Virginia has 41 state parks – and another on the way.
For the most part, state parks are evenly distributed throughout Virginia with some small gaps in central Virginia to the north and south. The Virginia State Parks website lists them all.
Henry County is home to one of the original six parks in the park system, Fairy Stone State Park. Mayo River State Park in the southwest part of Henry County is currently under development. Between this and the existing private sports complex at Smith River, a large piece of land adjacent to the sports complex is being turned into the county park, Riverview.
Mayo River State Park will reach just over the Virginia border into North Carolina and will consist of a total of 637 acres of land between the North Mayo River and the South Mayo River and, according to the department of Virginia Conservation and Recreation (DCR), will be considered the completion of the already existing Mayo River State Park in North Carolina.
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David H. Collett, director of field operations for Virginia State Parks, said the tentative opening date would be estimated to be late 2022 or early 2023, but stressed that the parks’ opening schedule in ‘State can be delayed based on several variables.
According to the DCR website, the Virginia state code requires the development of a master plan for all Virginia state parks. The plan should include the size, type and location of all facilities; special features and resources; roads, utilities and other infrastructure plans; an overview of development and operating, maintenance and staffing costs.
The park must also be inventoried for cultural, natural and developed resources, and then an advisory committee would discuss the planning process to consider the development of the park. There is also a public meeting stage where the statement of goals, objectives, conditions and site inventory and analysis of the park are discussed before the final draft of the master plan is made.
This final draft of the Master Plan is then presented to the Council for Conservation and Recreation (BCR), goes through the General Assembly for comment, and then the Director of the DCR will adopt the plan. According to the DCR website, state park plans are reviewed every 10 years for updates.
Collett said the master plan for Mayo River State Park has yet to be completed and that they are in the “survey and appraisal” stages of the land so the plan can be developed.
They’re still too early in the process to know exactly what amenities will be available, Collett said, but the park will have standard amenities of trails, daytime access, picnic tables and shelters, restrooms and of an administrative office.
Later in the planning process, they’ll know what other larger amenities fit that state park and start discussing the possibility of kayaking, camping, cabins and visitor centers, Collett said.
Although the park isn’t open yet — Collett pointed out that this process would involve a ribbon cutting with a government official — some trails opened to the public in April. Collett said these trails were possible thanks to the help of local partners like the Dan River Basin Association and because farm roads already existed to create trails without having to survey the land.
For Riverview Park, the county is developing the 117 acres of land that was acquired through the purchase of 56 acres and the donation of the remaining 61 acres.
According to Henry County Public Relations and Community Liaison Brandon Martin, Henry County has commissioned the Timmons Group to develop a master plan that can be submitted to provide information on a proposed development and recommended amenities.
Martin said the county expects a project to be ready within the next two to three months and once the project is ready it will be presented to local shareholders for input. The next step after that, he added, is for the county to begin scheduling public information sessions to receive feedback and suggestions from residents.
Once this contribution has been taken into account, the county will begin to finalize its plan and find the funding for the park. Martin said there is no firm timeline as it will be “completed in segments” depending on available funding. The types of equipment that will be available are still being finalized, but Martin said the aim will be to offer “outdoor recreational equipment that is not necessarily focused on traditional sports”.
“The primary purpose of this park, and all other parks, is to provide a place of recreation and entertainment for our residents,” Martin said via email. “In turn, this improves the quality of life in Henry County and brings us closer together as a community.”
Fairy Stone State Park, which opened in 1936, covers 4,741 acres, or just over 7 square miles. It includes the 168-acre Lake Philpott.
It takes its name from the staurolite crystals, also called fairy stones, which are abundant in the region.
The park’s cabins are being renovated this year, so half of them will be closed until the scheduled completion date of July 31, 2023.
Monique Holland is a reporter for the Martinsville Bulletin. She can be reached at [email protected] or 276-734-9603.