest state park to Loudoun is Sky Meadows State Park in Fauquier County, which generates 5.3 million in total visitor spending.
Minchew said the next step for the Department of Conservation and Recreation to take ownership of the property is to complete a survey of the tract and re-certify the title report and environmental audit that were completed as part of the county’s purchase in December.