Northam opens Widewater State Park in Stafford County

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STAFFORD, Va. (WDBJ7) -- Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam on Thursday officially opened Widewater State Park in Stafford County, the 38th Virginia state park. Widewater State Park covers 1,100 acres, including two miles of water frontage along the Potomac River and Aquia Creek.

“Virginia’s state parks attract millions of visitors each year, serving as affordable vacation destinations and adding to the economic vitality of the communities where they are located,” Northam said in a news release from the governor's office. “With the dedication of this new state park we build upon Virginia’s legacy of conservation and environmental stewardship and expand opportunities for the public to experience our Commonwealth’s natural beauty and renowned system of state parks.”

The property was originally purchased by Dominion Energy as a site for a proposed power plant. The property later was approved for development of 700 residential units, a resort conference center and extensive infrastructure. Dominion sold the property for $1 million less than the assessed value in 2013. The Trust for Public Land and Stafford County assisted in the transaction.

“The development of a low-impact state park on waterfront property significantly reduces the possibility of increased water quality degradation,” said Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew Strickler. “More than 73,000 acres of Virginia are protected as state parks, and only a small fraction of the property is ever improved or developed. We are pleased that this land will be protected for generations to come.”

Funding for the $6.1 million property was from Virginia Public Building Authority bonds and a federal appropriation of $225,000 secured by Virginia’s congressional delegation through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program.

“This has been a long journey, from purchasing the property to adding nearly $7.5 million in improvements — roads, buildings and other infrastructure,” said Clyde Cristman, Director of the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), which manages Virginia State Parks. “So many partners have contributed along the way to make this park a reality.”

“State parks host 10 million visitors each year,” Virginia State Parks Director Craig Seaver said in the release. “Widewater State Park allows us to provide water access in one of the most heavily populated areas of Virginia while maintaining the serenity people expect when they visit one of our 38 state parks.”

For more about Virginia State Parks, visit www.VirginiaStateParks.gov.