Swift Creek Conservation Area closer to reality

It’s not cheap to develop a conservation area, although you may think so. Just  leave it alone. But in order for area residents and visitors to experience the conservation area there are certain improvements that must be made. Parking lot, rest rooms at the head of the trails, interpretive signage and non-invasive trails make the conservation area accessible to the public.

A proposal by Chesterfield’s Parks and Rec was approved by the Board of Supervisors to pursue a matching funds grant to develop the 440 acre site. The property, which is adjacent to the Walthall Industrial Park, includes about 1.75 miles of frontage along Swift Creek. Chesterfield County Parks and Rec Director, Michael Golden, was quoted as saying in a Village News article in 2010, “The parcel is mostly wetlands, so the opportunity’s not there for some of our typical ball fields.”

“We would put a conservation easement on it as part of the contract,” Golden said. “The land would be developed into a conservation area with trails, boardwalks, interpretive signage and access to Swift Creek,” he said. The park is across from a boat landing in Colonial Heights, so people could come in that way.”

But Golden said there would be no major boat ramp built there. He said it is possible that there could be access to the river by kayak or canoe.

The site contains 56 acres of surface water ponds/creeks, two miles of creek frontage and swamp/marsh ecosystems. This first phase of a multi-phase project will develop an access roadway, parking area, trail system and interpretive displays to explain the ecosystems.

The site is owned by Chesterfield County and according to Golden, “The current grant application is with the National Fish and Wildllife Foundation. Preproposals are due June 1 with anticipated notifications out Nov. 30.” He said, “The funding is for projects that conserve important habitat for fish, wildlife and plants. The property will be used as the match for the grant.”

According to the parks and rec staff report, “Without developing this property, boating access opportunities in the county will remain limited and far below current demand. In addition, the county will not be able to meet the growing requests for environmental education and recreation in the area.”

The cost to develop the conservation area and park would be about $750,000, with an estimated maintenance expense of approximately $3,500.

The donated land along Swift Creek east of Interstate 95 will likely be the site of Chesterfield County’s fourth conservation area.

The land was donated by James H. Martin, Jr., of J.H. Martin & Sons, and G. L. Howard, Inc., ” “I know he’s enjoyed the property and he wants to give something back to the county,” Golden said, in 2010.

“We certainly wouldn’t have the resources to go out and buy such a property,” Golden said. There is considerable value to the donation, he said, so the department will likely look for state and federal grants it can use to build a parking lot and other features at the park. The land’s value could be used as the county’s matching portion of such grants, he said.

There are beautiful views of the land from some parts of the industrial park  and, according to Golden in a previous article, “There’s a chance that employees there could utilize the park before or after work. Employees at the power plant at Dutch Gap often use the trails in the Dutch Gap Conservation Area,” he said.

The county worked with Martin 25 or 30 years ago, when the company sought to make the property a wetlands mitigation area. Golden walked through the property at the time and said it would make a great park.

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