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The 600-acre Patricia Ann Byrom Forest Preserve Park in Albemarle County will expand by 65 acres due to a donation of land from the soon-to-be property owner.
Terry Grant is under a purchase contract for a 65.3 acre parcel adjacent to the entrance of the park and wants to donate it to the county, Tim Padalino, Albemarle’s chief of parks planning, told the Board of Supervisors.
The board approved the acceptance of the land donation at its meeting Wednesday.
Padalino said the property is easily and directly accessible from the existing park trailhead.
“All of the required park infrastructure and improvements are already in place, meaning the county could utilize this gift of land without any significant expense or delay,” he said.
The property could accommodate approximately two miles of new trails, Padalino said. Because the topography is less steep than the existing park, those trails could include sections that are more moderate and be more accessible.
At Grant’s request, mountain biking, which is allowed in the rest of the park, would not be allowed on this portion, he said.
“It is particularly well-suited to hikers, picnickers, birdwatchers and other nature lovers,” Grant said in a letter to the county’s Parks and Recreation Department director in the fall. “I know there’s a lot of pressure to open up our public parks to mountain bikers, and their volunteer corps is very helpful in cutting trails. However, my preference is to limit the recreational use of this parcel to people on foot who are interested in the ‘slow’ appreciation of the place.”
Grant was not in attendance at the meeting.
Padalino said costs for ongoing maintenance would fall into the department’s regular operational budget for maintenance.
Supervisor Ned Gallaway asked if there were any improvements needed in the future.
“Potentially a small number of small pavilions or shelters, not necessarily for reservation, but just trailside amenities, including benches or small pavilions,” Padalino said, which could come from operational funding.
After his presentation to the board, Padalino said that once the property is conveyed to the county, Parks and Recreation Department staff will develop a schedule to move forward.
County staff will continue studying the property through analysis and site visits, which will help determine the most appropriate use and management of the 65 acres, including the alignments and types of trails across the landscape and locations for future amenities, such as the possible benches and pavilions, he said.
Albemarle still holds more than 800 acres of undeveloped conservation/trail parkland — approximately 330 acres of land at Hedgerow off of U.S. 29, approximately 410 acres at William S. D. Woods Natural Heritage Area off of U.S. 29 and approximately 122 acres at Buck Island Park.
A parks and recreation needs assessment presented to the board in 2018 noted that the development of those three parks will “fully satisfy the county’s 2032 conservation/trail park acreage needs.”
The top three areas in which the county is lacking, even with future planned parks, are neighborhood parks, community parks, and sports complexes.