The Planning Commission is hosting a public hearing on Tuesday, June 22nd at 6:00 pm at the Government Center Board Room in Leesburg to listen to comments on proposed “enhancements” to Bles Park. Loudoun Wildlife’s full comments to the Planning Commission can be found here.
We strongly encourage you to require modifications to this application by:
- Submitting written comments to your Planning Commissioner
- Speaking at the public hearing on Tuesday, June 22nd at 6:00 pm
Loudoun County Parks, Recreation, and Community Services (PRCS) seeks to:
- Build a boardwalk through a sensitive wetland
- Allow vehicular access alongside the sensitive wetland
- Destroy forest and pollinator habitat to build tennis and pickleball courts
- Destroy forest and pollinator habitat to create an “unprogrammed lawn area”
- Build a maintenance building and parking lot in a low-lying forested area of the floodplain
- Expand the paved parking area
This application does not:
- Conform to the 2019 Comprehensive Plan to protect River and Stream Corridor Resources
- Specifically by allowing active recreation uses in a major floodplain
- Protect the exemplary wildlife habitat including Virginia species of concern, and the potential for threatened or rare species
- Harmoniously balance growing user needs with protecting wildlife habitat
- Enhance the existing facility and natural amenities
Here are some modifications that should be required:
- Eliminate the boardwalk through the most sensitive area of the park, and instead install observation platforms at strategic locations at the edge of the wetlands.
- Do not allow vehicular traffic along the edge of the wetlands, but require kayak users to use carts to wheel their kayaks to the newly proposed kayak launch. This inconvenience is necessary to protect the sensitive wetlands from noise and traffic.
- Tennis and pickleball courts are inappropriate for this location. Wildlife habitat in the floodplain should be protected as these facilities can be located at a different park.
- Unprogrammed lawn area is inappropriate for this location. Mature trees and pollinator habitat currently exists at this location and should not be disturbed. Benches can be installed to enjoy nature at this location.
- Building a maintenance facility and parking area in a low-lying floodplain is inappropriate. The maintenance facility could be located adjacent to the current parking area, or at another nearby location outside of the floodplain.
- Pervious paving materials should be used for any parking lot expansion. Since the applicant “cannot commit to this request”, this only further proves that this location is inappropriate for increased parking.
As you may know Loudoun Wildlife hosts monthly bird walks at Bles Park, and we host other nature walks there such as our recent dragonfly walk. Our Birdathon teams, and other birders, regularly flock to Bles Park to observe the incredible biodiversity present at the park.
Bles Park is one of the unique natural amenities in Loudoun County. Nestled at the confluence of Broad Run and the Potomac River, Bles Park sits in the major floodplain with mature and secondary forests, ponds, and wetlands, providing multiple habitat zones that provide excellent cover for reclusive species. We understand the need to update park facilities, and we encourage passive recreation uses for residents to be able to experience nature, but we are gravely concerned the application in its current form would unnecessarily harm the exemplary wildlife habitats currently found at Bles Park.
Your voice is needed to protect one of the natural gems of Loudoun County, so please reach out to your commissioner expressing your concerns. We’re counting on you!
Here are some tips to craft a compelling message to your commissioner:
- Introduce – Briefly describe your position on the topic.
- Persuade – Tell your personal story, and how the topic relates to you. Your story is impactful.
- Inform – Provide background information and data on the topic.
- Conclude – Restate your message with a call to action.