The Department of Parks and Recreation has officially withdrawn the Special Exception Application (SPEX-2022-0020) for Mickie Gordon Park! In conjunction with our dark skies campaign, Loudoun Wildlife has worked with concerned community groups to oppose environmentally harmful improvements that were proposed for Middleburg’s Mickie Gordon Park.
The original application was proposed to include improvements such as the addition of three new athletic fields with eighteen 100-foot-tall light poles and a championship-level field that would have had significant negative impacts on wildlife from increased light, noise and human traffic. The county held a community meeting on the proposed changes at the end of June. Significant pushback was received on the application both at the community meeting and through the online comment portal. Public comments were in line with Loudoun Wildlife’s concerns about both the drastic nature of the proposed changes, which are inappropriate for the park’s rural location, and initial lack of community involvement.
In response, Director Steve Torpy of the Parks Department stated commitment to reworking the park plan based on input from the community. The Special Exception Application that was required for the initially proposed changes was placed on hold after this meeting while the county held workshops to gather community input in terms of what was wanted from the Middleburg community in terms of improvements to the park.
These workshops were held at the end of August and the beginning of October, each having a significant turnout and high degree of public participation. Loudoun Wildlife attended each workshop to support the community groups’ goals and raise our primary concern with the application: eliminating or minimizing light pollution with regard to any additional ballfields or neglect in updating currently outdated fixtures.
The themes of these community workshops were much the same: ensuring that the rural character of the community was preserved by keeping the park dawn-to-dusk and minimizing required lights; preserving and uplifting the cultural heritage of the park; and, avoiding the inclusion of road projects active recreation park elements that would attract traffic and crowds to the degree that an undue burden would be placed on residents of the town of Middleburg.
The Loudoun County Parks and Recreation Department officially pulled the Special Exception Application in October 2023 shortly after the final community meeting. It is still expected that another application will be submitted, and that public input will be needed for the design phase of the improvements to come. So the work is not done yet, but the withdrawal of this application is a HUGE win for rural residents and wildlife. Thank you to those of you that attended the meeting or submitted comments in favor of wildlife protection.