As I mentioned in an earlier post, there was a lot of opposition to Gov. Bob McDonnell’s proposal to close Mason Neck Park. Community activists and elected officials from the area, including Rep. Gerry Connolly, passionately spoke up about how the park is a valuable social and financial resource to the local community. Thousands of people who visit every year (88,000 did so last year) including many students taking advantage of the educational programs there and it also helps to produce $500,000 in revenue for local businesses. In other words, Gov. McDonnell was simply wrong to even suggest closing down the park.
Fortunately, both chambers of the General Assembly saw the error of McDonnell’s proposal and decided to keep Mason Neck open. After hearing this news, Rep. Gerry Connolly sent a letter to both Richard Saslaw and Bill Howell thanking them for their “leadership on this important issue” and praising the General Assembly’s decision. He also reiterated many of the points he had made in previous statements on the issue and pointed out how “saving less than one dollar per visitor, at a cost of a half million dollars to local business, would have been shortsighted.”
I absolutely agree with the sentiments Gerry expressed and want to point out that he was also one of people who truly took leadership on preventing the park’s closure. As this budget process is going to see some severe cuts to crucial programs, the General Assembly coming together to save Mason Neck can be seen as one of the few positive events in the discussion so far. Hopefully we’ll be able to see some other signs for optimism as negotiators work to combine the House and Senate bills.