RD562 - Science and Education Center Widewater State Park – November 1, 2021

Executive Summary:

This report has been prepared in accordance with the requirements of the 2020 Virginia Acts of the General Assembly, Item 374, H.2. that directs “The Department of Conservation and Recreation collaborate with Stafford County Public Schools, the Friends of Widewater State Park and other interested stakeholders regarding the Science and Environmental Center at Widewater State Park planned to be constructed as part of Phase III in order to ensure the facility is adequate to meet the needs of the community, curriculum collaboration opportunities with local schools, and other needs; determine whether any design changes would further community environmental education goals; determine the availability of any grant, charitable or co-funding opportunities with Stafford County and/or Virginia higher educational institutions; determine the feasibility and costs of any design changes or the necessity of any Master Plan changes; and produce recommendations, if any, relating to such objectives."

Widewater State Park is located in Northern Stafford County. The park opened on November 8, 2018, as the 38th of 41 Virginia State Parks. The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) acquired the property for Widewater State Park from Dominion Resources, Inc. (now Dominion Energy) in 2006. The current master plan for Widewater State Park was developed and approved in 2014. Master Plans developed by the Department of Conservation and Recreation are directed through legislation of the Virginia General Assembly. The plans are reviewed on ten-year cycles. Master plan development includes the establishment of an advisory committee, public input meeting and comment periods, approval of the Governor-appointed Board of Conservation and Recreation, and a review period for members of the Virginia General Assembly. The next Master plan for Widewater is scheduled for 2024.

Typically, there are 3 phases of development in the master plan. At Widewater State Park, Phase 1 development was divided into Phase 1A and Phase 1B due to funding constraints. Phase 1A was completed in 2018. Phase 1B is substantially funded, and construction began in the summer of 2021. Highlights of Phase 2 of the Widewater Master Plan include two additional picnic areas, with shelters and a fishing pier. Also, additional trails are included, especially a trunk line trail to provide connections to all areas of the park due to the dissection of parcels by Brent Point Road. Phase 3 of the Master Plan includes cabins, a campground, and the associated support infrastructure. The development of the Environmental Education Center is listed in phase 3 of the Widewater master plan.

It should be noted that time limitations and conditions stemming from the onset and continual existence of the COVID 19 pandemic impacted the completion of this study.